Sorry, you can't come in here, more than my job's worth: Michael Durham puts Establishment doormen to the Princess Royal test

THE PRINCESS Royal is not alone: it has happened to all of us. The gatekeeper who refused her entry to Royal Ascot last week is but one of a resilient breed - the Establishment doorman.

'I'm sorry, love, you can't come in here,' Mr Eric Petheridge, a bowler-hatted Ascot steward, told the princess as she stepped towards Sovereign's Gate last Tuesday. It was surely the British doorkeeper's finest hour, especially for a breed of man whose eyesight is usually matched only by the sharpness of his creases, and whose condescension, loyalty and stubbornness are legendary.

Buoyed up, perhaps, by Mr Petheridge's performance, the gatekeepers of the upper class were at it with a vengeance last week. Elsewhere in John Major's classless society, they stood their ground and barred passage to persons not of the right sort - always with the kind of sinister grovelling charm that can only be learned while brushing lapels of the highest quality in the lavatories of the Drones' Club. The charm school for doormen must still exist in a basement somewhere under Brook Street.

At Ascot, attempts to follow in the footsteps of the princess (she got through after removing her dark glasses), met with the traditional response: a curiously restrained curl of the lip and a firmly extended arm from the decorated commissionaire at the entrance to the Royal Enclosure. 'Excuse me, sir, may I help you?' is the phrase that has long heralded a throwing-out from an event deemed to be in somebody else's social calendar.

Not even an urgent appointment with the Hon Jocelyn Deeds, an imaginary chum and a scion of the luncheonocracy, could get me past this Cerberus. 'I'm sorry, sir, you can't possibly come in looking like that. At the very least you need a tie and a hat. And a badge.' A badge? Couldn't I just buy a ticket? 'Oh dear no, sir. This is the Royal Enclosure.' (Look of pity at my ignorance.) 'It's a very complicated business getting in here, sir.'

So I set off in search of the Hon Jocelyn at some of the establishments I know he patronises. I never met him, but, on the other hand, I ran into some remarkable demonstrations of why I was never likely to.

Doormen are schooled in the art of calling you 'sir' and offering regrets while, at the same time, making you fully aware that you are as likely to be admitted as a vanload of Croats at a Serbian birthday party.

The doorman at White's was sitting inside a wooden booth like the porter at a minor public school and seemed mildly surprised when I asked if he could direct me to the bar. My imaginary friend the Hon Jocelyn did me no good here either. 'This is a private club. An exclusive club. He is not a member.' (A look of mild disdain.) 'You can't just come in here for a drink.'

'But I've been told this is one of the best bars in London.' A step towards the inner sanctum. The doorman rises with a look which suggests I am not merely scruffy, but mad. One false move and a phalanx of pin-striped toffs will emerge to block the way, so it seems safer to retire.

The class warriors are also hard at work at Harrods. The store, the sale, the dress code.

The uniformed Green Man on the pavement does not flinch when I arrive in above-the-knee cycling shorts and ask for the outdoor-sports department, but it is the security guard inside who gives me trouble. A fresh-faced and kindly youth, he says: 'It's on the fifth floor, but . . . er . . . I'm afraid I can't let you in. Not in shorts.

'No, not even if you've got a puncture. Oh dear. It's the chairman's personal ruling and it's more than my job's worth.' (Yes, he really said it).

Then he adopts a confidential matiness. 'I know. Just hang on here. I'll phone up and get them to bring you down a new inner tube.' And he does. Which makes me ponder if the barman at White's might have brought me out a gin sling.

The award for most imaginative doorman goes to the Ritz. Ordered to halt as I crossed the lobby in jeans, I was silkily informed that I would need a jacket, tie and proper trousers if I were to contemplate tea. In fact, to paraphrase, I might as well go home for an early bath.

'We can lend you a jacket and tie, sir. You may wait in the lobby for your friend.'

'Can you lend me a pair of trousers?'

A weary glance of patrician disbelief. 'Well, sir,' with scarcely hidden amusement, 'you might wish to buy some. There's a shop on the corner.'

So that is how one gains entry to the governing classes.

(Photographs omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week