I popped into a delightful and tiny private club in Soho tonight with some friends. It's called the Colony Rooms. It's not one of your trendy Grouchos or Soho House kind of place, but merely a small upstairs room mainly filled with old men whose faces map out the gallons of alcohol that they have consumed over the years. Francis Bacon used to drink here, as did Jeffrey Barnard and many other famous people who killed themselves by abusing alcohol. But that doesn't stop the regular clientelle and survivors drinking away merrily or morosely. They get to choose which. There is something stoically heroic about these stalwart alcholics and there were several faces I recognised from my occasional jaunts around similar old bars hidden away in Soho. If you can find the late night ones you can end up deep in conversation with old women who fucked John Lennon in the sixties or strange incomprehensible men who almost certainly did something equally amazing, but unfortunately lack the clarity to carry the story off. Presumably these people are at these places every night and I can think of worse things to do than to amble through your late middle age in a crapulous haze. I felt worringly at home. Maybe Peter Cook had the right idea. Unfortunately I can't follow in his footsteps as I haven't had a blazing early success to piss up against the wall. So I have to keep on working until I have that. Then I can spend the rest of my life just drinking. Hopefully TWTTIN will be the 2004 equivalent of "Beyond the Fringe". Yes, I suspect it will. Almost certainly.
The walls of the Colony are filled with art created by the various patrons of the place over the years and a neon sign proclaims the word "Cunty" (apparently a favoured term of affection used by the club's lesbian founder). There was also a machine gun in a glass case. I am not sure what the significance of that was. It may have been a work of art by Damien Hurst who also drinks there.
A man sat by a little organ belting out Frank Sinatra songs. It seemed slightly incongruous given the size of the room, but actually embellished the crazy atmosphere and he wasn't at all bad. One of my drinking companions informed me that last time she'd been here a different man had been sitting at the same keyboard, rather badly and had then thrown up into his own lap and carried on playing. You have to respect this behaviour. I can only dream of being as effective a drinker as that.
As we left the larger than life figure of George Melly strode into the bar. He looked amazing, despite wearing an eye-patch for some reason. Apparently he first met his wife in this club, which is pretty impressive in itself as the clientelle was at least 80% male.
It's a special place and it was a privelege to spend a few minutes inside those walls. I doubt I will come to spend years of my life propping up that bar, but I can always dream.