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The School of Flaunt

Back when "Flying Was Fun" Alexandra Smythe and Cate Clarke were Flight Attendants with a Major International Carrier. Prior to Private Jets coming into vogue, Alexandra and Cate traveled in the First Class World, meeting and greeting the top celebrities, politicians who would become Presidents, nouveau riche, and yes the occasional Headline Grabbing Criminal in Handcuffs!

What the two ladies viewed and experienced became fodder for the School of Flaunt, so much money, such bad taste and oh those terrible manners. Something had to be done! Hence, The School of Flaunt Handbook was born. Read More

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We Love Letters from James Swan!

Category: Guest Writers  |  Permalink

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dearest Cate,

My miserable packing skills are my undoing, again! Why is it the things I

wish to pack remain behind and the things of no regard fill my luggage!

Found my letter to you neatly tucked in my volume of Homer's Odyssey.

Obviously right were I'd left it. Once again I'm in need of an adult

beverage.

Hugs from the eternal city.

James

jim@james-swan.com

Hotel de Russie

Rome

Hotel Villa Krupp

Viale Giacomo Matteotti 12

Capri

39-081-837-0362

Dearest Cate and Alexandra,

I'm awash in the glow that is Capri stretched out as I am on a terrace overlooking the Faraglioni rocks; it's every bit as glorious as it sounds. Trite as it may be I wish you where here! I arrived last week having counted the minutes til London was just a memory in our little jet's the rear-view mirror. I wonder if they have rear-view mirrors? Regardless, Kip and Samantha Ebersol we're such dears to let me ride in their snappy little GV. From the way she's tart'd up the interior you'd think she was out to impress someone. Haha! Dear old Kip; he does worship the air she breathes and certainly turns a blind eye to all that must drive his family batty. Our old girl does nothing quietly and they so live for their peace and quiet. Dear Samantha (even I am forbidden to call her Sammie, which I've done since we met all those many years ago when she worked the fragrance counter at Bergdorf's) proving once again you can take the girl out of Hackensack but you can't take Hackensack out of the girl.

It was eternally kind of them to give me a lift and now I'm well into my stay; neatly tucked into my wee-little room at the Villa Krupp. You can't tell a soul where I'm staying. Most would believe I am camping on the dodgy end of town; which wouldn't be entirely incorrect. The Villa has seen its better days, though the marvelously mad Russian owner insists that cleanliness is next to godliness; so everything is spotless, if a tisch worn. Why, you ask, do I stay here year after year? Alas my dears, I am captive to memories stretching back to my days at university, memories stronger, by far, than the pull of 5-star service and freshly starched linens. And if you tell a soul I said so, I'll never speak to you again. No one knows of my little hideaway and that's just the way I like it.

Not that it matters for last Tuesday I was discovered and my quiet retreat brought to an end. You remember Dario, the Princapecias' housekeeper? She's such a dear and I'm convinced she meant no harm, but having made eye contact on Monday, come Tuesday I was ambushed by Dario and her charge. Crumbling under pressure I confessed to my stealth arrival and now failed clandestine visit. Ever the gracious, if insistent, hostess I was summoned to dinner that very night; "no" was not an option.

Marina Laurentius, it seems, has taken to feting friends at what she refers to as "simple little dinners (in the kitchen) just like family". These where her very words as she assured me of the simple nature of her soiree. Knowing our little princes as I do I had my doubts. Simple in Marina's mind is very different from "simple" in mine. And how right I was!

As you darlings know the drive to the house takes ones breathe away. You crawl hundreds of meters up the north east side of the island with rocky outcroppings on one side and shear cliffs on the other. The Villa San Michele slides past you and suddenly you're through the gates with house and gardens spread before like clouds before Apollo; for you're perched on the very cliffs of heaven. There are no words.

And as it turns out the rest of the 36 guests felt the same! Yes, you read this correctly. Cocktails on the loggia (more views to die for) and by my count we were 36 for dinner!

