I went to London to have lunch and do the Christmas present exchange, with one of my oldest friends. And I don’t say that because she’s 82, but because I’ve known her since 1984.
We met when I was working on as a features writer on a magazine called Women’s World. Barbie was the book reviewer and came into the office about once a week. It didn’t take long for us to bond.
She was formerly a legendary editor, of both Woman and Woman’s Realm, which in her day were the biggest magazines around. My mother used to buy Woman’s Realm in the early 1960s when Barbie was editor. I was a Junior Realmer and had a pen pal.
Barbie had a driver in big black car and wore gloves and a hat into the office every day.
She’s also one of the funniest, wisest people I have ever known, which helped to cement our friendship.
Another thing that joined us at the hip was that she had fairly recently lost her husband and my father had died the year before.
With my new understanding of bereavement, I talked to her about her husband, asked questions about him, rather than pretending the deceased person had never existed – which seems to be the general British approach to avoiding the embarrassment of bereavement.
When we found out that her late husband and my late father shared a birthday, we pretty much became related.
We are both still great friends with another colleague from those days, Ruby, and Barbie calls us the Sticky Buds. She’s Sticky Bud #1.
Back in the days when we worked in the offices in Newman Street, the three of us would go for lunch at the greasy spoon around the corner and it has stayed a tradition with us to meet in those classic London caffs, usually run by Italian proprietors. Formica tables and over-brewed tea the norm.
Barbie always has egg and chips. I have eggs, beans and chips. Ruby prefers a proper meal, meat pie or something.
The only problem is such establishments are becoming rare in London’s West End and we’ve tried several to find our new venue, only to have them close shortly after.
Now we feel we have our new place, The Lido in Great Castle Street, just off Oxford Circus. It’s a bit posher than we’d really like, but the all day breakfast is on the menu and the mugs are big. We’ve decided it’s the one. Barbie is going to bring her own wine next time.
I was thrilled to see Jelly and Cream featured on the pudding menu. These are the jellies. I couldn’t fit one in today, but I’m sure they’d come with squirty cream. Next time.
Before I met Barbie, I popped into the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition of Grayson Perry’s works from his TV series on identity, ‘Who Are You?’
It’s brilliant and this explanatory plaque at the beginning, next to his work Comfort Blanket, brought tears to my eyes.
After lunch I headed off to the heaven that is the Ham Yard Hotel, to see a press screening of Cate Blanchett’s new film Cinderella.
I had to sign a confidentiality document before watching it, so I can’t tell you anything about it. But if only I could just… no, I can’t. I’ll have to wait until it comes out.
What a joy to watch it in that screening theatre. The smell from the rows of seats upholstered in leather the exact shade of Hermès orange is intoxicating and they’re so comfortable.
I could photograph every corner of that hotel – and it has many many corners – and never tire of it. On they way out I noticed the door handle of the Dinosaur Design boutique in the complex. Genius.