Image: Brijesh Patel
May 07 2011
It’s Suzanne’s birthday so we have a family breakfast, unusually early, at 7am. We need the extra time to celebrate. Nick and Sophie are at university but we have two of the four at home. Jack, our 18-year-old son, has courageously risen, it might as well be 5am for him, and he’s dazed and declines to eat at such an inappropriate hour. This is most certainly not the case with Jamie, who is 10 (a non-vegetable-eating vegetarian) and has spotted a gloriously rare opportunity; while we are distracted with the present-opening, he is generously drenching a huge pile of pancakes with maple syrup and folding them into easily consumable squares (he’s dexterous when required to do pancake origami). They are disappearing at an extraordinary rate (like some American hot dog-eating contest), the maple syrup is finished and I spot him putting the final pancake, fortunately undecorated, in his pocket for a snack on the school bus. I hope he’s not ill. Mr Peter the bus driver is unaware of the danger; he needs to drive cautiously around the corners.
Suzanne’s presents are a success; cunningly, I’d solicited the help of our daughter Sophie. I get credit for selecting the right colour, brand, shape and most importantly size. Phew.
I get an email from my friend Justin Packshaw who is currently at base camp on Everest, on his way, weather and health permitting, to the top. He’s in typically euphoric spirits, he’s an upbeat kinda guy. Justin is a parachuting, scuba-diving, decathlon-loving, all-action hero. The sort of chap who would get you out of a sticky situation, but then on reflection, you realise that you wouldn’t have been there in the first place if it wasn’t for him. He’s sailed around the world, he’s been to both poles (real, magnetic and probably a few others) and done plenty of other gruelling, impressive and improbable feats. A few years ago we did a motorbike trip in Uganda, four weeks of dusty heaven (no frozen-fingered, cliff-hanging, lung-busting exploits for me). He’s one of my very favourite people. I hope when the time comes to drag himself to the top he can spot an incoming blizzard – apparently it’s difficult not to have a go at getting to the summit when you’re so damn close. He was in the army for nine years and is also raising money for “Walking with the Wounded” – a noble charity that supports injured soldiers, educating and training them to integrate back into civilian life.
Today is my last day in the office before flying to Hong Kong on Monday, so I have to clear up a few piles of paper on my desk. Most of my day, in fact most of my days are spent answering questions with “yes”, “no”, “wait” or “I don’t know” answers. Getting them in the right order is essential.
At lunchtime, I have a meeting with Mr Cooper at my friend, Bill Amberg’s shop on Burlington Arcade. Bill makes high-quality leather kit and has generously offered the room above the shop for fittings. Mr Cooper, a retired Savile Row tailor (thankfully out of retirement), has offered to make us some bespoke suits and jackets. Andrew Conrad is also getting suited with me and there is ruthless banter about height and weight. Brilliantly, by some wondrous slip of the tape measure, my trousers are happily too large around the waist; I can’t believe my good fortune and take full advantage. Andrew’s velvet suit is looking wonderfully snug.
Mr Cooper will not be drawn, despite our best efforts, to show anything but perfect manners. These fittings have worked exceptionally well for Bill, as after every session (and there have been a few), I leave with another piece of Bill’s luggage. Next time round we’ll do the fittings at The Rug Company.