BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF QUARTET BOOKS

With the onset of the holidays and the publication in the New Year of NO LONGER WITH US II, there will be no new blogs from the Chairman of Quartet Publishing.

My readers however will be pleased to know that Quartet will also publish a collection of my writings, including a selection from my favourite blogs, which will be called

MEMORIES; The Charm & Follies of a Lifetime’s Publishing.

Watch this space.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

 

HOLLYWOOD AND ME

There is a nineteenth-century saying: ‘What the fool does in the end the wise man does at the beginning.’ I was never sure in which category I belonged. There were times when I was an odd mixture of the two. Sometimes I faltered at the start and redeemed myself at the end; on other occasions the reverse was true. But I always learnt the lesson, even if I forgot it soon after. That, in brief, was the essence of my life – a long hazardous journey, punctuated by great moments of triumph and short periods of disenchantment.

My business career in banking and commerce followed a somewhat unconventional pattern, and 1975, a year of major diversification, proved true to form. Opportunities opened up and my agenda began to brim with new enterprises. Show business was one of them. I had become director of Paradine Co-Productions Ltd, a company formed with David Frost to produce a new film adaptation of the story of Cinderella.

The script, based on the French version of the folk tale written by Charles Perrault in the late seventeenth century, was to be a collaboration between Bryan Forbes and the song-writer brothers Richard and Robert Sherman.

Bryan was an experienced actor, scriptwriter and director who had worked on many successful films, among those he directed being Whistle Down the Wind and The L-Shaped Room. The brothers Sherman, whose previous credits included such hits as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, were to write the score, which would include twelve original songs. Bryan would direct. It was an ambitious project requiring a budget of two million pounds which was secured from an overseas source.

In May we announced the film was going into production. Richard Chamberlain, famous for his role as Dr Kildare in the television series, was to play the charming prince, with a relatively unknown young actress, Gemma Craven, as his Cinderella. Others in the cast included Margaret Lockwood and Kenneth More, Michael Horden and Dame Edith Evans.

An unusual amount of press coverage followed the announcement, focusing on my involvement. The journalist George Hutchinson, who had been a friend since my early days in England, featured me in his weekly column in The Times as ‘the one who intends to save the British film industry from eclipse… for which’, he added, ‘we would have cause to thank him’. Others took a more political approach, the show-business journal Variety heading its report ‘Palestinian Financier Invades Showbiz with Shangri-La Coin’, while the Jewish Chronicle asserted that there were ‘No Strings to Arab Film Money’. The film’s profile received a further boost when the Queen Mother, accompanied by Princess Margaret, visited the set at Pinewood Studios to watch Bryan Forbes directing his illustrious cast.

Since several scenes for the film were shot on location in Austria, I went with my wife Maria and son Ramsay, then aged eleven, to stay five days with the crew. It was a novel and exciting experience that left us with some vivid memories. Richard Chamberlain pranced around, looking rather effete in his costume and keeping to himself most of the time, whereas the rest of the cast were more sociable and warm. Kenneth More in particular displayed an affable humour and entertained us with some amusing stories. He had an immediate rapport with Ramsay, taking him under his wing throughout our stay to explain all the intricacies of film-making.

Kenneth closely resembled in real life the characters he had portrayed on screen in films like A Night to Remember, Genevieve and Northwest Frontier. He was a British actor of the old tradition, possessing a special quality of poise and charm all but extinct today. In his memoirs, Kenneth More or Less, he recollected the scene we shot in Southwark Cathedral by special dispensation of the bishop, Dr Mervyn Stockwood, when the aged Dame Edith Evans, who had only one line in the scene, ‘That girl ought to go’, kept nodding off. Every time Kenneth nudged her awake she immediately delivered her line, ‘That girl ought to go’, with impeccable professionalism.

All the signs for the film, given the title of The Slipper and the Rose, looked promising. Only a few days before the performance, on 24th March 1976, The Slipper and the Rose received its première at the Odeon, Leicester Square, having been selected as the Royal Command Performance film for the year. As I stood waiting to be presented to the royal patrons, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, the press-camera lights flashing all around, I felt I had entered a new world.

