This is the Savoy in London. Yes, I’ve been here. Inside even. Pretty posh, eh?
The year was 1975 and I was 16 at the time. A week before I had arrived in the city after 2 glorious weeks in Scandinavia and met Mum who I had not seen in over 2 months. In two days we were flying to Lourdes for a week. And a week after that back home to Malaysia.
We were staying with friends in Slough at the time. On that particular morning, Mum cautioned me not to over do it on breakfast or lunch because she was taking me for high tea at the Savoy. My smart-assed 16 year old mind said, “That’s a fine old person thing to do in swinging London.” Though it never came out of my mouth.
Soon after a light lunch I was instructed to put on “proper clothes” (i.e. no jeans). Then we took a bus into the city. We got off at a stop and Mum hailed a proper London taxi. As we rode in it, me sitting across from her, I noticed a slight smirk on her face. My 16 year old brain computed that to mean, “He is going to love this more than he thinks.”
It was the shortest taxi ride I ever took… all of 3 blocks… eventually pulling into the grand entrance of the hotel. It was then I realized what that smirk was about… if we were going to the Savoy, Mum was going to make darn sure we arrived in style.
Let me tell you she walked in like she owned the place… with me in tow. I have to admit the opulence and grand splendor of the interior was quite overwhelming. She had also made a reservation so we were promptly shown to our table. Obviously, this wasn’t her first time.
The moment we sat, the carts loaded with tea trays came around and Mum looked at me, “Pick one.” So I did. I polished off the sandwiches and she the scones. Mum had a life long love affair with scones spread with good English jam or marmalade, of course.
So, there we were sitting in the Savoy having high tea as a trio of musicians (violin, cello and piano) played pleasant yet unobtrusive music as we ate and chatted. I say… pip, pip and all that, eh? Me looking around thinking to myself, “So, this is how the other half lives.” Mum delighting in watching me take in the entire experience.
It really was quite the grand time. We’ve shared a few over the years… not often enough to make each experience feel less than grand.
And she was right, I loved the experience more than I thought I would… or even let on at the time. Yes, it was fun to be feted in grand style but what has since struck me was the grandness of that afternoon was Mum and I chatting and laughing.
I really hadn’t thought about that afternoon in years… until I came across it in my old travel journal a couple of years ago. I realized now that she wanted me to have this experience for the simple reason that I would always have a touchstone and know what “better” can be.
Today, is 4 years since she passed. I thought the best way to commemorate it was to remember one of those “better” experiences we shared together… and this is also my count this week.