So many times in London you hurry by grand residences with large silent doors - Georgian windows cloaked by secrecy and heavy curtains, and in the velvet dark outside you wonder what life is like for people who live in such places. On Friday night we knew the secret handshake; the ‘open sesame’ to unlock the door. In London speak; this translates to knowing a friend of a friend of a friend.
We were ushered inside to an echoing stairwell where the ghost of 1920s piano music trembled in the air. High ceilings stretched for eternity; stone flag steps were lit with hesitant candles. The mask of elegance slipped and faltered in the flickering shadows – gone were the days of decadent luxury for this building. What was left was a Grimmauld Place – the shabby heart concealed inside a grand facade. We drank champagne, pondered mysteries, and danced a tango as candelabras burnt low. When the hour struck three we scurried out; well-wrapped mice streaming from a once-proud ship. In the few minutes it took to cross the road and duck into a taxi the house had already turned to stone. The party continued behind its doors undetected and invisible; in London the party always continues somewhere.
It was a bit of an odd night, but fun and unexpected. Cities steeped in history and intrigue are made for such nights, I think.
By contrast, Sunday was spent enclosed in a women-only retreat hidden behind the bustle of Covent Garden. You enter via a shop, shed your clothes, don a robe, and wander around determined to relax. One therapy room was across a bridge over a koi carp pond and up some stairs, and there was a slight Logan’s Run feel as we ascended. I checked my hand for a red flashing life-clock, but all was well.
We relaxed, swam, gossiped, and let our worries dissipate like the steam that rose from the spa pool. Time sped up, slowed down, extended, decreased. We were in a little time warp, and if Doctor Who had stepped from behind a pillar and said we were in fact part of the woman-only world of Zog then I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.
Sometimes you live in the city; sometimes it lives in you. But either way, and even better, moments like this create stories!