Swellboy on... Mariano Rubinacci

Our man recalls his friend’s somewhat misguided first trip to London

Image: Brijesh Patel

The other day I celebrated 10 years of Rubinacci on Mount Street. Mariano Rubinacci has become a friend over the years; so it was a pleasure to go along and raise a glass to the great man, who made his first trip to our capital over 50 years ago.

When his father died, Mariano was still at school and was left with the agonising decision of whether to close the family tailoring business or carry on. Happily, he chose the latter course. At that time, the business was called London House, in order to evoke the effortless style of the English gentleman… but this was London as an idea rather than a concrete location, as his father had taken the wise precaution of never actually setting foot in London, so as not to compromise his romantic vision of the city on the Thames.

However, Mariano is a conscientious fellow and he thought it might not be a bad idea to visit the town after which the family firm was named. Soon le tout Naples was aware that this elegant young man was going to London. “All the customers in the shop and friends of my father were impressed that I was going to London and they told me to visit Lock, Lobb and all the famous shops: places that I, and most of them, had only ever heard of and never seen. I felt that as it was called London House, I ought to visit London at least once. Apart from the wonderful fabrics, the only thing I knew about England was that it rained a lot so I was very proud that I had a Brigg umbrella that had belonged to my father to take with me.” Thus it was, umbrella furled and room reserved at the Hotel Pastoria in Leicester Square, he boarded a British European Airways Trident and flew to London. His English was not the best, but he was assured that Leicester Square was well known and that he would have no trouble getting a taxi to take him there.

Having cleared customs, he hoisted his Brigg umbrella aloft and hailed a taxi.

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“Leicester Square… never ’eard of it.” He tried another one

“Sorry Guv, dunno what you are talking about.”  

Every time he stopped a cab he was met with the same incomprehension.

It was only after an hour spent trying to make himself understood to a succession of taxi drivers that a passing policeman took an interest in Mariano’s increasingly desperate attempts to get to Leicester Square. Eventually it was ascertained that the reason he could not get the taxi to take him to the West End was that he had landed in Manchester; because of thick fog the plane couldn’t land in London, but was diverted to Manchester and he had not understood a word of the announcement.

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As far as I know, he has not been back since, but I think it safe to say Manchester’s loss is definitely London’s gain.

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