As I walked to The Carlton Club, my initial worry was that I wouldn’t get in. The dress code is extremely strict and any sort of casual wear is forbidden; whether member of the club or guest you’ll be turned away at the door.
When I walked in, my dress being acceptable, and made my way up the grand staircase to the drawing room, I felt that I was in a place frozen in time. The Carlton is extremely conservative and has a long history as a Tory hotspot, even once being bombed by the IRA. Now I don’t care much for politics either way, as far as I’m concerned they’re all just a bunch of lying bastards, but that doesn’t mean I’m charmed by the likes of Margaret Thatcher or David Cameron. And her portrait is there rather a lot. In some cases one might almost say “enshrined”.
But as I stepped into this place, it was like slipping on a long-forgotten but wonderful piece of clothing. The elegance of the rooms, the formality of the dining, the intelligence of the people. Yes, some were a little like cartoons which had just walked out of some Victorian magazine, but I realised how much I had missed this wood-panelled world. I thought about how much it was a part of me and my psyche. I love beauty and I love elegance. Frankly, it was like stepping into Downton Abbey, maybe that’s why I liked it so much. There was everything of the Old World in it, and however modern and Metropolitan I try to be, my soul is of the Old World.
Even so, hearing a date day “This is the room where I danced with Maggie Thatcher” is not something I ever expected.
The dinner was delicious and I looked into the eyes of my date, seeing his kind-hearted smile and hearing his entirely intelligent conversation. I felt at home in this world, in this place. I felt at home with him. His advice and conversation made me feel safe with him. Obviously in such a formal place we could not possibly touch, but I felt on another level that he wanted to keep me safe. It was the feeling of being in the presence of a true gentleman, not a feeling that happens very often. And yet…he is 24 years my senior. Is that too old? I worried that an age difference of 5 between myself and James was too much. Yet with Andrew, classical, wonderful, sophisticated Andrew, it hardly seems to matter when we are together. All that he wants of me and all that he can offer are what I’ve always wanted. And yet we are at two different positions in life, he looking towards retirement and me just trying to get myself adjusted and started. Can it still ever work?
When I got home, my housemates asked if it had been horrible, being surrounded by all of that. They somehow assumed it would be. I had to lie and pretend I agreed, but secretly in my heart I burned to be back there. For whatever reason, whether upbringing or just personal sensibility, that world is my world. I need to be back in it.
Perhaps it’s just one of the goals I need to work towards.