HOW I CAME TO JOIN THE UNION – Shelley Wood (aka Shelley Power)

Tags: Posted: 23rd February 2021

It was 1992 and I was making plans to move home and office to France, in fact initially to the depths of the Dordogne.  I’m an independent  literary agent so I had spent the previous year informing authors and publishers of this move and how it would work – “working-at-a-distance” was not yet a common concept. I planned to come over to London at roughly 6-weekly intervals, but would stay with my mother in the suburbs.

Everything was falling into place, but I still needed somewhere to rest between appointments up in town and somewhere to meet authors.  Then a colleague told me that a new club, The Union, would soon be opening in Soho.  Perfect. I had never considered joining the Groucho, but when I met Pete, I was assured that this would be the club which was not the Groucho.  I recognised 50 Greek Street, formerly a restaurant called La Bastide, décor tending to green plush as I remember it now – it had been destroyed by fire and lay empty for a few years (Pete can correct me if I’m wrong).

It took a further year to open, so I joined The Union at the beginning of September 1993. Member number 22 and I am very proud of the metal badge on my key bunch which says so.  I would love to know how many other class of ’93 members are still around…

Downstairs ended in a wall at the end of the bar.  The décor was warm and cosy, as it is now – every time I came to the club there were different things on the walls, different furniture.  The upstairs dining room was designed to the teeth.  I think there might have been modern paintings on the walls. But I shall never forget the dining chairs, wrought iron I think, so heavy that it  was hard to push your chair back to get up – too big for the likes of me.  I wasn’t sorry to see them go.

My life changed. I found myself newly single and moved up to Paris and hopped over to London and The Union on Eurostar. But after 20 years in France I returned to Brighton – I needed to be close to my mother who was nearly 90 then.  In fact we celebrated her 90th birthday with a lunch party at the club. I remained here because before long I met Joe who was destined to become my husband; we now live in a village in the South Downs and don’t get up to London very often.  The last time we were in the club was 29 January 2020 – but that’s COVID.  We haven’t felt happy to venture into London even when things seemed easier in the summer.

We both miss the The Union, Joe loves it as much as I do.  Our favourite table is the corner one by the window in the bar downstairs, but we also love the upstairs terrace.  And all my authors, family and friends whom I have invited for a meal have enjoyed it too. Hopefully again soon!

Meanwhile – we shall have a little piece of the club at home as we are buying one of the Window Bar artworks.