Thursday, January 27, 2011

Soho style

And so to London for a bit of business, some light shopping (very light Iain, I promise although Liberty was a very dangerous five minute walk away) and a very chi chi place to rest my head in the Soho Hotel. Now I have stayed at some fantastic (and a few not so fantastic) hotels in my time, and this one is right up there with the very best.

More about that later...on arrival, BA got me in half an hour early, a joy on a flight that is supposed to land at 9.25pm. However, noticing that there was no driver with my name on the board, I hung around for five minutes then hopped on the tube. I was at Boston Manor when my mobile rang, it’s your driver at Terminal 5 Miss Hockney, where are you? Obviously BA is never early, let alone half an hour early on a flight as short as the Nice hop. The morale of the story is an early flight is not always to be celebrated if it means you end up on the tube instead of in the back of a nice comfy chauffeur-driven Mercedes. The upside was walking through Chinatown and seeing all the fantastic colurful lanterns festooned along Gerrard Street ready for Chinese New Year next week as my picture above shows.

Arriving at 11pm, I gave my name at reception to be told that someone had just checked into my room and had ordered room service! (I found out that this was my celebrity interviewee who shall remain nameless to spare his blushes and was totally mortified the next day when he realised.) At this point things then took a rather gorgeous hastily reassigned room was the size of an apartment, with every luxury and mod con you can think of, a super kingsize bed, stunning furnishings and a presentation box of two Miller Harris Soho Hotel lip balms (that’s the girls’ presents sorted then.) There was even an aromatherapy spray to cover your pillow and ensure a deep, uninterrupted sleep. Carrie, the manager, really has everything covered.

The interview went swimmingly the next day, although Lembit Opik was loitering in the foyer looking rather furtive (maybe he had spotted me and was worried about that peculiar tabloid habit of phone hacking) and designer Jeff Banks (from my fave 80s TV treat The Clothes Show, remember?) was sitting at the table next to mine in the restaurant (what is it about these celebs who need to be in my orb?) On the way out, I bumped into my old editor at The Sun, Kelvin Mackenzie, and we had a lovely chat about the phone hacking scandal and life in France, which he has a particular soft spot for having once owned a house in Valbonne. Then my PR pal Lisa spotted me and grabbed me for a chat while she waited for a meeting with the head honchos at ITV1’s Law and Order. It was a veritable media village, like the one I used to inhabit, rather than the medieval village I now reside in.

The night continued in the same wonderful vein, with cocktails at the hotel bar, dinner at Quo Vadis a mere 50 steps across the road and then bizarrely, just as I was planning on being sensible for once and turning in for the night after a nightcap at the bar, I was whisked off to Bungalow 8 for rather too many glasses of Perrier-Jouet and some very interesting shots. Suffice it to say that the aforementioned early night went straight out of the window and the next day as I dropped my bags at the desk to wait for my car, feeling rather more fragile than usual (sadly the bags under my eyes had to remain with me) the lovely twinkly concierge Jamie couldn’t hide his smirk as he asked: ‘Good night last night? A few drinks?’ Oh the shame....

So if you are heading to London anytime soon and money is no object, or someone else is paying, do yourself a favour and book the don’t even have to leave the lobby to have a good time. And the breakfast is to die for.

I am now watching Michel Roux’s In Service, based at the Pommery champagne house a few hundred miles from here, and wondering whether I can possibly swing a little press trip to the chateau for a tasting sometime....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What January blues?

What a mental couple of weeks. Whoever thinks January is dull and boring needs to move into our has been non stop since we got home at New Year. Last week was la Plagne, on a gorgeous Disney job interviewing snowboarders and freestyle skiers in the middle of the Alps.

Before I get loads of hate mail, I should point out that it did entail a 16 hour round trip by train (with breathtaking scenery from my First Class carriage)and a rather hair raising ride up the mountain followed by a rather nerve-jangling slip backwards down the hill for 15 minutes in a fierce snowstorm. The trip also necessitated me standing in very bright sunshine at the top of a snow park watching lots of talented teens do 360s, back flips and other death defying feats while nursing a hot chocolate. It was sunny but so cold that I had to fit in the odd ski down to Belle Plagne alongside the experts (well, ok, quite a long way behind them) to get the circulation back in my fingers and toes. Just so you know that the life of a former Fleet Street hackette involves more than just watching the celebrity world go by....

Came home to warmish sunshine and lots of social engagements which is never a bad thing either in January (did someone mention detox?) including some rather strenuous but sunny tennis and a very convivial supper at Helen and Neil's.

Last week was Livvy's stage - and she chose to work with mama as a trainee journo. I'd like to say she chose the soft option but as the first part of this blog proves, my life is anything but. Not for her a 3.30am start at the local boulangerie to bake baguettes and croissants or a stint at a hotel cleaning bedrooms and toilets. After establishing that her hours would be 9 - 4pm with an hour for lunch (an hour!) she would surface at about 8.50am in her pjs, selectively not hearing my instructions that she needed to be at her desk, PC at the ready, at 9am sharp. One morning when I asked her to do some research for me, she asked if she could do it from her which point I realised that a. I might have made a monumental mistake not forcing her to work in the real world and b. that I'm obviously not a very fearful boss.

Once we had established that working for me involved getting dressed and not leaving her bedroom in its usual turmoil, she was actually pretty sharp, and did wonders with a feature I gave her to write as well as some research on a Hollywood teen star. On Friday, I asked her what she thought of her week. 'Hmmm, you have a pretty nice life mum,' was her verdict. So I had to point out that it has taken 20 years of hard slog to get to this rather lovely, privileged position.

Just watching the news while I write this and Andy Coulson's resignation is still the story du jour. We worked together at The Sun when we were both showbiz reporters and you'd struggle to find a better, more thorough and committed operator than Andy. Can't help feeling he has been made the scapegoat for an awful lot of Fleet Street misdemeanours....and having resigned once already over this scandal at the News of the World, it all seems a bit double jeopardy to me.

And so to the saddest news of the week which is the Lambs leaving for pastures new (no pun intended.) We have had three farewell lunches this week...see above...two of which stretched into darkness (and not just in our hearts either.) Some fab laughs, photos and memories that will endure.... So many people have left to go back to the UK that it feels a little like being the last few survivors on the Titanic - Will and Madsy and the four little Lambs, like Sara and Adrian, will be much missed.
But after almost three years in la belle France, I have found that real friendships withstand distance and time quite readily. There are friends in London that I see more of now than I did when I lived a few miles up the road and it was all too easy to cancel or rearrange longstanding plans. No-one does that now that we're 1,000 miles away! The pool, wine fridge and 300 days of sunshine obviously have nothing to do with it.

London beckons once more so off to pack and get my beauty sleep .......