What a journey I had travelled since the early days of my marriage, when we lived in a small flat in Holland Park that did not even have its own bathroom. There, in sheer frustration, with my life still going nowhere, I once wrote a fan letter to my hero of the time, Marlon Brando – hoping to find a way into the film industry. Of course, I received no reply. But here I was now in this select line-up, among stars and show-business celebrities. The Sherman brothers, being American, were every bit as elated as I was to be waiting to meet the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. The Queen Mother took everything in her stride. One of the brothers had a girlfriend in tow – a stunning blonde, dressed to kill and exhibiting a most impressive cleavage. The Queen Mother didn’t bat an eyelid.

Afterwards, along with David Frost, Bryan Forbes and Stuart Lyons, we partied till well beyond midnight and sent out for the morning papers to read the press notices and comments. Critics hailed The Slipper and the Rose as a shining example of what the British film industry was capable of achieving if given the chance.

MÉTIER IN BEAK STREET

Until Naim Attallah rang me up with the proposal that I take on the editorship of the Literary Review after the departure of Gilly Greenwood, I had never edited anything in my life. Nor could I boast a degree in English literature or indeed any other academic tag. I had worked in journalism since I first pulled a salary at the tender age of twenty, but this was entirely confined to the diary and feature pages of the Evening Standard and two stints on that famous hotbed of literary content, Vogue.

Despite this, it seemed to me like a crazy but fine idea. I had just returned from nearly three years living in the Middle East. My then husband, James MacManus, was Middle East correspondent of the Guardian and we had spent three fascinating years living and working in Cairo and Jerusalem. Well, in my case working was possibly too strong a word for what I did. Looking after my baby and filing the occasional piece as a freelance was as close as I came to the coalface of earning during those years. On our return to London, we were homeless with one job between us, and it fast became clear that two jobs were needed to fund a fancy Clapham lifestyle. So Naim’s timing was good from my point of view. And without further thought – never my strong suit – I clambered aboard.

I don’t know whether, at this later stage in my life, I would have the chutzpah to accept such a challenge, but in retrospect Attallah’s bold and risky casting provided me with a huge opportunity and nearly two years of exhilarating fun and useful experience finding my feet as a commissioning editor.

Both of us had to contend with a backwash of press comment which centred on my lack of qualification for the editorship, combined with Naim’s tendency to hire posh girls. Both of us rose above it. Naim had heard it all before, and my rather weak line of justification was that I had slept with Martin Amis, which, given the media’s obsession, must represent some sort of left-field qualification.

I fast developed a taste for this editing lark. I loved commissioning reviews – sometimes from rather left-field reviewers – that would get some chemistry bubbling up in the encounter of book and reviewer. Kathy O’Shaughnessy and I had a ball thinking up unlikely castings in a pleasant little office in Beak Street. She provided some much-needed literary highminded ballast to my sometimes mischievous and often philistine tendencies. The greatest sin I think I committed in Kathy’s eyes was in my approach to poetry. I have never ‘got’ the medium – it made me distinctly nervous – and I suggested to the deputy editor that we should file the countless submissions by length and only print them when a correctly sized hole appeared on the proofs: poetry by the inch.

I did not, however, take that line over the book reviewing which formed the backbone of the magazine’s content. Here, I adopted the same approach to casting reviewers as I had to writing pieces for newspapers. The first responsibility of any printed piece is to grab the reader’s interest. Their hearts and minds may or may not follow, but engaging their interest in the first place is the prime responsibility of both editor and writer. This strategy appeared to work as we quite quickly doubled the sales of the Literary Review from five figures starting with a one to five figures beginning with a two. Not that I could claim to have found the elixir of profit, for the magazine never became commercially viable. It was then, as it ever was, dependent on the generosity of Naim Attallah, who underwrote the entire operation.

