after a dander round the galleries, thomas suddenly wonders aloud if it’s possible to take high tea at claridges without having previously booked a table. we’d never been before and i in jeans, t-shirt, and canary yellow rolling stones overcoat, wondered if you had to wear collar and tie. i’d had high tea at the savoy many moons ago with a record producer, and when i removed my jacket a waiter gently requested i put it back on again.. so y’know.
we took a deep breath and just headed in…lovely smiley cor blimey eastender men at the front door wearing top hats to welcome us …we sniffed our way towards the room serving high tea, and no worries..we we’re duly parked at a table with masses of flowers looming over us while a piano and double bass player quietly performed jazz standards close by.
i could waffle on about how funny it is to eat crustless fresh sandwiches with tiny knives and forks,and how the crockery cuts a seriously nice dash, but the thing that i found most interesting was the eighteen year old waiter who enthusiastically educated us regarding the huge tea selection on the menu….this kid was so into it, he even persuaded me to forget about the milk…there are thirty different types of tea on that menu, and he was happy to talk about the flipping lot.
so we’re sitting there getting stuck in, and when the young waiter returns to refill, i’m asking him where he sees himself in ten years…my curiosity was born out of his obvious passion… i was glad i asked.. it turns out he was taken as a treat to claridges when he was fourteen, and was so spellbound by the experience, a member of staff picked up on it, and gave him a flying tour of the hotel. by the time he was fifteen he was working there during school holidays, and then at sixteen he was there full time, so now at eighteen, he’s got three years experience working in one of the most glamorous gaffs in london town..by the time he’s in his middle years he’ll surely know every nook and cranny of that hotel.. future manager material. he was erudite and savvy. i’d never seen such roundedness in someone so young.
what really got me thinking was how the spirit of that young chap was so high and intact. a key thing in his story was how he was ever taken to claridges in the first place. i’m thinking his parents were at least able to afford those occasional treats..so his good fortune begins right there. his potential is unlocked and encouraged…just as it should be…..but then i’m thinking about all those other kids who may never know such access.. the human spirit is often a fragile thing…some blossom against the roughest odds,while others brimming with talent just get crushed by the lack of so many things…parents who are already crushed themselves..crap schools..no money.. then again,we’ve all met those silver spooned kids who go into their own strange free fall as well.
i used to have blind contempt for money..a really reductive view on it…maybe that view enabled me to be a freewheeling youngster who fearlessly garnered life experience, but i was one of the lucky ones who even on pennies somehow found a way to glean joy from my days… i guess i’ve got music to thank for that..it’s scary to think what a powerful emotional spiritual influence money has over us. at 56 years of age, if i had one shred of insight to pass on to young ones,it would be to earnestly search for the one thing you’d do regardless of cash and hang on to it for dear life, cause if you end up getting up in the morning only for money, the roof on your spirit could get very very leaky,yet if there’s no money at all, it’s just crushing…money’s an emotional/spiritual issue, and i never thought i’d say that.
having stuffed ourselves on the softest sandwiches ever, we couldn’t eat our pastries, so the young waiter boxed them beautifully along with complimentary chocolates. before we left the room he caught me eyeing big sweetie jars full of lemon sherbets and colourful candy canes by the door. he handed me two strong paper bags and told me to take as much as i liked. we then wondered back out into the art deco foyer ablaze with the smell of freshly cut flowers to soak up the rarefied atmosphere of privilege before finally heading home.