And these features were run by The Daily Mail and BBC yesterday:
|Jay Leno, TV host and fellow petrol head - http://www.nbc.com/jay-lenos-garage - with Robert|
Below then is our original posting. It was with nervous anxiety that we sent it for approval to Liz and Chris for you could count on one hand the number of times we met Robert after all. It was a great relief when Liz wrote: "a lovely tribute to Robert... You have captured him completely and brought tears to my eyes – Thank you."
We continue the theme of remembrance from the last post with our small tribute to someone who made a huge, positive impact on our lives in a short space of time. Robert White is most likely unknown to you, although in his niche he was greatly respected as a connoisseur-collector and his name was over the door of a world renowned camera business that he founded in Poole, Dorset.
All is a question of scale in life, as well as tailoring. We may not hope to inspire impromptu shrines and murals when we go, but to have standing room only at the crematorium is testament to having done something right.
Robert first got in touch with us because we had "helped his friend in a jam" - by which he meant, providing Gregory Porter with a dinner jacket the day of his Royal Albert Hall performance for the BBC Proms. Gregory's manager was an old friend of Robert's from Poole. He said he was considering a "Mr Toad" suit for wearing when driving his open topped vintage Bentley. Then he said, more practically, having been diagnosed with NET cancer, we should just probably just make him a shroud. I said we didn't do those.
We began to get the measure of each other via lengthy telephone conversations. Unsurprisingly he was variously scared and angry at what was befalling him, having worked hard all his life, building a fortune and a world class collection of boys' toys - vintage and high performance cars and motorbikes - only to be stricken with cancer just as he was about to properly enjoy them. He was curious about the Bedlam MC, the motif on our t-shirts, and sent us beautiful prints of some of his favourite bikes.
Eventually he scheduled to visit us, with his companion Liz. Despite his considerable means and frail health, he chose to travel to London on the National Express coach - one of the more Howard Hughes-style acts at which we puzzled as he complained about the awful people coughing and sneezing their germs about him during the journey.
Robert was most attached to his cuddly toys, and, in particular, his little mascot, Roland the Wonder Dog (nickname, Flops). It was Flops that he asked us to print onto silk for the jacket lining and the waistcoat back. We then made miniature waistcoats for some of Robert's bears. We call every job a "collaboration" rather than a commission because people have to come to us with their ideas and wishes, and then we have the honour of trying to realise them.
|Robert's jacket and waistcoat lined with his mascot "Flops"|
|Then we made a matching iddy biddy waistcoat...|
|for Robert's Little Brown Ted|
We printed more "Flops" lining in a different colour way, to line a cosy robe for Robert, as he was spending time in hospital and not going out so much when at home. But Robert being Robert, he wanted the very best and so we had the opportunity to use the rarest, most costly, natural (i.e. not scattered with diamond dust) fabric on earth - Guanaco. This is combed from the belly of but two qualifying beasts up one particular mountain in Peru but only on a night of the full moon when there's an R in the month. I exaggerate only slightly for effect. For your education, here is a guanaco and her baby, cousins of the lama as you might deduce:
From a lovely Irish lady with an attic crammed with dusty boxes of a haberdasher's dreams (she married into an esteemed trimmings family in France) we sourced a 16 ct. gold fringe, made in Lyons in the 1900s, to trim the belt:
When we were ready to do a fitting for the suit we offered to go this time to Robert. To our astonishment, he invited us to stay at his house. When we called the day before to check he was still up to our visit, he confirmed he was looking forward to it, albeit a little puffed out from having been cleaning to make it ready for us. "Does he not, " I asked Liz, incredulous, "have a 'lady who does'?!"
"Oh no," she replied, "he doesn't like letting people in the house."
So it was not lost on us, the trust he extended, not least when he took us to see his magnificent collection of chrome and canvas, pumps and pedals.
There was a fiery red Ferrari next to an any-colour-as-long-as-its-black Model T-Ford in-between a steam powered 1913 White; a 1930s Bentley in British Racing Green parked a coté un French blue Bugatti side by side with a couple of burnished ACEs. And more. And more. And more.
We visited Robert just over a year ago, on Valentine's Day, but at the time were wracked with nerves at accidentally disclosing the location of his garage, and wanting to respect Robert's privacy, so limited ourselves to sharing one photo of Mr Wesley, like a child in Santa's Grotto, atop his own favourite bike - an Indian. Now all the Brough bikes are gone to Robert's friend, Jay Leno, in the rust resistant climate of California, the rest are ready for auction. The warehouses stand empty.
The bikes - in two further garages - represented the greatest collection of Brough Superiors (the "Lawrence of Arabia" bike) and a host of other "only remaining example in the world"s. Robert was already committed to selling them to fund a new cancer unit at Poole Hospital. He was realising, too, that a collection horded for a few eyes is a collection largely unappreciated, and was open to us bringing some more people to see them. The obvious candidate was Dr Eccles, another of our clients with a penchant for a vintage Bentley - he had recently acquired the late Ron Moody's, complete with 8-track cartridge player in the glove compartment! Robert chose the tweed for his driving suit largely because he saw Dr Eccles at the wheel wearing it in a photograph. When the Good Doctor offered to drive us there and back IN THE BENTLEY in exchange for seeing Robert's cars, he was a shoe-in. But who else could properly appreciate these mechanical wonders?
Someone else had taken Mark Knopfler to see Robert and his treasures. Robert congratulated him on his album "Tubular Bells", told him he had enjoyed that one. So when I tentatively suggested inviting Simon le Bon I was primed for non-plussedness. Robert's face lit up. "He had a most beautiful boat, [reels of the technical spec of said boat] called Drum!'
"Indeed, he did."
"And he has a MOST beautiful wife!"
"Indeed he does, Robert, a beautiful wife who knows almost as much about cars as you do!"
For Yasmin Le Bon is so knowledgeable about automobiles that she was the motoring correspondent on GQ for a while.
I cannot tell you that Robert broke into the chorus of "Rio", for he did not, but he was absolutely delighted to welcome this trio to share his passion.
|Dr. Eccles arrived in the morning sunshine to take us on our trip to the sea side in his magnificent open topped car.|
|Yasmin snaps Simon on a Brough Superior while Dr Eccles looks on|
|Caractacus Potts & Truly Scrumptious|
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang our fine four fendered friend.
|Dragon is the first of three 10 ¼ gauge locomotives (scale 8.22:1) of the 1880 batch of Broad Gauge GWR express locomotives built at Swindon and known as the Rover class (photograph by Adrian Knowles).|
|An enamel Motor Cycle Club badge of Robert's|