Every young fellow-me-lad’s dream is to don a pair of white gloves and enter the gilded world of the posh private member’s club.
Well, perhaps not every fellow-me-lad, but those self-raised on opulent period dramas and a penchant for poise and showiness.
I was invited to the Oxford and Cambridge Club in the ritzy Pall Mall by my new friend, Uncle Brian (as he likes to be called) for an art event in one of the club’s rooms.
The Oxford and Cambridge Club, established in 1838, was built during the ‘clubland’ heyday of the 19th century, when the country’s wealthiest gentlemen flocked to St James to be amongst equally wealthy men, to chat about things that wealthy men chatted about.
But most importantly, the chat was done away from their meddlesome wives!
Since 1996, those meddling females have been granted full membership, presumably to many wealthy men’s dismay, but membership is only granted to those who have attended that old Oxbridge. So élitism still remains supreme (thank God!)
The club has a dress code, excluding gentleman from wearing anything but a shirt and tie, which I of course, out of the utmost politeness, would adhere to. However, I didn’t see anything about not remaining the glittering bird of paradise I am in my daily life.
I wear a large red bow in the back of my hair, à la Louis XVI, with a single red Lady Di earring, all coordinating with my new, deliciously garish 1980’s Giorgo Armani tie. Courtesy of Oxfam, I have owned a gorgeous ’80s Yves Saint Laurent evening suit for two years, and the poor thing has been aching for its coming out ceremony, and such an absurdly opulent evening appears to be its cue. My gold snaffled Gucci loafers, the perfect shoe for pompous stomping, fit perfectly, my Primark socks quivering, anxious to have such a haughty companion for the evening.
I hop on the 393, attending sexy selfies as the bus bounces down the road, before hopping off, trotting over to Caledonian Road tube station. I spend most of the journey trying to get a picture that was just so, showcasing all my accessories and patrician glamour.
It is quite obvious this is the real deal, but before I have time to gawp, I am reigned in to the reception with a clipped exclamation of “Good evening sir, may I help you?”, uttered by one of the purse-lipped, über bitch gay men who dominate the receptions of London’s élite institutions.
He has no time for my charm, and asks me my first name. Gavino, I tell him. And your host’s first name.
The embarrassing realisation that by that point, I didn’t actually know Uncle Brian’s first name (all I had was the Facebook page for a Pomeranian, Princess Pom) was no source of amusement for the receptionist, who curtly ordered me to take a seat.
The minutes passed, watching the formally dressed guests come and go, the open doors bringing with them the frosty air outside.
Ten minutes, sat in an albeit very comfy leather chair.
I walk back to the reception, asking if the club has wifi.
He wordlessly slides a sheet of paper towards me.
Thanking him for his kindness, I tap on the password, sending a message to Princess Pom, explaining I was loitering in the reception, waiting to enter!
I sit back down.
“Loitering are we?!”
And I’m up and out of my seat, smiling graciously at the receptionist as I pass, strutting down the corridor with Uncle Bri.
I am introduced to Brian’s three friends: first, kisses from a blonde lady with an unidentifiable European accent, a friendly-looking American, who leans in for those Mayfair muahs, and finally, a man who seemed much more comfortable giving me a sturdy handshake, which I feel equally comfortable going along with.
I listen to their conversation about “only the best art”, casual mentions of Monets and Van Goghs being the must have of the season.
A man having his ring evaluated in the middle of the party
I drift away from the group, meeting and greeting, stifling laughter that many of the people there were very much the stereotype of the English posho that are so well-loved in American cinema.
A man with the the sort of mannerisms that you can’t help but make your eyes wide to, bursts through the doors, tote on his elbow, yelping “my dears my darlings”.
Anthony Blanche has arrived.
He approaches me, complimenting me on my unorthodox take on the evening suit, before letting out the most unique fit of giggles, which between you and me, weren’t actually provoked by anything that funny.
I nod and smile and offer insipid responses, before telling him how nice it was to meet him, and continue to circulate the room.
I meet two sublime ladies, Alexandra and Charlotte, both creatives souls, wearing the most divine jumpsuits.
Alexandra, dressed in a stunning vintage leopard print cloak with mink fur trim is wearing her own designs, as is her charming friend Charlotte, an actress-in-training at RADA. We escape down the corridor for an unauthorised auto-your of the building, discovering a room with a barking old Sloane sat underneath a glittering chandelier.
We spot a globe and snatch the perfect photographic opportunity.
The girls invite me along to their fashion presentation in Churchill War Rooms that weekend as we share a cigarette on the club’s portico.
Conor, a new friend, offers us all Sobranies, the pastel coloured Cocktail cigarettes a m new favourite of mine, too.
With an air of Sebastian Flyte, he invites us into a modern rendition of ‘You’re so Vain’, much enthusiasm being put into the chorus which is probably the only part anyone knows.
We return to the main room, where the art agent soon interrupts chatter with a tinkling of spoon to wine glass, to announce our time was up and we were being thrown out, but was very happy to see all of us (and loved each and every one of us, even those he hadn’t even spoken to!)
His polite speech was interrupted with a roaring Happy Birthday from the crowd, addressed toLorenzo, the art agent himself.
I never did quite work out whether it was actually his birthday.
We leave the room, Conor determinedly vaulting up the steps in the main reception.
We arrive on a stairwell, the walls covered with paintings of old white dead dudes, and we enter the lift to our unknown destination.
I listen to the chatter, the chaps discussing a ‘fun’ white tie ball they’d been invited to. I sit and watch, my bemusement at not just the scene, not just the night but the fact that two years ago, I looked out of my flat window in Birkenhead, the aching weight of poverty all around, dreaming of a future life in London. Wondering what it would be like to be in a club just like that.
A night just like that.