So This is Christmas and What Have You Done?

Yoko Ono & John Lennon: Merry Xmas (War is Over!)

"So this is Christmas and what have you done.  Another year over, a new one just begun."

It may seem a little obvious to start with John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over), given the time of writing, but there are hidden depths to be found at the start of this song. Lennon manages to set the scene, Christmas, a time usually for coming together, of giving, and enjoying ourselves. After setting this festive scene comes the abruptness of ‘what have you done?’ This directness might give us an insight into the man himself, but it’s a question - to his songwriting credit - that manages to be both accusatory and celebratory. Leaving this inquiry front and centre in our minds, he then asks us to reflect on the year just gone and the one ahead. What are you most proud of, what could we do better? Not bad for the two first opening lines of Christmas pop song.

So it is this vein that we, here at Meyer and Mortimer (M&M), reflect on 2016 before the powers of reflection are assaulted by those four horsemen alcohol, carbohydrates, sugar and too much TV.

Not wishing to start on a sad note, we have, however, seen a lot of famous people pass away this year starting with David Bowie who released his album, Blackstar, on the 8th January and died two days later on the 10th. Bowie has three major fans at M&M: bespoke shirtmaker Sean O’Flynn, cutter Oliver Cross and myself so it was a sombre start to the year. In his honour, we published a piece celebrating him and his life.

David Bowie 1947 – 2016

The list of 2016 deaths is long, but their legacies will live on (forgive us if we do not list those dear to you). We said goodbye to the brilliant Alan Rickman, national treasure and voice of sanity to the madness of Eurovision, Terry Wogan; the remaining half of The Two Ronnies, Ronnie Corbett, and comedy legends Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne (both painfully to soon). From music: 'Fifth Beatle' and visionary producer, George Martin; his Purple Holiness, Prince; ‘the minor fall and the major lift’ of Leonard Cohen; Glen Frey of The Eagles and Cleethorpes-born, Rod Temperton, who wrote for Michael Jackson the classics Thriller, Rock With You and Off The Wall; Give Me The Night for George Benson, and Sweet Freedom for Michael McDonald (to name but a few). 

Then there was triple heavyweight title winner, Muhammed Ali. The word legend fails to do the man justice. Ali transcended not only the noun but his sport and racial divides at a time when those divisions were high. Ali became the voice of black America at a time it was most needed speaking out against injustice and racial inequality.

Note: Since this piece was published on the 24th December, we have also had to say goodbye to guitarist Rick Parfitt of Status Quo; ex-Wham singer and successful solo artist, George Michael, and sadly actor, Carrie Fisher.

Muhammed Ali in 1966

Where there is dark, there is also light, and 2016 was well illuminated both globally and personally here at M&M. There were the Olympics and Team GB’s performance who smashed their medal targets for both the Olympics and the Paralympics. There are just too many highlights to detail - which is a wonderful problem to have. We did publish an Olympics Q&A at the time, at the start of the games so forgive the team for being a little cautious and not too optimistic. It was early on, a slow start but boy did we pick up speed and the medals to boot. It was our most successful away games ever, and in the Paralympics Great Britain picked up a staggering 147 medals.

The Rio Olympics 2016

The World Cup deserves a smaller paragraph (sadly), with Scotland not making it into the competition and England, of course, doing so but only to squander the opportunity. We watched games at the shop when we could. England fans know very well the levels of pain a World Cup can muster. Expectations were dropped to deep sea levels to something - on the surface - masquerading as ambivalence. However, like all heavy masks, it slips to reveal a hopeful eye which within the tears of disappointment silently wait.  Wales, however, provided us with displays of skill, passion, and teamwork we could but only dream and learn from. It is a real testament to them they got as far as they did.

Twenty-sixteen also saw Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, reach 90 years of age, with an incredible 63 of those on the throne. Being Royal Warrant Holder to HRH, we wanted to celebrate her birthday, along with the rest of the UK (and with those from around the world). We did this by contacting Nottingham based artist Joy Pitts who works exclusively with clothing labels to create works of art. It just seemed, excuse the pun, a good fit; particularly as she had previously created a portrait of Queen Elizabeth to celebrate her birthday. Joy, who we interviewed here, very kindly loaned us the piece for a couple of weeks in April to coincide with HRH’s birthday on the 21st. It went on display in our window and drew very positive comments from existing customers and new visitors entering our showroom to find out more about our regal display.