None the less I found my métier in Beak Street, and editing magazines is what I have done with enormous satisfaction ever since. At the Literary Review I learnt first and last that a good editor should be able to produce a magazine on any subject.

Indeed, a bit of distance is very healthy. Early on in my days in Beak Street I formed the impression that the literary world was a closed and cliquey fraternity and many reviewers regarded it as their God-given right both to review certain titles and, in some cases, to treat somewhat unqualified editors with open disdain. It was like an eightsome reel with a small cast and a few titles swirling in some strange parallel universe inhabited by dons and clever young men in tweed suits. Coming from a different – and dare I say it wider– world, I saw no reason why the Literary Review should necessarily be a part of this. It needed its own identity.

I know that my approach did not endear me to many reviewers, but my hide had to be thick enough to withstand a certain amount of bullying. My already rocky friendship with Ali Forbes foundered as he demanded titles to review and I found excuses not to give them to him. And when I succumbed to his terrifying blandishments, and reluctantly thrust Lord Mountbatten’s biography through the bars of his cage, he promptly reviewed it for another paper.

The most extraordinary (and flattering) fact about my editorship of the Literary Review was that I was replaced by Auberon Waugh. If life were some parlour game, and I was offered odds that I would hold a job where I would be succeeded by that giant of Doughty Street, that pillar of Private Eye, I would never have believed it possible. I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief as I crossed Regent Street to rejoin Vogue – doubtless to the relief of the literary world.

HARRY WINSTON

Being often in Geneva, John Asprey and I had the good fortune to meet the legendary Harry Winston, who was undoubtedly the most successful diamond dealer in the world. He maintained a large office in Switzerland to cater for wealthy clients who came to see him in search of important stones, unique for their size and colour. He had set up his own business, the Premier Diamond Company, on Fifth Avenue in New York in 1920 when he was only twenty-eight, and went on to become the most prolific gem salesman of his generation. He revolutionized the way precious stones were set, shifting the emphasis on to the stones themselves and away from the ornate settings popular in the earlier twentieth century. Many of the most famous diamonds in history passed through his hands, including the Hope Diamond, which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution as a gift to the American people. On Oscar nights in Hollywood many of the sparkling diamonds worn by the stars had been loaned to them by Harry Winston. In 1958 his firm created the Nur Il Ain tiara for Queen Farah to wear at her wedding to the Shah of Iran. Among Harry’s royal clients were members of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia.

The history of what became known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond turned into one of the most extraordinary episodes of Harry’s career. The original stone, of over 240 carats, had been found in 1966 and Harry bought it at once. He and his master cutter then studied it for six months before attempting the cleaving, which was successfully carried out live in front of television cameras. The largest piece eventually yielded a classic pear-shaped gem of 69.42 carats, which was sold to Harriet Annenberg Ames, the sister of Walter Annenberg, an American diplomat. In 1969 it reappeared in the auction room after Mrs Ames tired of having to keep it always hidden in a bank vault. The actor Richard Burton was well known for his habit of buying diamonds for his wife Elizabeth Taylor, and the Burtons certainly took an interest. The bidding started at two hundred thousand dollars and swiftly rose to a record price of over a million dollars; at which point Burton’s representative dropped out and the stone went to the chairman of the Cartier parent company in New York. Richard Burton then became even more determined to acquire it and opened negotiations with the owner’s agent, saying, ‘I don’t care how much it costs – go and buy it.’ He got his way, for an undisclosed sum, but only on condition Cartier could first exhibit it in New York and Chicago and it would be named the Taylor-Burton Diamond.

The New York Times took a mordant view of this spectacular flaunting of wealth and commented: ‘The peasants have been lining up outside Cartier’s this week to gawk at a diamond as big as the Ritz that cost well over a million dollars. It is destined to hang around the neck of Mrs Richard Burton. As someone said, “It would have been nice to wear in the tumbrel on the way to the guillotine.”’ Miss Taylor wore it for the first time in public in Monaco at Princess Grace’s fortieth-birthday party. After her divorce from Richard Burton, she resold it in 1979 for five million dollars, putting part of the proceeds towards building a hospital in Botswana. Harry, who died at the end of 1978, did not, alas, live to see this final act in the drama.

