Tag Archives: Philippe Marlière

I was expecting to bump into Doris Lessing

This election has its charming moments. Yesterday I was invited for lunch by a group of “left-wing” Londoners who meet once a month at the Gay Hussar in Soho. Some are still professionally active, but most are retired people. There was a strong contingent of solicitors and lawyers, a couple of trade-unionists and people working in management in the public services. A majority are members of the Labour party, one of them was presented to me as a “Communist Party member”; most had been at some point in the Communist Party. I was expecting to bump into Doris Lessing in the small overcrowded room where we all met. I love the Gay Hussar, the mythical place of the British Left. You first struggle with the two swing doors to enter the restaurant. On the left hand side, the wall is covered from top to bottom by rows of frames. In each frame there is a drawing representing a caricature of a well-known left-wing personality (politicians, trade-unionists, journalists). Waiters are always grumpy, but it is part of the Gay Hussar folklore. I went upstairs and entered this ridiculously small room in which the 20 members in attendance were waiting for me. The meeting time was 12.15, I got there at 12.17. My table-companions were all seated and there was no room behind the wall and the rows of chairs for me to walk to the centre of the U-shaped table. Everyone had to stand up to let me pass. When I finally reached the centre of the table, the club president told me: “When Ed Balls came here, he crawled under the table to reach his seat”.


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