An Anecdote Based on Liquid and Grids, by Gwenan Davies

Responding to the exhibition Grids, Gwenan Davies has written the following piece.

An Anecdote Based on Liquid and Grids

Gwenan Davies

I was once rather drunk. It used to happen every Friday after work when I was a public servant in London’s Mayfair area. I would go drinking with a strange mix of colleagues in a strange mix of places. Generally the thing that would unite this mix would be the fact we were all nerds (wearing fleeces and sporting sensible haircuts) and the places we’d go to would be uncommonly glamorous- the kind I’d need to persuade the person with the clipboard that we have the potential to spend a lot of money in their venue while promising to hide in a corner so we wouldn’t clash with the decor…

One night I’d decided to go out drinking with these nerds, despite beginning to think that there must be more to life than to discuss cricket, the minutiae of government policy and the politics of politics.  I had decided a change of career was needed, and was waiting for the right opportunity to tell my line manager where they could stick their job, their policy and the opportunity to work my way up to duty manager and move to Coventry. Yeah stick it! I didn’t realize it at the time but this would be the last ‘big night’ I’d have with these nerds.

Anyway, I don’t even the remember the night or where we had been other than it was close to work and it was the usual “wehey it’s Friday” …blah blah blah… “another drink?” …blah blah blah… “you know where they can stick their line of learning” …blah blah… “shots??” Nothing spectacular happened, there were no new revelations or jokes, just a group of four people getting rid of excess energy and regaining a sense of self enough to enjoy their weekend.

We left the pub and walked into the cold October night, going in any direction our feet decided trying hopelessly to attract a cab or a bus or a helping hand. It was all a bit of a blur, I was restless to leave but a bit lost- Mayfair can be a confusing maze even when sober. Everything was closed by now, no more old man pubs, no more shops and no more toilets. I didn’t have a clue where I was, but I knew where I needed to go.

I was desperate for the toilet and the streets all seemed closed. As we turned each corner I lost my sense of direction more and more, but then we finally came to a main road! To my right there was a big tall door with a golden stream of light bursting through. An open door!! I split from the group, rushed through the door and began looking about for a toilet sign or symbol or ANYTHING…

I realized it was a hotel reception area and could feel the receptionist was watching me suspiciously. I needed to move quickly and with conviction, but I was drunk and lost and growing more and more desperate and confused. Someone grabbed me, pulled hard at my arm and led me down a side corridor. Luckily it was a colleague; he was posher than me, and whispered “my granddad used to stay here, I know my way around.” We were in the Dorchester hotel, Park Lane.

We went into the lift a lift and exited on a different floor. I was guided down a corridor and towards some stairs to find a toilet, but there wasn’t one, just a door and another row of room doors. We repeated the process on each floor following the same pattern, running down the same anonymous corridors padded with the same bouncy carpet.

At the final corridor the stairs became a spiral staircase down to the basement. This might be a lie. It is all a bit of a blur. I just remember the walls were gold, and the stairs made me dizzy. Even though I was in a famous building and not wandering the street, I had no idea where I was- same loss different schema. My friend was similarly lost after realizing that he’d never needed to pee in anywhere that wasn’t the hotel restaurant before. We ran down and down the staircase, and a feeling of danger and imminent capture growing- surely someone must be watching this all on a screen somewhere, someone would know where we were?!

At the bottom of the stairs was a toilet- finally!! I really don’t need to say more about that. The need to go simply added to the intent of our moves and the tense urgency I felt. Now that this was gone we became more aware of our unexpected surroundings.

Also at the bottom of the stairs was a piano. But not just any piano- it was a baby grand piano (you know, just in the corridor under the stairs, as you do) and possibly the most spectacular piano I’ve ever come across.

It was covered in hundreds of tiny square mirrors, like a shiny grid pattern or mirror-ball- the reflective panels outlining all the piano’s corners and curves. It glistened and sparkled and I felt a bit in awe of it. It seemed such a strange place to keep a piano, hidden from the general thoroughfare (or perhaps we had just encountered it from an unofficial hotel route and peeking out from under the staircase). We stared at the piano. It felt like we stood a long time; eventually giggling and slowly walking towards the piano, lifting the hood and softly pressing the keys, finding a mutual rhythm- playing something like ‘the chopsticks’. We were laughing at the sight of childish music being played by two nerds on a disco ball in a grandiose hotel.

But it felt like magic. And everything stood still and I saw our fragmented reflection laughing back for a bizarre minute, playing on this patterned glowing piano. I know it’s cheesy, and I know I was drunk, but it’s honestly what I remember happened. And it was one of the most fun things to happen in that section of my life.

The rest of our journey around the hotel was less spectacular (but still worth noting)- we just wanted to get out. We found some unopened beer and headed towards an exit sign. But the exit sign wasn’t for a direct exit- it was the side-entrance to the ballroom, and there was a black-tie event happening. We froze in the doorway, gawping at the guests in their bow ties and ball-gowns, hiding the stolen beer in our tattered fleeces.

What could we do now? We both walked in opposite directions- he wanted to find an exit, I wanted to talk to rich people and perhaps dance a little. But neither of us got to do this. At the other end of the room, when we had finally realized we should stick together a tall man dressed all in black and with wires wrapped around different parts of his body came over.

“Are you supposed to be here?”

“Er, yup”

“Do you have invitations?”


A pause…

“Get out.”

He took my colleague’s arm and led him away. I followed. Another door appeared and we were ‘guided’ out to the main road and cold evening. The exit we came out from was very close to the entrance we’d gone in through, like we’d just gone in a big circle. A taxi came by, I extended my arm, it stopped and I continued my journey, leaving my colleague to find his own way to the opposite end of town, and marveling at the variety and strange patterns of London and its buildings.


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