My life as it is now feels like a happy, shiny choo choo train that I can depend on to take me to all the right stops; the right people always get on at the right time, the wrong’uns get off at the right time too. And like all reliable public transport, you can just sit back, relaxed, and depend on the driver to get you where you need to go.
It has of course taken a lot of soul-searching, going to countless new places and meeting countless new people, shaping my perspective in one that is more cosmopolitan, more soulful, more me!
My journey indeed started from birth. My boundless curiosity for the media that surrounded me, an attribute taught by no one but myself, has brought me to a point where, looking around my carriage (to continue my train metaphor) fewer and fewer people from my past have followed.
The friends that have remained are so well aligned to the little microcosm (and hopefully wider world) I wish to create that speaking to them is like holding a mirror to my past self – they remember the little thorny sapling shooting out of the earth – with a second mirror directly behind me, creating an eternal corridor of future possibilities.
It’s a Thursday.
A job interview at 12PM in Islington is that day’s calling! I choose my short cut Royal Stewart jacket, black hair bow, pinup hair, Gucci loafers and a subtle Chanel earring. The interview is for a junior model booker, a job I’d previously dismissed as a myth found on Ugly Betty, far removed from my reality.
I had spoken to a friend just the evening before, quizzing her on how to prep for the interview. A little out of my comfort zone, I tried with all my might to absorb what I was being advised, but it felt like a wing-it job.
Some awkward questions through plumped lips later, the interview was over. I was flustered and under-prepared, but I left feeling a sense of achievement. Every day is a school day, after all!
I hop on a bus bound for Waterloo, having a vague idea of heading to the Museum of London and drifting into the West End. A lady is sat at the back of the bus, speaking Spanish into a phone in a South American accent, smiling at me as I adjust my silk scarf.
I thank her her in Spanish, and she asks me, “De dónde eres?”
I smile and slide round to her, explaining I’m from Liverpool but study Spanish at university. She beams and tells me she’s from Colombia, urging me to visit her country.
I realise I’d seen her before on a different bus, again speaking Spanish animatedly. I feel a certain nudge from Madame Destiny that South America, Colombia in particular, is calling. She gets off the bus and blows a kiss, saying she loves my hair.
I jump off the bus at St Paul’s Cathedral, last having come here on Christmas Day with William and his family. I remember the calming grandeur of the building, deciding to give it another look a month later. The ticket price of £15 is a slight deterrent, but I get a fabulous photo outside it anyway.
At the entrance, I have a brief chat about the joys and woes of natural hair with a mixed-race lady and her mother. She’s sporting fabulous freshly done twists under a vintage head scarf, exchanging knowing comments about how exquisite we both look.
It’s a gorgeous sunny day, so I take my little feet on a walk to Somerset House. I enter The City, my comparatively dramatic look drawing many a glance, which I adore as it’s basically an homage to 1980’s rich bitch culture (which I understand was probably less glamorous than the world depicted in Dynasty and Chanel avertissements.)
To my grand amusement, a highly charming but chilly-looking lady asks me if I’d like to join a relaunch event. Her initial line was actually “Do you like gin?”, shoving a leaflet into my hand which she promises will enter me into the prize draw for a bottle of the delicious intoxicant.
I originally think I’m in a new bar, but I squeal when I realise it’s a previously independent bank, offering private wealth management to those customers lucky enough to earn over £100k per annum. I picture myself recreating every divalicious scene from Dynasty or the divine Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.
A girl about my age approaches me and asks if I’m interested in taking a tour of the bank, which I am obviously all over. She tells me she adores my look, and I thank her, pointing out I’m obviously dressed for the occasion, capitalism oozing out of every fibre of my power-dressing couture.
I generously provide one of three primary colours. This photo must be an art teacher’s dream!
Some wonderful facts I learnt from the tour of Child & Co:
- Banking as we know it was started in the 17th century, partly in response to the burgeoning wealth of London’s merchant classes.
- Sir Francis Child established the bank as a goldsmith business in 1664 with Robert Blanchard, inheriting, renaming it and marrying his stepdaughter on his death.
- Regency London’s Queen Bitch Diva, Lady Sophia “Queen Sarah” Fane, who reportedly had a bitch barred from high-society haunt Almack’s for slighting her, inherited the bank at 21, her only duties presumably being attending meetings to ask “Am I still rich, though?”
- Up until the first computers arrived in the 1960s, people carried around a credit sheet, each bank crossing off how much was withdrawn.
- There is a bar in the bank.
A flash of pink hair appears in the midst of the sensible corporate grey, and it’s my new friend Martha, bouncing through the doors! I met her briefly after my standup gig in The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
A little before my stand-up gig at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. That’s a French courting scene from the 17ième siècle on my brooch. Some activities followingthe same themes (but probably less elegantly executed) may have taken place in that very room.
Turns out Martha actually has an account at the bank, and we coo over how old-worldy and opulent the interior is. Our appreciation of aesthetics is matched by our passion for nerdy trivia. I guess she must adore 18th century portraiture as much as I do, so I invite her along to the Royal Academy of Arts to see an exhibition on Jean-Étienne Liotard, the Mario Testino of the era, famed for his vibrant, realistic pastel portraits of Europe’s A-Listers.
Just a couple morsels of the many kilos of canapés and cupcakes devoured, courtesy of Child & Co
Martha, coming from a family of, in her words, “pretentious artists”, all manner of multi-syllabic words tumble out of her mouth about the technique of the portraits, which, combined with my geeky knowledge of the changes in fashion during the era, brings about an uninhibited duo of super nerds, exchanging hundreds of hours worth of Wikipedia surfing at lightning speed. Our silent adoration of the pearl-wearing baby-boomer ladies dripping in fur and a glamour achieved only through intellectual rigour melted the wax seal of our friendship (“Where is that divine coat from?” “France, darling!”)
Certainly the Katie Price and Peter André of the era, this is a Genevan banker and his wife, lashings of the expensive, status-symbol blue dye, the silk garments stunningly depicted by Liotard. Note the collar poppin’ and portraits of each other in her bracelet and his pinky ring. “A Whole New World” indeed.
Total Baldwin John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute, posed for Liotard at the tender age of 19. One of the most detailed portraits in the exhibition, his daddy was obviously rolling in the dough as he liked it so much, he paid twice what Liotard asked for. Again, the rich blue dyes, which featured in many of the portraits, show how much cash the sitter has to splash, along with fur trim, the oriental screen and book conveying how very worldly he is. Hilariously, I spoke to a gentleman in the Academician’s Room about how hot he is, and he said he’s acquainted with the current Marquess of Bute, a man who enjoys a giraffe with his laugh, haw haw
Finally, someone as unabashedly geeky as me!
We retired to the Acamedician’s Room for cocktails, (of which, as of this January I am a proud member) and discussed our own experiences with the British class system, climbing its apex and realising it’s all smoke and mirrors, smeared in the smelliest of horseshit.
I fancy myself a 21st century Dorian Gray, enjoying the fruits of high society but decidedly sans decaying portrait.
A parting selfie in light of the iconic Piccadilly Circus, before descending into the subterranean gloom of the tube!
The knowledge I accumulated, which was like eating scrumptious but nutrient-free cake, when I was in my mid-teens, hungrily feasting upon those endless tabs of trivia, feels wholly worth it. My advice for any bright young thing with a dream and a unique spark is to be proud of unconventional interests, for the world in which magic resides embraces and craves a wealth of experience.