Yesterday I got to make the first use of my very fabulous V&A membership. So exciting because:
1) Boo and Noodles are wonderful, obviously, but a day without them? In London? Heaven!;
2) Eve was coming with me – she appreciates shopping like no one else I know;
3) We were going to see the Wedding Dresses exhibition and what could be more gorgeous than looking at beautiful dresses?;
4) I could be all swanky and get into the private Members Room.
London with kids can be great. But not especially on a chilly day when they can’t be placated with ice creams and fountain-splashing. The walking can get a bit much, Noodles is the anti-Eve when it comes to shops and buggies + Tube stairs just isn’t fun. Being without them was just easier and quicker. And did I mention easier?
The shopping was fabulous. I’d got a Kindle cover, posh shower gel and equally posh hand lotion…before we’d made it any further than St Pancras station!
The wedding dresses were just as fabulous as expected. Seriously gorgeous. Ok, some were odd (Silver-lapelled jacket for your wedding day, ma’am? Urr, no, I think I’ll go for the embroidered jacket, orange minidress with orange knee-high boots, thanks. God bless the 60s, hey?) but most were jaw-dropping my beautiful.
But the members’ room, where I envisaged swanning about with the museum elite? I’m sure it’s lovely. I’ve read some lovely things about it.
Yeah, there’s a reason why Emily Parrett had the café to herself that day: it’s IMPOSSIBLE to find!!!
I had a vague recollection from reading my intro pack that the room was on the 4th Floor. But we’d looked at various signs and not one of them mentioned it. It was obviously insider knowledge. I had my card, but would I be asked for a secret handshake?!?! I approached a curator.
She seemed to be the less friendly sister of The Chase’s Anne Hegerty.
Me: Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the Members’ Room please?
Anne Hegerty’s Sister (giving me a look that withered my soul): You haven’t got long. It shuts at 5.15.
I looked at my watch. It was only 4.30. We wanted a cup of coffee, not a three course meal with amuse bouche additions (cos that was last week). I gave her my best ‘really?’ look. (A looked that fell flat. I swear her accent got more crystal cut; her eyebrow more arched.)
Me: Okaaaay. But if you could tell us where it is?
(Damn not knowing the secret handshake.)
And then…you know when someone’s trying to tell you directions, but you start to panic that you won’t remember them, so stop listening to anything but your freaking out mind? Yes, that. I heard ‘large black arch’ and that was about it. (Although I swear I also heard her say ‘secret lift’.)
Still, we headed in the general direction of her first, errr, direction. There was no large black arch.
But still, we’d made it to the rather amazing entrance hall.
But not all lifts are equal – some didn’t seem to go to the 4th floor – but all are hidden. There was the information desk and even a Members’ information desk (they would surely know where to go) but we obviously had a problem following directions, so why humiliate ourselves again? We grabbed a map instead. We found a lift. It went to Level 4. Result!
And so we paced the length of the 4th floor. The Room was at one end. We just weren’t entirely clear which lift we’d come up in, so we didn’t really know where to head. Still, it couldn’t be that hard. Could it?
Eve had on boots that clacked heavily through the galleries. Past browsing intellectuals and tour guides. Through rooms 123, 122, 121, 120, 119, 118, 118a…and back: 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123. And then 125. Where was 124?! Was 124 the room? No, 124 was even more of a mystery. But there was no time to ponder that one. There was barely time for a coffee. We needed to press on. But to where?! We’d covered all options and there was definitely no Members Room to be found!
Me: This is harder to find than Harry Potter’s Room of Requirements.
Eve: Which would make us Filch, rather than Harry.
We decided that Anne Hegerty’s sister had judged us right in the first place. Either:
a) She knew that the Members’ Room was just a big fat lie. It doesn’t exist. It’s just there to send visitors on a 4th floor wild goose chase.
But they play it so well. They claim it does exist. It says so here:
They put it on the map here:
Oh. Hang on. We hadn’t been through rooms 127-131! We were in the wrong part of Level 4!
b) She knew we’d get it wrong and end up on the wrong side of the building and find we only had 15 minutes to get downstairs, find the right lift, head back up to the 4th floor again and traipse to the end of the wing. Bloody Hegerty’s know everything!
Did we really need caffeine and smugness that badly?
I decided to cut our losses and head back to the gift shop and purchase a necklace instead of spending the money on coffee and cake. But dammit, I really wanted to find that bloody room.
Oh well, I guess it just means I’ll have to go back again. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is on from March.
I don’t suppose anyone has a V&A Marauder’s Map do they?