Susan Hill wonders aloud through the medium of Madame Arcati what the royal and celebrity interior decorator Nicky Haslam is for.
I must counsel that it is not for mortals to wonder at the purpose of a fellow human being. After all, M&S's very own mature model and sometime musical entertainer Bryan Ferry saw fit to make Nicky a godfather to his fox hunting son Otis, last seen leading a posse through the Commons chamber in protest against animal rights legislation. Mr Ferry's keen sense of high society and its uses has never deserted him: what better entree into the most exalted salons of London could Otis hope for than via Nicky's incessant networking?
I do not know what he is for, precisely, but my psychic sense tells that his memoirs will present some sort of answer. What he writes will matter less than what he illustrates, and whom he knows - everyone who matters, natch - may serve as useful research for novelists of a certain satirical interest.
Literarily, I have always thought Nicky a combination of Mann's Gustave Aschenbach (Death In Venice) - except that Nicky would have ensured that the eyeliner was waterproof - and Proust's hedonistic and comic Baron de Charlus (A la recherche) whose several homosexual intimacies bridged the social spectrum from many a royal palace to the gutter. There is also a touch of Mme Verdurin about Nicky in her false teeth and monocle, hinted at in his epic cosmetic surgery, painted hair and dirty ripped Levi's.
Nicky is one of the templates of literary character creation because quite frankly you couldn't make his sort up. And I adore him.