Bring back some glamour to our lives

It reminds me that, once upon a time, people were glamorous and sophisticated and civilised

Share
Related Topics

Two doors along from the video rental up the road, there's a shop that specialises in vintage clothing. It smells of mould and mothballs and the stock, mainly 1920s and 1930s cocktail dresses, is packed so tightly on the rails that you have to prise the coat-hangers apart with both hands to see exactly what is going on. I drop in when I am feeling depressed for the same reason that I read romantic novels by Georgette Heyer - to remind me that, once upon a time, people were glamorous and sophisticated and civilised.

Two doors along from the video rental up the road, there's a shop that specialises in vintage clothing. It smells of mould and mothballs and the stock, mainly 1920s and 1930s cocktail dresses, is packed so tightly on the rails that you have to prise the coat-hangers apart with both hands to see exactly what is going on. I drop in when I am feeling depressed for the same reason that I read romantic novels by Georgette Heyer - to remind me that, once upon a time, people were glamorous and sophisticated and civilised.

My current black dog depression was fired by a concert I went to in London the other night that was guaranteed, according to the poster, to transport me from the fairytale snow-covered Russian steppes to the glow of a gypsy campfire, from opera house to Parisian café, an evening of magic and passion. And so it did, just as long as I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the performers and ignored the surroundings, which had about as much magic and passion as a school assembly hall or a local am- dram society venue.

I know what I am talking about. I used to be second-string theatre critic for the Lancashire Evening Telegraph in Blackburn. I believe my review of the Oswaldtwistle Players' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (I said it broke more moulds than Peter Brook's version for the Royal Shakespeare Company) is still pinned on the wall behind the bar of The Bull in Church Street. Peggy the barmaid played Titania.

The artistes I went to see at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, behind Holborn, were a Russian tenor called Igor Outkine and his English wife Sarah who plays the violin. They were fantastic. They played Neapolitan love songs and Russian tangos which made you either want to weep or else leap up from your hard metal stacking chair, fling your sensible winter coat to the wind and dance.

They deserve better than the Conway Hall, for heaven's sake. They deserve the sort of venue that the original owners of those vintage 1920s and 30s cocktail dresses in my second-hand shop would have taken for granted. The Café Royal, maybe, or Hatchetts or the Waldorf Astoria, where Igor and Sarah would have strolled among the tables and been fêted by a fashionable multilingual international clientele.

I am making all this up, of course. I have no idea what the Café Royal was like in its heyday when Noël Coward and Aubrey Beardsley propped up the bar and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor dropped in after the theatre for a quick turn round the dance floor. I have seen pictures of it in the 30s. It looks a bit like Rick's Bar in Casablanca, the musicians wearing white dinner jackets, the diners in evening dress, impossibly beautiful bejewelled women with cigarette holders as long as curtain rods, and champagne bottles lined up on every table. Igor and Sarah would have slotted in there perfectly.

Alas there is nowhere in London or, indeed, in Britain any more where, unless it's a special function or some dreary corporate do, you can have dinner and dance. If you are lucky, you'll find a restaurant where a pianist is offering selections from South Pacific. But as for the Holly Golightly look-alike with cigarette holders, forget it unless you fancy smoking on the fire escape.

The one and only time I went to the Café Royal, maybe 15 years ago, we were the only diners. To give the staff who were looking bored and fed up something to do, we ordered steak diane which arrives on a trolley and has to be flamed at your table. Four waiters pushed the trolley, another four passed relevant utensils to the head waiter to do the flaming. Too many cooks, I am afraid; in his excitement, the head waiter set fire to the tablecloth as well as to the steaks, and we had to be evacuated.

I cannot remember the last time I danced anywhere that wasn't a private party. Awards ceremonies at big London hotels don't count. I mean proper dancing with a partner and a band, not elbowing your way on to an itsy bitsy patch of floor more jam-packed than a rush-hour commuter train, with a DJ who looks as if he has just got out of bed playing this year's Brit Awards nominations.

No one dresses glamorously any more, and that, I am afraid, includes me and Mrs Parker Bowles. That ghastly red dress certainly didn't come from my vintage emporium; more's the pity. At the Conway Hall, Sarah, the violinist, looked dazzling in a long white slinky evening gown and a red rose in her dark hair. Bring back glamour someone, quick.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?