Friday, 4 May 2012

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome

When I got back to Contrary Towers on Sunday night I was more than a bit out of sorts. Mood swings can be terrible and my poor flatmate got to see it in all its hormonally charged glory. It was so bad I had to take myself off to bed very early and cry myself to sleep. Then repeat the joy in the night many times. Pfft.

On Monday morning I felt a little less explosive, but now tired and with sore eyes, not a great combination, or a good start to the week. But I did know I had to get myself back out of this dark hole pronto, the last thing I wanted was to cause an atmosphere at home. On the plus side at least our off days hadn't collided. And she was incredibly patient for me. Yet again I was deeply grateful for such a good friend and flatmate.

In the dungeon of a studio at my current client things weren't really improved by the monastic like working environment. It's very quiet and, being in a basement, no 3G signal, which I might mention a million times more as it means I only get intermittent text messages. But, at 10:24 I got one asking whether I would care for an evening out this week. Oh yes. I would care for one very much, I did need something to break the cycle and something to look forward to this week would be perfect.

As I knew my flatmate would be out on the Thursday with a gentleman friend, I thought that would be the ideal evening, plus, it would give me a couple of days to become human again. That would work!

Astonishingly, as it happened, it did.

The only tricky bit I was asked the inevitable “where would you like to go”? Err. Shrugs. Seriously, I was having trouble deciding anything and could just focus on the code I as writing. Which is probably a good thing as I can't focus on anything else. Tuesday morning brought a suggestion. Would I like to visit a cabaret restaurant?

Oh yes...

I love cabaret, the full on, 1930's style cabaret, with smoky atmospheres, rich textures and colours, Dietrichesque singers and a series of interesting acts. And also an excuse to actually glam up a little without feeling out of place. What's more. I had the dress. And the shoes. In fact I've rarely been so well prepared for being out in a particular type of place! This could not go wrong...

I'll not talk about Wednesday, which was, of course, slightly mad, as I wrote previously, but that had at least cemented the dress choice for the evening. Which is good, right? What I did know was that my diet was so going to be broken, the one I'd not even started yet, a small price to pay. And besides, we still had the ball to get through so needed to keep our energy up.

The day drifted ponderously on. It seemed an age before the chosen hour rolled around and I could scoot out of the client's office at just before 6pm, in fact enough just before 6pm that I managed to catch the Hammersmith and City line train! And when I say managed to catch, I mean only just as it was actually there. The trouble with Ladbroke Grove is that there are no boards to say which train is coming, nor do they announce it, so if you don't see the front of the train you are stuffed.

At least... You used to be.

Google maps now has a fab little feature where if you click on an underground station name you can find out what the next train is and when. So I was pretty sure, when I sat down and checked what the next train at the next station would be, that I was on the right one. Especially important as this train was refusing to reveal its dirty little secret of a destination.

All was well in the world.

And I was... On time. For a while anyway. I don't mind the almost constant being held at red lights because of a train crossing ahead or held here to regulate the service, it's a way of life and daily occurrence on the H&C. And I knew I would be arriving at Mile End at the allotted time and I could scamper towards the bus.

Right up to when we reached Kings Cross.

“We're being held because of a passenger alarm having been activated at Liverpool Street”

Oh, nice trick gods-against-me-going-out, I didn't see that one coming. It might have been the @MehFairy of course. But I knew she would be fine as I'd bribed her with a couple of bottles of Nectini. After a few minutes we were off. I'd already mentally re-routed in case it was a severe delay, but I was still in the comfort zone. All would be well...

...Until we got to Stepney Green.

“We've been told to wait at Stepney Green owing to a passenger incident at Mile End”

You've got to be kidding me. This was so unsporting of the gods to throw yet another spanner in the works. I started to get twitchy. Wait and hope we move on soon or go and gamble on the buses but potentially get stuck in traffic or walk, but take maybe half an hour. And then be really hot. And cross...

We moved. Sigh of relief. The gods obviously felt quite bed about this so when I got to Mile End they'd laid on a mythical 323. Which I felt was only fair as I was now eating in to my calm down time.

As it was, unlike the previous week, things went quite well and I was, in theory, ready in plenty of time, so I tried to make a phone call I had to do before leaving.

“Welcome to BT callminder”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.

“Welcome to BT callmin”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.
“Welcome to BT cal”

Grr. Puts undies on.

“Welcome to BT”

Grr. Waits a few minutes.

“Welcome to”

Grr. Puts dress on sorts out stockings, checks shoes finds coat.


Grr. Waits a few minutes. And then realised my huge gap was now I'll-be-lucky-to-be-at-Tower-Hill-by-9pm, which was quite bad as the table had been booked for nine. I was. Again. Going. To. Be. Late.

Oh marvelous. I grabbed my bag, Oyster, keys and brolly and ran out. As I emerged from the lift I checked the little bus time app on my phone and... Oh, there was a 323 due in 6 minutes at St Pauls Way. Oh yes. The gods really did feel quite bad about earlier.