Compelled by curiosity I did my best to catch a glimpse at what I was certain would be a gorgeously set dining room (what else would one do with all that Napoleonic china?) but my every effort was stymied by this Count or that Actress. The place was a swirl of names all of whom were on the island for the same reason as I; a bit of peace and quiet. I felt much better about myself knowing this. Marina floated amongst her guests; a vision in vintage Valentino with its billowing swirls of hand painted organza. And to her credit the little darling announced dinner herself. Casual indeed; there was no sign of her butler who usually does the honors.

As we rounded the corner from the Living Room and passed through the double arched doors of her dining room I was stunned. The Dining Room was set as a buffet. There was Daria offering instructions and directing guests through the most marvelous hidden door in the paneled wall. First, I've dining in that room a hundred times I've never noticed this little door. It really is true that all you need is money, patience and an Italian craftsman and you can create all manner of marvels!

Like eager children we filled our plates (the fare was perfectly provincial and delicious) and with glee headed through the secret door; to where we did not know! We'll our little Princapecia was not joking! The passage took us to the kitchen (none of us had ever seen it before) where three tables where set. In the kitchen! In all my years on this little globe I've never seen anything so chic. Candles lit, tables spread with the most beautiful hand-woven linens (care-of the dashing Baron Petrocelli whose family has 'woven' for hundreds of years) and wee little wooden chairs all spread out in a terra cotta clad kitchen clearly intended to feed a legion of Caesars' best!

Needless to say the evening was a riot of good food and great wine, sparkling conversation and boisterous laughter and a disarmed crowd who found themselves in uncharted waters and loving every minute. I would go on raving save for one little detail which marred the evening for me and which I know you darlings will appreciate.

Turns out no matter how chic the event, no matter how dazzling the crowd, conversation or jewelry an uncomfortable chair is still uncomfortable. It's as if someone said "Okay children; gather round, I'm going to read you a story. It is a monumental saga of love and loss, a story of war and peace and of life and death strung out through the generations, each struggling to find their way in this tempestuous world and, while I read all 927 pages, aloud, slowly, I'd like for you to perch your boney little behinds on these wood slats with very little back support all teetering on spindly legs and, while you do that, remember you should be well-dressed, engaging and play well with those around you."

Sad that the memory of my aching derrière out weighs the rest of that lovely evening; but such is the way with our tender backsides. Kittens, spread the word to all your devoted students- put a cushion on your dining chairs (or upholster the whole damn thing); or know this that all the fashionable festivities packed into your next fete' will fall on dulled brains if you haven't made certain that weightier (theirs, not ours) matters are gently caressed, pampered and cushioned.

I've prattled on long enough. The sun is being swallowed by the azure sea and I must dress for dinner. Tonight I'm at Samantha and Kip's; my guess is we'll be on the terrace. My prayer is we'll be on comfortable chairs!

Kisses from the Capri.

James

And on working with Mummy:

Dearest Cate,

A quick note to say I have survived meeting your dear, dear Mother. It

appears I have been drafted into service. It's safe to say that the mold

was shattered shortly after the gods on high whipped her into existence. I

can only imagine she's grown more…charming with age. One can only hope to be as feisty and well appointed as she as the years roll on.

The apartment will be stunning once we finish "doing things up" a bit and

it's quite possible that I'll live to tell the tale. Once we moved beyond

her insistence on swans in the loo we seemed to get along just fine. She

clearly is used to having things her way…but on the subject of the powder

room's gilt swan flanked WC I had to draw the line. Thankfully she was

distracted by my suggestion the library walls be coated with 17 layers of

aubergine lacquer. Evidently 17 layers are, in her opinion, excessive. She

feels 14 layers to be the preferred number. Be assured the painter will

deliver 14 layers; as I have every confidence she will be counting!

She waved off any suggestion of paperwork preferring to give me the number of her solicitor who was kind enough to set things straight…so to speak.

Priority number one is keeping your dear mother happy. I live for such

assignments. And never fear; the apartment will be fabulous too.

I'll drop you regular notes on our adventures which are sure to be many.

Right now I'm off to preview palace size Ziegler rugs for the Living

Room - turquoise is the desired color and only the finest quality will do.

Ciao!

James Swan

jim@james-swan.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesswan

http://twitter.com/JamesSwan

 

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