I have just received an invitation to a 100th birthday party. The centenarian in question is the Piccadilly Arcade, across the ’dilly from the better known Burlington. I am a huge fan of this glass-domed shopping alley. My younger son buys small metal soldiers from The Armoury to create detailed dioramas of such military engagements as Waterloo, Omdurman and Rorke’s Drift. I have been known to purchase Soviet-era bits and pieces from Iconostas and I am also a patron of what claims to be the only business that has been here since the arcade opened: Budd shirtmakers.
I rang up to congratulate Mr Rowley at Budd and asked him to pass on my good wishes to Mr Butcher, who cuts the bespoke patterns by way of a hobby to divert him from his true professional role of frightening the customers. Mr Butcher is a formidable man, who is so good at his job that he takes no nonsense from anyone, least of all those elegant (not to mention brave) men whom he accords the privilege of becoming his customers. He knows best – and he knows he knows best. The only slight problem is that I happen to know best too, and over the years that I have been coming here I have learned that it is best for me to shut up and do exactly as Mr Butcher directs when it comes to shirts as it is a lot quicker that way.
The worrying thing is that I have been a Budd customer for almost 25 years, an impossible span of time. When I was a child I bought a Budd black Marcella bow tie from a jumble sale, and I still have it. I found it an item of such elegance that I promised myself I would one day become a Budd customer and in the latter half of Mrs Thatcher’s 1980s, I did just that. Mr Rowley, who greeted me on my first visit, is still there, as, of course, is Mr Butcher. While I am thrilled to say that I still have the first Budd shirt I bought, I don’t mind admitting that the idea that I have been bestowing the dubious benefit of my patronage on any establishment for almost a quarter of a century is genuinely terrifying.