You leave her tousled in the sheets at Hotel Café Royal. In so many ways the night was memorable: how to mark it? How to crown the last 12 hours with a gift of judicious nonchalance and charm? Some thoughts - in these four case histories - for the man who wears Mr. Burberry...
I recognised it in the way she ran her lipstick red across her lips, the way she smoothed her skirt down her thighs and arched her shoulders as she sat down at the table. She’s a sensualist. A joy to eat with. A joy to drink with.
That was how it began: I saw her order mezcal from the barman and roll its smokiness around her mouth. It was only natural to suggest she might like to join me for a cigar.
And this morning? What to send a woman like her, how to celebrate her strength and poise and ferocity. Frankly, how to ensure I see her again? I thought of cashmere, something to echo the touch of my coat, whose lapels she had grasped to drink in my fragrance, and me. Give her a soft scarf she can wrap herself in, imbued with that same scent of cardamom, nutmeg and sandalwood.
I thought of peaches. I can see her pressing her thumbs through the velvet skin and into the white flesh. I’d send them with figs and toasted walnuts, with perhaps a cold Sauternes.
But after all, perhaps I will go to her, with dark, strong coffee and time to kill.
She’s a traveller. That in-between accent, something Parisienne, something New York. It was only the turbulence on the plane that connected us – and then fate, that she was taking a cab the way I was, to Piccadilly. By the time we reached Eros, any gentleman would have taken care to see her safely to her hotel room.
We will stay in touch, here and there. Perhaps I will send her something leather, a London Leather holdall; I will pack inside it a collection of My Burberry so wherever she is she has the scent of this city. Or a different kind of leather: the curved cinch belt and elegant fine collar made bespoke by craftsman Paul Seville, pieces that she will wear alone, pieces I will undress her into when she returns.
For me it’s always a love affair of the mind. There is something marvellous about a woman with passionate opinion, with argument, with knowledge. And she is extraordinary, a strange and rare flash of beauty who I met between the book stacks of The London Library.
Of course, I will give her a book. The question is what? She knows Auden, she has read Browning and Byron. Maybe Donne: “Twice or thrice had I loved thee / Before I knew thy face or name.” An early edition, calfskin bound, bought on Dover Street. Or perhaps I should take her too – we should step back in time together to choose our text.
Or shall I write? Thick cream paper bought on Mount Street, black ink in a stub fountain pen. More Donne: “She’s all states, and all princes I / Nothing else is”? No. Simplicity. Why not tell her exactly when and what will happen next...
It was the way she walked. Moving lightly across the cracked pavement on Columbia Road, sidestepping the puddles. Her trench was pulled close about her, her hair long down her back, her laugh throaty and inviting. I couldn’t resist.
So how could I not send her flowers? Not the peonies she bought that day, their petals saturated with water drops. Not the branches of neroli she has in great, fragrant sprays either side of her bed. Maybe hyacinths and summer lilacs, to echo the fat candles she uses to light her room?
Better: I will go to northwest London. I will walk up Chamberlayne Road to Scarlet & Violet and fill jugs with wild British flowers, with honeysuckle, columbines, dog roses and tamarisk. I will take them to her and enclose her in their heady scent.
Original article published in GQ.com, in December, 2016