Arts & Giving | Diary of a Somebody

Stephen Bayley

The culture maven loves London, by bus and on foot

Stephen Bayley

February 16 2012
Stephen Bayley

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Woke up. Got out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup. And looking up, I noticed I was late. Amazing how Paul McCartney’s words stay with you. I normally walk everywhere, but, like McCartney, on account of the weather, took a bus this morning. I sat down and began to read a Margaret Atwood short story, congratulating myself for escaping the calamities of middle age – then realised that reading Margaret Atwood on a bus was a precise and damning definition of calamitous middle-age.

So I hurriedly got off the bus to resume my walk near the Treasury. Wondered why it is that the Elysian, picturesque landscape of St James’s Park seems never to have had an edifying effect on the officials who stare at it. Me? I adore the pelicans, the more so since I was told they are direct descendants of a gift from the Tsar to Charles II. They are also – Treasury officials pay attention here – a symbol of piety.

The big event today is lunch with my suave Serbian-origin doppelgänger Deyan Sudjic, now sitting in the chair I once occupied at The Design Museum. We have been switching roles for many years and it now only remains for us to swap wives to achieve a complete identity exchange. Our venue is Dean Street’s Quo Vadis, now happily revived by the lovely Jeremy Lee. They have thrown out the rubbish Marco-era Damien Hirsts and decided to concentrate on food that tastes of what it is, as all good food should. London’s other famous restaurant Jeremy – King of The Wolseley – recently wrote a note to regulars agonising about whether he should kiss them on arrival. Happy to say, Jeremy Lee has no reservations about osculation. Meanwhile, I recommend the eel and horseradish sandwich.

On to the Royal College of Art to see Lapo Elkann, in a blur of stylish Birichino and one of his grandfather’s magnificent suits, talk about transport design. In Lapo’s case, grandfather is the late Gianni Agnelli and Lapo feels, with plenty of justification, that he is channelling the spirit of Fiat. Indeed, he was influential in the successful revival of the Cinquecento, a car he is rarely seen without. Lapo has bella figura in spades, the nervous energy of a Ferrari and the aspect of a slightly debauched angel. Thus, inspiring. Alas, he is leaving London.

And tonight? A neighbour’s drinks party. There is a mixture of excitement and anxiety in our ’hood because the arrival of the US embassy is exciting megalopolitan developments nearby. I’m all for them. The estate agents sued to say we were “ten minutes from Sloane Square”. Soon we will be only five.

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