‘Lunch at the Athenaeum!’ I told my mum. No idea what I was talking about. ‘The Athenaeum! It’s a gentleman’s club on Pall Mall. I’ve arrived, mother. Look at me now!’
I’ve been trying to break on to the gentleman’s club scene for a while. I’ve even joined one, a creaking Goliath down by the river. The dining room there is about the nicest in London, but I’ve only been once. The food is good: reasonably priced, old-fashioned splendour, whacking great Chateaubriand and whumping puddings that trump the décor for scale and invincibility. The ceilings are high and the conversation is low. The view is of the river and a room half full of people I’ve never seen before. I wonder why I don’t go there more often, really. I like the idea of it. Even as I write, it sounds perfect to me.
I suppose London used to be my playground and now it’s more of an office. I beetle up there, hustle and then beetle back to the parish to do my messing around in peace. When I’m not doing anything in town these days, in between wheeler-dealings, I really don’t want to do anything. I mean, I don’t want anything else to happen at all. I just want to sit there staring into space with my mouth slightly open, and the trouble with gentleman’s clubs is that everyone wants a chat. I mean that’s the point of them. They’re all cosy and matey. If you walk in on your own, it’s like you’re a single woman walking into a boozer in Chipping Norton. Pretty soon you’ve drawn a crowd. People are buying you drinks, telling you how wonderful it is here and about the funny thing that happened to them last week.