The Queen at 90: Proudly on display next to our Royal Warrant for HRH

In June we launched our new website (and please excuse the plug, by yours truly) which we are very proud of. When the photographer, Will Corder, came to the shop beforehand to take some new pictures for the site, it turned out to be a lot of fun and rather perplexing to our customer’s visiting the showroom. They found themselves having to side-step lighting umbrellas, leads, laptops and two cameras. It’s testament to our customers they took it in their er...stride while adding wry comments for the need for make-up. Since the site launched, we have seen numbers rise substantially. In its first month alone visitors increased twenty-fold. We continue to add new content, and a new section focusing on the visual aspects of our work and items of interest. You will also find Q&As with all the staff and associated people at M&M there too. Why did they get into tailoring?

From the Will Corder shoot: Oliver Cross

There have been a number of beautiful additions to the M&M extended family this year starting with a cutter, Oliver Cross, who with his partner, Viv’,  gave birth to Rafferty (8lbs 9) eight days before my son, Lucas (8lbs 11), on the 6th July. It was Oliver’s second child and my first, and we both knew we were expecting boys. Unconsciously, Oliver and I formed an informal expectant father support group: regularly checking in on how our partner’s were doing, and thinking ahead to the day itself, and joking that we should call them Meyer and Mortimer. They arrived safely with both baby and mother, respectively being in good health – although experiencing levels of tiredness only a mother can describe.

We had intended to get the boys together at some point, but chance soon saw to that, in the small village of Orford in Suffolk which is detailed here: What Are the Chances? Oliver & Jason Bump into Each Other... It was one of those delightful roll of the dice moments that life sometimes throws your way.

Oliver and I with our sons: Rafferty and Lucas

Other additions to the M&M extended clan was the arrival of Romeo: a third Grandson for director Paul Munday. If this lovely addition was not enough there is, Mr Munday informs us, a fourth grandchild expected in 2017! In other family news, shirtmaker Sean O’Flynn’s middle son Johnny left the nest in North-West London to head North-East to study art at Newcastle. We hear he, via his father, is absolutely loving it.

As ever, Paul Munday and Oliver Cross, have been busy visiting our valued overseas customers in the Far East, the USA, Canada and France. We’re delighted to be now included on Permanent Style’s trunk show list and would like to thank Simon Crompton for that. We’re also on the Sartorial Trips website that allows potential customers to vote for tailors to come to their city. If enough people vote for a tailor, say Meyer & Mortimer for instance here, we could be heading further west to Los Angeles or east to Japan. We’ll be announcing new dates, and locations, soon on our overseas page. We would though like to take this opportunity, while on the subject, to thank all of our overseas customers for their ongoing business. It is very much appreciated, and we wish you the happiest of holidays, Christmases and new years!

New York: So good we went there twice this year.

Staying abroad, holidays this year for the M&M team included Brian Lewis’s annual visit to The Phoenicia Hotel in Malta (more on this visit later). Bespoke shirtmaker Sean O’Flynn took his family to Italy’s most southerly point, Calabria, and Paul Munday favoured the snowy surrounds of Canada to ski with his wife, Claire. Oliver & Co decided to staycation in the previously mentioned Suffolk, which he loved with Aldeburgh being a particular highpoint. I agree. It is a lovely place with the best fish and chips. Yours truly, pre-son, visited my wife’s family and friends in Jersey, where were stranded for a few days. Then when Lucas was 11 weeks old, we flew to Arizona, USA, to visit his grandparents, and travelled on to California. You must think we were mad to do so, but he was an absolute dream and did not cry once on the flights (incredible I know). Previously he had been to New York to see his aunt, and Spain for a friend’s wedding. All this before he reached three months. I wish we had got him a frequent flyer membership now!

Further west in San Diego: A family day out at Balboa Park

Returning to Mr Lewis and his annual Maltese trip with wife Joan back in September; well this week he received his wallet back in the post. He’d lost it or had it stolen. At the time, Brian did the necessaries: called the bank, cancelled cards, etc. However, a gentleman named Dimitri found it in his garage of all places, parcelled it up and added a note explaining how he came about it. Of course, Brian’s Euros were long gone, but everything else remained, albeit with cancelled and redundant cards. Nonetheless, if there was ever a timely tale for Christmas, this is it. May you Dimitri and your family have a very Merry Christmas. Brian will be sending you a few Euros to get yourself a drink (or two).

If 2016 was not packed enough, it will be remembered – in very different ways – for the EU referendum and the vote for the UK to leave the European Union. Adhering to the god and politics caveat, we will say no more here, but we did address the issue in a piece we published exactly 100 days after the historic vote. At the time a lot of comment and prediction had been made about UK business as a whole, the financial, service and manufacturing sectors, but not much about bespoke tailoring. To address this, we brought together M&M’s own Brian Lewis, and independent tailor, and Savile Row legend, Malcolm Plews who, between them, possess over 100 years’ experience. We asked them to predict what the UK and bespoke tailoring might look like after Brexit. Read the full piece here.

