England Memory #5


I was going to mention my Royalty memories but it seems I’ve already written about them (have I been blogging that long that I’m repeating myself?): Prince Edward saved my life and meeting up with a true London icon -a palace guard.

So I’ll remember the actual place where I worked. As mentioned, I did room reception at the Royal Automobile Club so I could afford larger. It was a Gentleman’s Clubhouse located steps away from the Queen Mum’s residence on Pall Mall. The Clubhouse was your typical Old Boy’s Club – leather seats in the library, men only lounges, Turkish steam baths in the basement. It had 85 rooms for gentlemen to “crash” at if they were working late in the City or if they wanted to put up guests from out of town. On the weekend, the place was a morgue, because everyone was at their Country residences.

I loved working Sunday shifts. There was no one around and I could do two things that made my stay in England bearable.

One was skimming time off the phone system: when guests used the phones, we had 85 analog counters for time used on that particular room’s phone. Click! One minute call locally or long distance meant phone charges to that room. I would add an extra tick randomly, here and there, when I did billing so that my weekly 30 minute calls to Canada would be covered at the end of the month. I wasn’t alone in this venture, one of the girls who worked there was calling Sydney and doing the same amount of skimming. It was a dangerous prospect but the Frond Desk manager turned a blind eye, justifying it by thinking the clubhouse members could afford it (membership fees were in the thousands of Pounds).

The second was telexing. You remember those machines, right? In my time making alternative reservations for members at other international clubhouses I managed to find a couple people I could “chat” with across the globe in real time with the telex machine. It was like analog IM-ing. What made it dangerous was that you had to remember to remove the log sheet from the back or people would come in and see what you were saying to Alexandro in Spain. I would “ping” my friends and see if they were around to chat about stupid things.

The clubhouse wasn’t the best in London. I think in terms of members-to-cost, the RAC was about #4 on the top ten, but it was considered having the best pool/baths in all of central London. It was an eye opening experience to see these rich members go there to make business or political deals, execute sexual trysts away from the public eye and in some cases, escape entirely from reality back to a simpler time of WASPy male dominated, pre-political correctness.

Me. circa 1987, London UK