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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn