October 04 2009
My personal style signifier is probably my reading glasses, with which I tend to be very careless. Consequently I have several pairs with just one arm – and I carry on wearing them. I’m not sure whether that’s a style signifier, or just an age thing.
The grooming staples I’m never without are DR Harris’s Arlington aftershave [£18.95 for 100ml] – I buy it for the label as much as the lovely old-English scent – and my razor by G Lorenzi: ribbed silver, very plain, solid, like an old cigarette lighter. It sits on my basin in a ceramic jar dated 1946, on which is printed “Devonshire Clotted Cream” in about five different typefaces, which happens to look great with the DR Harris packaging. They make a nice little still life. DR Harris & Co, 29 St James’s Street, London SW1 (020-7930 3915; www.drharris.co.uk). G Lorenzi, 9 Via Montenapoleone, Milan 20122 (+3902-7602 2848; www.lorenzi.it).
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of white mugs from The General Trading Company, which say “Made in England” in bold letters [£13.95 each]. They make me smile. I was recently looking at a Japanese style magazine and one of the first items featured was these. 2-6 Symons Street, Sloane Square, London SW3 (020-7730 0411; www.generaltradingcompany.co.uk).
The city I would live in if I didn’t live in London is Paris. They have the most lovely apartments there – the herringbone parquet floors, the tall windows, the funny little lifts, the curving staircases. They’re less into refurbishment and live with their buildings as they’ve been for a century or two.
The last music I bought was Nick Drake. I was feeling nostalgic for the 1970s. It’s hauntingly beautiful. He may have been a troubled soul but his music is transcendent.
A person I depend on for my style needs is William Campbell, a really fantastic picture framer at Alfie’s Antique Market, on the ground floor. He’s an unassuming guy who works on his own, with really reasonable prices for an excellent service. 13-25 Church Street, London NW8 (020-7723 6066; www.alfiesantiques.com).
A site that inspires me is Battersea Power Station. I took a guided tour of it five years ago. The control room has dozens of dials, like enormous watches, for all the areas of London. It’s extraordinarily intricate and beautifully crafted. And it’s slowly falling apart while everyone sits and talks about what to do with it, which is a disgrace.
The last meal that left me truly impressed was at the Anglesea Arms in Hammersmith. I was in the area and just walked in. I had the best Welsh rarebit and a sublime mango and lemon trifle – simple, homemade food. No booking weeks in advance and being disappointed; it was just a serendipitous, stumble-upon-it thing. 35 Wingate Road, London W6 (020-8749 1291).
An indulgence I’d never forego is having my shoes custom-made. I go to George Cleverley [£2,100 bespoke] or Henry Maxwell [around £1,400 bespoke]. In a way it’s not actually that indulgent, as they last forever. I’ve got a pair of George’s that are going on 20 years old, and I still wear them – I still get compliments on them, matter of fact. George Cleverley, 28 Old Bond Street, London SW1 (020-7493 0443; www.gjcleverley.co.uk). Henry Maxwell, 83 Jermyn Street, London SW1 (020-7930 5385; www.henrymaxwell.com).
A recent “find” of mine is Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge. It’s one of the most restful places I’ve been to and they sell a lot of the art that I love, from Henri Gaudier-Brzeska to Ben Nicholson. Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ (01223-748 100; www.kettlesyard.co.uk).
The books on my bedside table include The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, which my mother gave to me. It has the effect of making you feel – and perhaps even seem – incredibly well-read with, relatively speaking, not that much effort. And Leonard Woolf: A Life by Victoria Glendinning. On the cover there’s a photo of Woolf sitting next to his Sussex spaniel. I’ve got two and I love them more than anything, so I thought, “Let’s see what this guy has to say.”
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose St James’s. I can get Good Ordinary Claret at Berry Brothers [£7.90], Hoyo de Monterrey No 2 cigars at Davidoff [£18 each], my toiletries at DR Harris, then take a tour down Jermyn Street for shirts. I sometimes go to Wiltons for lunch, since they’ve relaxed the tie code. The last time I went, though, everyone – including me – was wearing a tie. Some sort of sartorial counter-rebellion, I reckon. Berry Bros & Rudd, 3 St James’s Street, London SW1 (0800-280 2440; www.bbr.com). Davidoff, 35 St James’s Street, London SW1 (020-7930 3079; www.davidoffoflondon.com). Wiltons, 55 Jermyn Street, London SW1 (020-7629 9955; www.wiltons.co.uk).