|A regal throne, complete with colonial portrait.|
|Peculiar banquet hall, decked with ivory tusks and silver goblets. I stole a lump of sugar.|
Two weeks ago, on a bleak Thursday evening I packed up my tote bag and wandered over to Mayfair wearing a t-shirt I had bought on eBay with a pair of exposed breasts on.
This was a school reunion, an assembly of 'Old Boys' from my former school in Devon, an amusing misnomer given that we had been invited and that the majority of the attendees were wispy haired white men who attended in the 60s. Not my usual dig, I had spotted the event on facebook and along with an old school friend, we met in Soho before gracing the occasion around 8pm. Two smiley receptionists greeted us upon our arrival, thrusting name tags into our hands and gesturing towards the bar. There were no free drinks as the event had promised, and what the event had also failed to alert us of was the glut of UKIP advocating Old Boys; the chair of which bought us both drinks with some racist shrapnel and openly sneered when following questioning I informed him I was studying at an Arts and Humanities university. 'Most of our old boys go into Surveying! You'd be surprised! At some of these events there can be over 100!'. I couldn't think of anything more soul sucking.
My lovely companion, studying languages at an esteemed red-brick university was met with noticeably more marked 'ah!'s of approval at institution and degree, whilst I internally sniggered away my own anxiety and adjusted my cardigan, grabbing onto the cotton like my self-worth. True, I hadn't exactly aided the process through choice of t-shirt.
After darting between various other conversations with former teachers and students (we were not only the youngest but the only women out of approximately 40) we made a deliberate dash to the toilets where we took it upon ourselves to explore the 'banquet hall', performance quarter and bizarre imperial bathrooms (see above images). Absurd silver trinkets and goblets alongside chandeliers and imposing ivory tusks, this exhibition of wealth and empire was light-years away from my charmingly gritty quarter of South East London I had grown so fond of.
I left the occasion with a sour feeling of inadequacy, an ignored friend request, a cheek full of kettle crisps, and the sense of having been condescended on all components of my being through various conservative attitudes. A breeding ground for nepotism, sexism, and a perpetuation of outdated, quaint ideals.
There's no such thing as a free drink.