Harry had made it his speciality to purchase from governments and diamond corporations the largest uncut diamonds he could locate and then take the inherent risk of having them cut and polished. Whenever John and I visited him we heard stories of the millions of pounds’ worth of diamonds he had sold and of how he achieved this against odds that his competitors (who were few) would have considered unbeatable. He was a rotund, jovial little man with boundless enthusiasm and unquenchable optimism, which had enabled him to do what most people would find impossible. He gave us an insight into the trade, emphasizing above all the importance of perseverance when early signs are discouraging. He taught us a great deal and we looked upon him as our guru in the world of precious stones.

In 1972 Harry Winston had acquired the Star of Sierra Leone, which came from the largest raw diamond ever to be excavated from the Diminco mine in Sierra Leone. Originally it had weighed 968.80 carats and at that point was the third biggest raw diamond ever found. The largest single stone as Harry bought it was 143 carats, emerald cut, brilliant, yet ever so slightly flawed. It was then the largest diamond of his career to date. In what was a tricky operation, he cleaved away the imperfections, thus greatly reducing the size of the stone. Many in the trade called him mad even to consider it. However, the triumphant outcome was a 33-carat D-flawless stone alongside sixteen smaller stones, thirteen of which were flawless. Collectively they far surpassed the value of the original rough stone.

John and I had the privilege not only of seeing the Star of Sierra Leone but also of being responsible for the sale of some of the smaller gems to clients in the Middle East. Harry encouraged us to have faith in our ability to sell important stones by going about it the way he would himself. ‘If you have that measure of self-confidence,’ he said, ‘you’ll travel the path of success.’ He would insist we take a whole tray of diamonds worth millions on a sales trip. He would not have it otherwise, however much we protested that we could not possibly take the responsibility. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘it’s not your responsibility, it’s mine. I’m insured. If anything goes wrong, it’s my responsibility.’

To convince us further he would recall the time when he sold over twenty million dollars’ worth of gems to a single client, an absolute monarch who was on a visit to Geneva. The monarch’s personal secretary phoned Harry in New York telling him to come to Geneva and bring some diamonds with him. Harry called on all the dealers he knew in New York and collected from them on a consignment basis every available quality diamond. He ended by scooping the market in good stones, and when he told his fellow dealers why, they laughed and thought he’d gone crazy. In Geneva he went to see his client with the stones in a black bag and was granted a single audience. The monarch asked him to turn the bag upside down and tip out its contents in the middle of the room. As soon as the glistening treasure lay on the carpet ten or so women appeared from adjoining rooms and fell on it. Within five minutes they had cleared the whole pile. ‘Send me the bill,’ said the client. The lesson Harry learnt then was that nothing is ever impossible. It gave him great satisfaction to return to New York and tell his colleagues how he had sold the lot.

Faced with tales of such audacity, John and I could no longer refuse to do his bidding. We would take the tray of diamonds worth millions without even signing a receipt and venture forth in the footsteps of the master. To say we ever matched his level of success would be untrue, but we managed to make our mark and he was never disappointed.

Our close association with Harry Winston, the grand master of his trade, continued until his death. The last time we saw him was on a flight to New York in Concorde in the autumn of 1978. He was seated not far from us, and throughout the flight we observed in amazement as he ordered from the stewardess vodka after vodka and never betrayed the faintest sign of inebriation. He was a most extraordinary man. He had a very expressive type of Semitic face and when he spoke about his diamonds his features seemed to become strangely illuminated. His love for and affinity with his stones instilled in us a lasting appreciation of the perfection and beauty that only nature can produce.

