Windows on other worlds

6 Feb

I used to fret about the amount of nightlife that passed me by – the folks who propped up Bar Italia and other more secret city drinking dens long after worker bees like me had crawled back home to bed. Who were they, and what fun were they having while we were all getting ready for another day in the office?

Occasionally of course, I’d allow myself a glimpse. Anyone can stay out late and see what happens. It doesn’t bode well for the following day, and like the best laid plans, the ones you prepare for are inevitably the least interesting of all.

But I once had a very spontaneous and surreal late night drink in a tiny soho basement speakeasy, admission to which required muttering a password through an intercom buzzer. I can still remember the password but I’m damned if I can remember where the hell that bar was.

I’m guessing it wasn’t exactly licensed but it served good wine and had a card table staffed by a croupier who spoke like Barbara Windsor. It’s not the kind of place that I imagine opens before about 3am. I wonder if it even exists at all in the daytime, cloaked by sandwich shops and general corporate bustle. Maybe that’s why I never found it again.

Anyway now I’ve discovered a whole new tranche of life that’s also excluded from me – the daytime brigade, the homeworkers, shiftworkers, freelances, parents and pensioners for whom the day is their evening, their time to own the streets and the coffee shops and the bars before the 9-5ers take over, and the kids come home from school.

Last week I was invited to my first ever ladies coffee morning. Over homemade cake and proper tea in a teapot we shared local scandals – the guy who built a cottage full of mirrors and then mysteriously disappeared, the woman who harasses dog walkers and the mountain biker who got chased across the cliff tops at sunset by a herd of angry cows.

It felt good to be part of a hidden community again – okay, a community that’s generally hidden from me rather than hidden in general. I’m not sure when or indeed if I’ll be able to dip a toe in again, but it’s strangely reassuring to know that, just like the soho speakeasy, it’s there, in someone else’s coffee shop or kitchen next time perhaps, while my ears are blocked by headphones in a studio miles away.

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2 Responses to “Windows on other worlds”

  1. Becky Wicks February 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Aawwww I like this! Did I ever take you to the secret bar in Soho, behind Oxford St…. dammit what was it called. I cant remember the street OR the bar. It was tiny, you’d think it was the entrance to someone’s flat, and then you go down the stairs to the bar. They served all the booze in mugs and plastic cups!

    • zskdorset February 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      No I don’t think you did – what a fab little place though! That’s exactly the kind of thing 🙂

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