I used to be a member of a fusty old London men’s club, the Army and Navy, until I hopped across Pall Mall to join the much more lively and prestigious Reform Club. The A&N had a separate lounge for ladies and the most exciting disturbance of the day would be the rustle of the pages of the Telegraph being turned by harrumphing retired Colonels over their breakfast kippers.
But one thing the club had going for it was the bedrooms, which were well appointed and very inexpensive for London – so I stayed there a few times.
One morning I got up, started the bath running and, with nothing on, sneaked the door open a crack to retrieve my copy of the Times. But there was nothing there. So I phoned the front desk to tell them, and the porter said he’d check it out and call me back. A few moments later, he called back and asked me if I could look to see if there was a Times outside the room next door, which indeed there was, and which the porter assured me was mine.
I thanked him, put the phone down and, still naked, opened the door a crack, checked there was no-one in the corridor, left the door ajar and made a furtive dash to collect my paper. As I did so there was an ominous click behind me and I realised I had locked myself out.
It was like one of those dreams where you find yourself in the nude when everyone else is clothed – only this wasn’t a dream, it was happening and my bath was still running…
Fortunately the angels responsible for ex Army officers who lock themselves out of their rooms and wander naked round the upper floors of the Army and Navy club were up early and on my case, for just as the full awfulness of the situation started to sink in I heard sounds of movement from the cleaners’ room just round the corner in the next corridor.
Standing just out of sight round the corner, and with my bare bum pressed against the wall and The Times covering the front bits, I called out: ‘Don’t look, but I’ve locked myself out of my room and I was wondering if you had a spare key?’
The response was immediate. As if some idiot wandering naked around the corridors of the Army and Navy Club asking to be let back into his room was a daily event (which it may well have been), a discarnate hand appeared round the corner, dangling the precious skeleton key.