REMEMBERING GEORGE HUTCHINSON

Among all the many things that happened in 1980 the saddest by far for me was the death of George Hutchinson, who departed far too young at the age of fifty-nine. He was my earliest friend in Britain; I had met him soon after landing in the country in 1949. There were many who mourned him, but for me in particular it was as the last of his kind: a gentlemanly, distinguished journalist with integrity. He had indeed belonged to that rare breed of men whose near-extinction has left the world of journalism a poorer place. The elegance of his writing, coupled with his exquisitely refined manners, made him the darling of that section of society which had an appreciation for such qualities. His readership stretched across the nation at every social level. He was the voice of moderation and invariably he had a message that was tinged with hope and optimism. For the more sophisticated, his political acumen was sharp and incisive, and he was rarely wrong in any assessment he made of an issue of national importance.

There was much I had George to thank for. In 1950, when monetary support from my family in Haifa was blocked by new regulations, the Home Office had been about to repatriate me to Israel, on the grounds that as the holder of a student visa I could no longer sustain myself financially. George’s intervention, principally with the Home Office, and his rallying of MPs on my behalf secured my stay in the United Kingdom. Though we each pursued our separate paths, our friendship remained strong over subsequent years. The only blip occurred with Quartet’s publication of the Mrs Thatcher’s Handbag kit. On this one occasion George’s sense of humour deserted him, and the resulting froideur took some time to thaw.

Eventually all was forgiven and Quartet published his biography of Harold Macmillan, The Last Edwardian at No. 10. It was the final work he was able to complete. At the book’s launch party, a few weeks before his death, the guests included Harold Macmillan with his son Maurice. Harold stood there, leaning on his stick, and demanded, ‘Lead me to the author! Lead me to the author!’ There were an extraordinary number of writers and politicians among the host of friends and admirers. They thronged about him where he had positioned himself in a corner, awkwardly upright, for the illness had already taken its toll on his handsome frame. Nevertheless his face carried an expression of pleasure and satisfaction. His peers were there to pay him tribute for the last time.

The writer of his obituary in the Sunday Telegraph spoke of how kindly, courteous and good-natured George had been. Despite having spent his life in the often acerbic worlds of politics and journalism, he seemed to have acquired only friends and not enemies, and all the pieces that were written about him after his death mentioned the affection and esteem in which this warm and generous man had always been held.

TWO SPECIAL PEOPLE

Susie Craigie Halkett, who hailed from Scotland, was disarmingly engaging, with a smile that blended sophistication with natural diffidence. She went about her work responsibly and with diligence. Her low-key approach to things endeared her not only to the Quartet enclave but also to those on the outside she had to deal with in discharging her duties. Her unassuming presence was charmingly unencroaching and that was in essence the secret of her popularity. Looking back, I remember being struck by the way she conducted herself and glided through life, seemingly unflappable. I wanted to discover more about her. It was not simply her beauty that aroused my interest but an instinct that told me there was more to her than was visible to the casual eye: there was an intriguing depth to her that I was determined to plumb. In pursuit of this aim, I arranged for her to accompany me to New York on two occasions, and once to Frankfurt to attend the book fair. On all of these trips she stayed with me and I found her company both stimulating and relaxing. The differences in our characters produced from time to time some innocuous ripples but these never lingered on to have any destabilizing effect on our working relationship. Her time at Quartet as editorial assistant and publicist was remembered with great affection. I retain fond memories of our travels and am certain Scotland could not have sent forth a better child to enchant and capture the English.

Meanwhile, at my Regent Street office, a new light appeared in the form of Jess Collett, a young, attractive blonde who could have dazzled the socks off any red-blooded youthful male, let alone a man of my age. Her presence enlivened the atmosphere, and in her own words she sums up that time with a stylish cheekiness.

Getting Away with Murder

Jess Collett

When I walked into the marketing department of Mappin & Webb in 1995 as office skivvy, the only thing I knew about Naim was that he and my dad used the same hairdresser – and still do, what class! I was surrounded by nubile young ladies accredited with brains, looks and charm. The only man to be seen in the office, apart from Naim himself, was the postman!

