Spy Girl: Britain’s First Line of Defence
I open the letter. The Silk Room. One hundred years. Family. Tuesday. Typically nondescript. I better have another Belgian truffle. Brain food. Anyway, I’m booked in for a body wrap on Monday; clearly not something the clever-clogs who came up with moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips ever discovered.
He must be new. Used headed paper, for goodness sake. A pity. I’ll have to get my cerebral workout some other way. It doesn’t account for the hundred years part though. Maybe he’s an old codger. Or a slow worker.
So, The Goring. A fine choice. London’s only 5-star hotel still owned and run by the family that built it. A favourite among royalty, and the hotel of choice for the Vatican entourage when Pope Benedict was last in town.
I arrive in Belgravia by bicycle. Best way to keep unwanteds off your back. It throws the porter off-balance. Jolly, chipper and well-fed, bike valeting nearly finishes him off. We do cars usually. People usually bring cars.
Quite something. He manages to articulate at least four syllables. Great idea bringing the bike: much more fun. Got to hand it to Jeeves though, can’t be easy manoeuvring a bike in 19th century garb. Looks the part though.
The receptionist is efficient and well dressed in a camel coat and black dress. Glamorous ladies mingle in the reception area. Good thing I bought my LBD. She takes me to The Most Splendid Silk Room. It lives up to its name. Unlike my poor cousins daughter: enormous gamble giving someone a name like Bella.
I’m parched. There are a few bottles of Blenheim Palace water on the table by the window. Lucky, it’s the only blend I drink. I spot a cushioned bench below in the private garden. Reminds me of all too vividly of childhood. Those spade-and-bucket days. Anyway, enough of that. I was chosen to be here, to spy.
I open the window for some air. Good, full curtains, always a must. Killing time, I flick through the hotel blurb. The walls are covered in hand-painted silk from Buckingham Palace, it says. You’ve got to wonder why the Royals didn’t want it. But let’s not be fastidious, it’s very smart.
Theres a knock on the door. It’s him. American. Sadly he has a face you want to slap. A fixated smile is all to close to a grimace. And everybody knows there was only one Cheshire cat for a reason.
Luckily he’s not a centurion, that’d be the hotel. A hundred years ago old Goring persuaded the Duke Of Westminster to sell him a plot of land near Buckingham Palace. Down came a few cottages, some peasants were sent packing, and up went the last grand hotel of the Edwardian era.
We go down to the bar. Decorated by designer Tim Gosling in deep reds and rich fabrics. His inspiration, they say, came from the style in which Napoleons wife, the Empress Josephine, decorated the Chateau de Malmaison.
Ya know this was the worlds first hotel to have en-suite bathrooms and central heating in every bedroom?
He read the blurb too. Can I getcha anything?
Just a drink, a Martini, Lychee Martini.
Not gonna go for one of those centenary numbers? I hear The Jeremy Mojitos real good. He’s a surfer dude the young Goring, ya know, bit of an eccentric I hear, climbs out of windows an all.
I’ll have to get this one over with quickly. I’ve never had much resilience to Americans. We move through for food. Torture’s best taken with tea.
Churchill’s mom lived here after the Great War, and during the war the Allied War Effort was run from The Goring Kitchen!
He must have bought the guidebook. Interesting stuff, but he’s irritating. Luckily the Winter Tea is exceptionally good. I roll my eyes for effect. Nice gilded ceiling. Oh dear, I’m taking respite in interiors.
We go back upstairs. I tell him its the best place for signing the deal. He thinks were here to transact on blood diamonds. All I need is the briefcase.
The bedroom lights have four settings: bright, calm, cosy and oooh! He parrots the latter in an inane drawl.
Now, Miss Bond, you gotta face up to facts. He puts the briefcase on the floor.
You gotta face up to gravity, Sir.
He falls out of the window. Oh, the things I do for England. SPY GIRL