I was, very nearly, the Long Room’s
There I was, on Tuesday, walking through the entrance to the
place, and there was a notice pinned to the door, which I
didn’t read properly. Inside, a couple were sitting
down by the window, and a waiter was bringing them lunch.
The manager approached me and said that he was sorry, but
he couldn’t serve me. The place had just closed down,
and that was that.
‘Just a drink,’ I said.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said.
It took a while for the whole thing to register. This wasn’t
a matter of closing for a summer break, or closing for refurbishment.
The place was actually closing – had, presumably, officially
closed between the time the couple at the window table ordered
their food – eggs Benedict, I think – and the
moment I walked in the door.
‘I’m sorry,’ I said.
I tried to imagine the scenes in the kitchen. There must have
been a moment, when the eggs were cracked, when there was
still some hope, however remote. Then there must have been
a call, like the Governor’s call to a Death Row lawyer,
a final, incontrovertible ‘no.’ Then the final
meal is served. Then it’s curtains.
The problem with great places, of course, is usually that
they stop being great, or they stop altogether. What can I
say? Thank you, I suppose. WL