I seemed to fall into position of youngest (who gets away with murder) with extreme ease, and was soon known affectionately as ‘Blondie’. On Naim’s bad days I hopped on to his knee to cheer him up, and on his good days I did the same. After a month, I was presented with a beautiful watch for my services. I might have left at this point, pawned the watch and got the money I needed for going to Mexico. But I didn’t. Instead I had the most exciting, amusing and of course instructive six months. I met some lovely people, posed in a very short pvc skirt, modelled thousands of pounds’ worth of jewellery and watches up my arm, sat at the wheel of a couple of Ferraris in Bond Street, drank fine champagne in Winston Churchill’s underground cabinet war rooms and stuffed a lot of envelopes. So, as my only experience of working in an office (I am now a milliner), I would say it was a very good advertisement.

ARABELLA POLLEN

In January 1982, Arabella Pollen, daughter of Sotheby’s then vice-chairman, Peregrine Pollen, became part of the Namara Group. Arabella’s project was to launch a fashion company under her own name, with my financial backing and the full resources of Namara at her disposal. Though Arabella possessed no formal qualifications in dressmaking or design, I could see she had ability and drive. She combined beauty with energy and her elegance and poise were enhanced by her piercing blue eyes. She was, moreover, being helped in her adventure by one of the rising stars at Vogue magazine, Sophie Hicks – today a well-known architect. I was very taken with Arabella, and although fashion was not an area on which I had set my sights, I was carried away by her aura. It was overwhelmingly seductive. She was every man’s dream: youthful, zestful and self-assured. There was also that indefinable quality about her that made a man wish to protect her and gave him the impression that she needed him when it was in fact not the case; nevertheless the sensation was gratifying.

She took over my old office at Wellington Court and the process of promoting Arabella started in earnest. I was determined to make her a household name. The strategy was to establish Arabella as the fashion designer for the young – the new generation of hopefuls who formed the nucleus of a trendy society with their boundless ambition and natural savoir-faire. Arabella’s beau, Patrick Benson, was referred to by Tatler as her chief button-sewer, whereas he was in fact a multi-talented artist whose many sketches provided her with inspiration. Sandra Marr, Viscountess Weir’s daughter, was listed in the team as head mannequin, and the indefatigable Sophie Hicks was chief adviser. In due course, a young lady with a lisp, Kathryn Ireland, was appointed special publicity person cum personal assistant.

Katherine was a great operator and a real go-getter. At one point, however, I felt that her influence on Arabella sometimes veered from the positive to the reckless, diverting Arabella towards more recreational pursuits. No doubt I was being over-protective, worried that, because of her youth, she might be led seriously off course. Following through from those early days, Katherine has since moved on to become the hottest property in Hollywood, running her own interior-design company that caters mainly for the stars.

Arabella’s rise to prominence happened in no time at all. Among her clients she was soon counting Princess Diana, a fashion icon of her day, and a large majority of the Sloane Rangers who graced the London social scene in that époque.

When I asked her to contribute her memories of that period for inclusion in my volume of autobiography, Fulfilment & Betrayal, she supplied the following which well captures our special time together:

Growing a Business

By Arabella Pollen

When Naim called me out of the blue one day to ask whether I would write something for his memoir, my initial reaction was panic. I have almost zero recall of my twelve-year stint in the fashion business, maybe because it was a long time ago, or maybe it’s the onset of premature Alzheimer’s. Either way, only the barest threads of memory remain: the up-all-nights and the seven days a week, the brilliance and dedication of my studio workforce. OK, so there was that two-year commute to Paris – Fashion Aid, of course, and the craziness of the Studio 54 shows – but almost all the rest of it, the people, the parties, the excitement, tears, triumphs and disappointments, have merged into one great kaleidoscopic blur stored somewhere deep inside my head. Not Naim, though. Naim Attallah is not a person you forget.