Malcolm Plews shares his views on Brexit and its impact on Savile Row

So this is Christmas and this year, I believe, everyone is at home – or at a nearby drinking establishment – celebrating Christmas with family and friends, while sparing a thought for those family members who have, like our celebrities above, have passed on this year. Their legacies may not live on in film, music or word, and will not be known the world over, but they’ll live on in our hearts and minds. Stories will be recounted, embellished maybe or dialled down – depending on the tale and the age of that listening - and passed down to family members who will have never met them, but on some level, know them.

And so to ‘the new year begun’, 2017. How quickly time passes and how we like to note its ephemerality. We’ve been doing it for a while as Shakespeare noted, in Midsummer Night’s Dream, time’s tendency to race ahead of itself ‘Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights; Four nights will quickly dream away the time’.

Together at last: William Shakespeare & David Lee Roth

So what of next year? New year’s resolutions are the annual attempts to improve ourselves in some way. In what might perplex our readers to be quoting David Lee Roth (on and off singer for Van Halen) after hearing from the Baird; it does, however, sum up most of the reasons behind our yearly promises with Dave singing: ‘Seems like everything I like will make me sick or poor or fat’ (Two Fools Born a Minute, from the album Skyscraper). 

So what can we, at Meyer & Mortimer, do better next year? Not too surprisingly exercise scores high with both Paul Munday and Oliver Cross obligating themselves to more racket sports and rollerblading respectively (yes you read that right). Brian side-stepped the issue in his usual wry manner by saying he’ll promise not to make any new year resolutions, while Sean – who has his son settled in the Newcastle and a daughter in Glasgow, vows to spend more time with those he loves. I will second that, as did Paul and Oli’ after Sean said it (There’s always a degree of competition on display at 6 Sackville Street). For myself, your dedicated documenter of all things Meyer & Mortimer, it is to keep as healthy as possible so I can be with my son, my wife, and any future little Smith’s, for as long as possible.

Still trying to picture Oliver on rollerblades

We end on a rather dangerous note: our predictions for next year. Dangerous you say? By doing so potentially, sets oneself up for being wrong. For those who have read our Brexit piece, you’ll forgive me for repeating a quote. It is, however, one of my favourite quotes after Woody Allen’s one about overpaying for his carpet. It is from Danish physicist, Niels Bohr who says: ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future’.

So throwing caution aside: Music lover, Oliver, expects a new musical movement. On questioning him further on the merits of this prediction, he downgrades it to a guitar-based revival of some kind. Brian Lewis predicts a strong North American economy with its positive effects felt here in the UK; Paul is also cautiously optimistic about next year on the business front, despite citing the ongoing uncertainty around our exit from the EU. For myself, returning to Lennon and his Xmas message, I would dearly love to predict a calmer world, but alas this falls more under the jurisdiction of hope than prediction. I will, however, join Oliver in his original prediction of a new musical movement as it promises to be a lot more fun, exciting and an opportunity to get one's dancing shoes on. 

From all of us at Meyer and Mortimer, and the Sean O’Flynn bespoke shirtmaking team, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas ‘and a happy New Year. Let's hope it's a good one. Without any fear’.

A Musical Appendix

Other highlights, and shattering any illusions that bespoke tailors continually pray at the altar of high culture, Paul got to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO from the seventh row at the O2. He even bought a t-shirt. Sticking with music, I got to see the mighty AC/DC at the London Stadium with Axl Rose, of Guns n Roses, standing in for Brian Johnson on vocals. Let There Be Rock sounded incredible and it'll possibly the last time we'll here it live again in the UK.

Music plays a big part at M&M. Sean will have Radio 3 on most of the day. Then after lunch he will don his large headphones for a blast of The Stones or The Isley Brothers. Oliver is our resident Beatles aficionado. In fact, he fell in love with Savile Row while in London at 17 on a Beatles pilgrimage

As I appear to be the most knowledgeable on anything technically related I get called on to update iPads, store contacts, reset the wifi etc. This year Brian came to me with a list of songs he wanted to have on his iPhone to play in the car. I dutifully put that together for him with the results found here. We also have been treated to impromptu concerts in the past (2015) by violinist, and valuable M&M, customer Charlie Siem. Charlie along with our shop, or at least the outside of it, made it into the fashion section the New York Times recently.  If only the suit bag were a little higher! 

Have a very Merry and Melodic Christmas.