October 06 2011
My style icon is Suzanne. If I said anyone else it would be dishonest. She’s my style icon, and she also happens to be my brilliant wife.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jean-Michel Basquiat. I love his paintings. I remember the first time I saw his work I just thought that it was spectacular.
My favourite room in my house is this incredible wine cellar I’ve had made out of old floorboards. It took the carpenter months to make it. Originally, it was going to be tiny, with the laundry next door. Gradually, the laundry got smaller and the cellar got bigger. And then I realised I didn’t have enough wine. So I had to go on a buying spree with my friend Julian from fine-wine merchants Goedhuis & Co to fill it up. But you can’t spend too long in there as it’s incredibly cold.
The site that inspires me is Valletta. Suzanne is Maltese, so we go over a lot. It is the most incredible city – all bastions built by 16th-century knights, and honey-coloured walls. Most of Malta is pretty built up and destroyed. But this is one jewel that hasn’t been touched. The churches are full of gothic relics, which the kids love. In the Church of the Shipwreck there’s a bit of bone that is said to have belonged to St Paul, covered with seals from all the different popes. I grew up with a strict protestant mother, and the churches of my childhood were really austere, with hard seats and nothing to look at, so I adore those baroque cathedrals.
The thing I’m eyeing next is a dark blue Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante from the late 1980s. There’s a thin line with sports cars, but I think I could pull this one off. The problem with old cars is they’re so unreliable. Don’t even think about going on a long drive without an up-to-date AA membership, your phone fully charged and a snack in the car. But I do love them. My first was a tiny little Isetta three-wheeler, the bubble car. I sold it to a guy who tried to drive it back to Portsmouth; it blew up on the motorway.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Damascus. We went last April, before the political situation deteriorated. We’ve got a shop in Beirut so we got a taxi across the border to Syria; it only takes two-and-a-half hours. We couldn’t mention anything political, even to our Syrian friend who was showing us around. You sensed that it was really dangerous. But the Syrians we met were utterly charming and I was impressed that a decent proportion of their day was given over to talking, drinking coffee and smoking. The souk was just local people doing their shopping, people buying fabric and spices.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Portobello and Golborne Road. Both are great for shopping – Friday’s the best day. We get a lot of stuff from Jerome Dodd at Les Couilles du Chien. I love the variety. 65 Golborne Road, London W10 (020-8968 0099; www.lescouillesduchien.com).
The people I rely on for grooming and style include my amazing trainer, who’s called Draco, at the Soma Spa gym at the Royal Garden Hotel. He’s 6ft 4in, and super-cool, a top sprinter, and never drinks any alcohol. I go to him three times a week and he has incredibly high standards. I always ask him, “Why are we doing this?” His thinking is that I am training for some spectacular purpose, whereas I just want to stay alive, eat and drink a lot and not be a fat slob. I get my hair cut at Base Cuts on Portobello Road. There’s a lovely Canadian girl there called Evonne, who now cuts everyone’s hair in the family. Base Cuts, 252 Portobello Rd, London W11 (020-7727 7068; www.basecuts.com). Soma Spa, Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High St, London W8 (020-7937 8000; www.royalgardenhotel.co.uk/spa).
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is New York. If you live in a city you should live in a full-on city, or else go and live in the country. New York is just cool. When you drive over Brooklyn Bridge into New York you always feel a thrill.
An indulgence I would never forego is travel. And houses. We have a weakness for houses. Suzanne and I first met when we both used to live in Earl’s Court, and maybe twice a week we’d be at the station together, checking each other out. We never spoke. Then I went to a party and opened the door and there she was. We were living with our parents and hating it, so a mutual passion for houses brought us together from the start. Since then we have bought so many and done them up and sold them. It’s one of those things.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a big, wrought-iron chandelier that Suze and I bought in Khan el-Khalili, the souk in Cairo, 20 years ago. Since then we’ve lived in six different houses and we’ve always kept it. It’s hanging in our kitchen at home. Suze has painted it a few different colours over the years. Currently, it’s green.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be destitute. I’m definitely unemployable. I could never, ever work for anyone. I’d love to write – maybe travel writing. But I’d settle for being a football manager. I support Manchester United but I’d work for Chelsea because you get a five-year, six-figure contract, they sack you after a year, and then you’ve got four more years of pay. Surely the best job in the world?