We met in 1980. I was nineteen and a year out of school. I had spent the first six months of that year working odd jobs in advertising and the latter part of it holed up in a crumbling mill in France with a Super 8 movie camera, earnestly attempting to write, shoot and direct a satire on the business. This high-falutin project left me profoundly broke and I was eventually forced to return to London, engage with the real world and look around for a way to make ends meet. Having crashed through my A-levels with a spectacular mix of bad behaviour and complacency, the only asset I had of any real value was a cupboard full of textiles which I’d collected over the years and – for reasons that still escape me – I decided to make clothes out of them. This resulted in a small collection, mostly constructed from stiff and itchy Hebridean tweeds, which somehow caught the attention of an editor at Vogue magazine, and before very much time had passed I found myself sitting in the air-conditioned offices of Namara in Poland Street, clutching a portfolio between my knees. ‘If he likes you,’ the Vogue editor had said, ‘he’ll be back.’

Quite what I was expecting in a publisher who might be interested in starting a fashion business with me, I can’t say. Certainly Naim Attallah was not it. First of all, he was extraordinary looking: tall, broad, enormous hands, odd-shaped ears. He was a Palestinian ‘Mr Potato Head’, but with a charming face and rather beautiful eyes that folded into multiple creases when he smiled. There was his voice: versatile in its range, capable of soaring and dipping through several octaves whenever he became excited. There was his manner: utterly disarming, every gesture expansive. On top of all there, there were his clothes: flamboyant, foreign, yet, conversely, impeccably English. Something bright flashed as he seized my hand. A piece of jewellery, a silk tie? I don’t know. There was just so much detail to take in. All I remember is that he gripped my arm, launched forth with great enthusiasm on a variety of seemingly unconnected topics, flipped through my portfolio, and the deal was done.

Later that day, I walked slowly out of the Notting Hill tube station and blinked disbelievingly into the afternoon light. I had a job. More than a job, I was about to have my own business. I assumed he was mad, certifiably insane. But what I came to understand was that Naim didn’t believe in business plans or spreadsheets. He believed in people, and once he put his faith in you, it was absolute.

Some of us are dreamers, some are thinkers. Naim is a doer, a nurturer of talent and ideas. Together we put down roots and grew a business. God knows, neither of us knew what we were doing, but we muddled through. It was a lot of fun. We had more than our share of success and I loved how proud that made him.

Random things stick in my mind from those days, like Naim’s zeal for cats, not the kittycat variety but animal skins, oil paintings and two enormous white and gold china tigers – maybe kept at Namara, maybe perched on a white rug at his house in Mayfair. I remember the window of our Knightsbridge offices shattering when the Hyde Park bomb exploded. I recently found a gold egg on a chain he gave me from Asprey, which I wore for a while, then temporarily mislaid. I remember the other girls downstairs, bluestocking and studious, working for some mysterious outfit called The Women’s Press.

Naim and I would have lunch together. These were three-course affairs, cooked by someone pretty with a cordon-bleu diploma and served with great style. We talked about everything – his myriad of ventures – film, theatre, art. We talked about Palestine, women, publishing, food, love. He was endearing, passionate, funny, enthusiastic, and just a little bit mad. There wasn’t a soul who knew him who didn’t imitate his delighted shriek of a greeting when you walked into a room. We all took to answering phones ‘in the style of Naim’. I think he probably knew. I suspect he kind of liked it. He was happiest being the sun around which lots of interesting people revolved.

From time to time we argued. Then he was infuriating, bombastic, stubborn, arrogant – but so, of course, was I. I was always in a hurry. I wanted Pollen Inc. to be bigger and better. I wanted success and recognition. I wanted greater financing, higher turnover, more staff. He was slower; and a lot wiser. When the time came for us to head off in different directions, I’m pretty sure I was the one who behaved badly, a touch furtively, unsure quite how to approach the matter, while Naim behaved, as usual, like a gentleman. Twenty years later I still count on Naim’s loyalty and friendship. When I wrote my first book, a truly dire spoof on the fashion business, it was Naim who, with great generosity of spirit, was the first to review it. We still have lunch from time to time. The cordon-bleu days might have gone, but the panache remains. Naim’s enthusiasm and passion for life have never faltered. I am always more pleased than I can say to see him – and I wear my gold Asprey’s egg a lot.