To the Hurlingham Club in Fulham last night for the Ski Club of Great Britain Summer Ball – my wife is a member. I remember when I was unemployed in the late 1980s I would take a long daily walk around Wandsworth that often included Wandsworth Park on the south side of the Thames. On the opposite bank I could see the sylvan grounds of Hurlingham; I later found out it was a private sports club which I would never have been able to afford to join; it seemed permanently off limits for the likes of me. Over 20 years later I finally got to walk around the extensive immaculate gardens, croquet lawns and tennis courts and stroll along the embankment on the north side of the river to look across to Wandsworth Park on a sultry summer evening - another ambition fulfilled.
We spent much of the evening sitting outside, the sandy ground and robust metal tables reminding us of many pleasant times drinking at night in French or Italian town squares. There were a lot of groups of single women on the look-out for a wealthy husband, although there didn’t seem to be many single men around. My wife was thrilled to see Graham Bell who presents ‘Ski Sunday’ on the television, but she didn’t get a chance to chat to him. Everyone had the smooth sheen of what Martin Amis called ‘the money glow’ and the only black people were behind the bar or carrying trays. Despite costing £80 a bottle the champagne was flowing freely - no sign of the effects of Cleggeron's Cuts here. The cheapest bottle of wine was £25 and a bottle of beer was £4.65; the promised ‘buffet’ turned out to be a small number of dishes served in bowls through the early evening with no dessert – I knew we should have had a pizza before we got there. I’m glad we went though – probably the only time I shall have the opportunity to see the place.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact