Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Gordon's Wine Bar.

It's Saturday, and we’re planning to meet some French friends in town for an early evening drink. They're in London with a party of school children, from Arras, and they have some time off.

“I thought we could meet them in Gordon’s Wine Bar,” says Husband, as I’m making the lunch.

“I don’t like Gordon’s Wine Bar,” I say, cutting slices of avocado to put in bacon sandwiches (not mashing them, and that’s not a proper recipe, Nigella). “It's a basement, there's no view.”

“Yes, but French people like old pubs,” says Husband.

“You met them in an old pub for lunch yesterday,” I say.

“Where do you think we should meet them then?” says Husband.

“The Skylon bar,” I say, “on the South Bank.”

“Not the Skylon Bar again?” says Husband. “Why do you like that place so much?”

Why do I like that place so much?

“Because of the view," I say. "Because it's cool, with a lovely bar, because of the service, because it’s in the Festival Hall, because we can get there and back easily, because then I can get home quickly to cook dinner, because…”

“I don’t get it,” says Husband.

“That’s because you have a different set of priorities," I say, "with good beer at the top."

At the Skylon Bar I scout for a table in the window, but all I can find is something set back a bit, with low stools, so I sit there.

“What are you doing?” says Husband. “We need a table for four."

“I know," I say, pointing to a couple who are reaching for their coats and bags. "That table over there might become free in a moment."

It does, and it's perfect: the perfect table, in the perfect position, looking out at the river. There’s Hungerford bridge and the London Eye over to the left, a Waterloo sunset to the right, lights coming on all across the city as the day fades away. It's beautiful. 

Husband studies the wine list. “Have you seen these prices?” he says. 

“It’s beautiful here,” I say.

“I think it’s provincial,” he says, still looking at the wine list.

“Provincial?” I say. “It's on the South Bank.”

Our friend arrives. We’ve known him a long time, since Husband was an English assistant in the same school where he was a History teacher. I lived in France with Husband then too, briefly, for the whole of one freezing February. All the young teachers hung out together, and we hung out with them. There was a lot of drink driving (not by us, we couldn’t drive). Husband rented a tiny garret room at the top of a narrow town house. Really. There was no hot water. In lieu of a shower we heated pans of water and threw them over each other in the bath. But I’m digressing wildly, that's a whole other blog. Or possibly a French film I once saw.

Our mutual friend has another teacher in tow. She's ludicrously young, with a wide-eyed innocence that makes me feel like Mae West to her Judy Garland, especially when I suggest she orders a champagne cocktail (I tell her Husband will pay) and she replies that she’s never had one.

“I only had champagne by itself,” she says.

Of course you have, I think, you’re French, and young, and I press a raspberry and lychee Bellini on her, feeling like a crack dealer cornering a teenager on a housing estate.

Husband and our friend speak in English for my benefit, as the young teacher quietly drinks in the atmosphere, and the raspberry and lychee Bellini.

Years of living with a fluent French speaker - and dossing in a garret in northern France for a month - has hardly left a French scratch on me, although I can usually follow the conversation if I know the context, and I get very animated in the language after a couple of drinks. But who doesn’t?

The view from the Skylon is so beautiful I find it distracting. My mind floats free, far away out of the window and down river, as our friend starts talking about British politics. Where has Ed Milliband gone? he wants to know, and will Britain stay in the EU? I realise he’s addressing me.

Me? My head has drained. I have no opinions. And why does everyone keep asking me about the EU?

“I really don’t know,” I say. “In particular I have no idea what’s happened to Ed Milliband.”

He looks taken aback, I guess because I usually have a lot to say, even (especially) on topics I know nothing about. He turns to his young female companion for in-put but she’s still awestruck, gaping at the room, so he looks to Husband.

“He won’t know anything about Ed Milliband,” I say, answering for him (we've been married a long time), “and he thinks we should leave the EU. Nowadays he reads the Telegraph online.”

Our friend looks even more surprised. He wears a lot of home-knit jumpers, this friend, the wool dyed in socialism, and he hates Germany, all to do with what happened to both his grandfathers in the war. He'd like Britain to stay in the EU and Germany to leave it. 

He swivels back to me. “You don’t read the Telegraph online as well, do you?”

“Not habitually,” I say.

“Ma femme refuse de coucher avec un Conservateur!” says Husband, genially, because that’s a joke, an old one, of mine. And everyone laughs, including me, because I get that.

The young female teacher suddenly snaps into
life. “I love it here!” she says, to me. "What is it called again?"

"Skylon," I say.

"The sky's the limit!" says our friend, which, I think, is very impressive English, for a foreigner.

"It's beautiful," says the young teacher, "thank you for bringing me here.”

I try not to look smugly over at Husband, but I fail.

They all decide to go on to Gordon’s Wine Bar for one more drink before parting ways. I don’t much like Gordon’s Wine Bar so I head home to cook dinner. Plus ça change.

Love E x


 P.S. It was a curry. 

Gordon's Wine Bar.


  1. Two weeks after the last general election, I was in a Starbucks, the barista asked my name for the chai cup, 'Ed' I said, 'As in Miliband?'. 'Yes', I replied perhaps a bit tersely, 'but he's an 'Edward' and I'm and 'Edmund', as in Blackadder'. So he is remembered, far away in a Starbucks.

  2. Edmund is a lovely name, and in my top three BOYS names. E x