And it wasn't raining.

I walked in to Mile End and... The District Line train rolled in. Oh yes. Getting better. It looked like I would arrive just before 9, we'd still be late at the restaurant, but only fashionably late. Not rude late. It never does to be rude.

As we rolled around I got a text message from my flatmate, she's seen the picture I'd taken when I was ready to see if she approved. She did. And also said that's what I should wear for the ball. And not the black dress that we'd eventually settled on the evening before. In true Contrary Towers fashion we had again managed to change our minds. She was right though, it did work. Really well.

Our destination was Proud Cabaret on Mark Lane in the City. Deep in the heart of the insurance district. Be still my beating heart. But oh, the restaurant was under Minster Court, as used for the House of de Vil in the 1996 film of 101 Dalmatians. How fab. As we walked in my first thoughts were oooh, decadent. Unfortunately, this turned in to ooh, idiots. Apparently they'd been trying to call my companion to see if we were still coming and, they claimed, had left a message. We were only 2 minutes late, and said this. It turned out somebody had cocked up the booking and they thought it was 8:30. Pfft.

With this sorted we were guided down in to the restaurant proper. The multitude of antique mirrors along with the almost velvet walls helped set the seen of decadence. I had felt a bit silly at first in a scarlet dress with heels, especially as it means I was taller than my companion, but suddenly it all seemed right. I had even decided to bring my pearls out of retirement...

The restaurant itself was very much in the style of a 1930's nightclub in Berlin. Dark, moody, low lights and lots of smoke... This being 2012 the smoke was courtesy of a smoke machine, but it was so worthwhile, the atmosphere it generated was dreamy. Oppulent. Decadent. Devastating. We must have been one of the last couples to arrive. Which meant we managed to make a bit of an entrance. Especially as I was about the only woman that wasn't in black. Oh yes Victoria, smart move, heels and a scarlet dress. Subtle...

...but more subtle than the waiting staff, who were also in black, and, at least the girls, were all legs and corsets. That's alright then. Being a set menu, ordering was quick. I've no idea whether they do a la carte, I suppose I should check. Pity I couldn't read the menu though, candle light and nearly 45 year old eyes is not a good combination, so I had to borrow my companions specs and found, to my astonishment, that our prescriptions must be similar.

I'll not talk too much about the food. It was okay, acceptable, but that was all, nothing too exciting and I guess showed the downside of set menus. But the reality was we were there for the entertainment. And this was something else...

As our food arrived the compère for the evening appeared, one Dolores Delight. Fabulous name, a pretty polished act, a bit of audience engagement and a gorgeous voice. Oh, and quite an impressive sight! As we were sitting right by the stage runway it meant we got the full impact of her amazing legs as she stalked by in full voice. Truly a sight to behold. I didn't at all feel like a heffalump beside her. It was nearly as bad as being at home!

As she built the audience participation, she did the classic panto thing of seeing which side of the audience could make the most noise. The team "leader" for our side of the room was picked from a table near the stage, she asked him what he did for a living...

"I'm a surveyor"

Cue laughs and her saying "enough of that then, to the other team", cue even more laughs! The man picked on for the other team was a bit of a card though...

"I'm a pimp"

Uproar. Dolores was momentarily flawed, before moving on to, "well yes, with five lovely ladies and... A ginger bloke". "What do you do ginger bloke"

"I'm in HR"

The room erupted. Classic, stuff. Though it did occur to me that a pimp might actually have a need for HR...


The other acts included burlesque performances by Sophia St. Villier and Betsy Rose with variety being provided by Jonathan Finch. I don't think there was a lady in the room who could take their eyes of his body...

Seriously amazing.

Actually, they all were. So everybody was happy. The entertainment was split in to two halves, with the acts doing a couple of sets each. All too quickly the evening drew to a close, sometime near 11pm and as the compère disappeared the stage became a dance floor that was, inevitably invaded by a hen party. There was a moment of entertainment when a woman, not from the party, decided to do her own micro burlesque, not going all the way, but certainly it was a good opening. Many would have missed it, but as we were sitting by the stage, we, fortunately, didn't.

 By the time we decided to leave, the place had considerably emptied. All in all I'd say the place was great and have added it to the list of places to go for a girls night out with my flatmate et al, but not for the food, which was, well, just okay. But I said that already.

It was lovely being back in the fresh air and whilst we'd had the smoky atmosphere I was grateful that I didn't stink of smoke! The night still felt reasonably young, and with it being nearly the end of the week I agreed that champagne back at my companions place sounded a fabulous idea, so we hailed a cab and slumped, gratefully, into the seats. I must admit I would have been more than happy to have walked back by the Tower of London and through St Katherine's Dock, but could see the sense in not pushing my luck with new shoes.

After all, why ruin the end of what had been a perfect evening?

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