Friday after work (well, after interviews in my case) I sit in the quiet coolness of my CBD sanctuary, the City Wine Shop. A couple of blokes sit along the bar near me, one drinking a short black and one a glass of sauvignon blanc. I sip a glass of Pol Roger 1998 vintage champagne, savouring each mouthful. I scan the floor-to-ceiling shelves of wines from all over the world, and idly wonder if I will sign up for the Appreciating Italian Wine course in April. Or maybe I will just drink lots of Italian wine right here at this bar.
The music is smooth jazz, low and almost inaudible. The black-clad sommeliers are knowledgeable, professional and unobtrusive. I feel at home here, perfectly comfortable and secure sitting alone. I belong here.
The phone rings and I am summoned to my next port of call: Madame Brussels around the corner. Madame Brussels is a “rather fancy” (in its own words) rooftop bar, with fake grass and garden furniture inside, and old-fashioned wrought-iron furniture outside. The cocktail jugs are generous and welcome on a hot, late-summer afternoon. We seek shelter from the sun in the shadow of next door’s wall sign, and I look down on my favourite cafe, Pellegrini’s, across the road. Maybe I can pop in for some pasta later.
We score a few chairs after a while, and put the world to rights with the rest of the after-work crowd. I like this place. It is lively and kitsch. A red-haired kid, no more than ten or eleven, wanders around the rooftop space with a pus-button counter. I am not sure what he is counting: the cocktail jugs? The punters? He is not hitting the button very often but he is quite intent on his work.
Just as I get comfortable, and start scanning the cocktail list for our next jug, we are off again. We descend the numerous flights of stairs and hop straight onto a tram. At the other end of town we head to CQ, a barn of a place where I am promised we can have a boogie. Not sure if that is exactly what I want, but nonetheless.
We almost end up in the Turf Bar, a meat market where only the previous week I saw somebody physically ejected with a security guard at the end of each limb. I draw the line, and elect to meet the others in CQ, but they decide against it because the prices are too high. Next thing I know, we are standing in a huge complex with thumping music and flame torches outside (is there going to be a human sacrifice later?), downing shots of Jaegermeister and Baileys.
In fairness the music is not bad at first, and we find a space with a safe place for our handbags, and get dancing. At one hilarious point, a swarthy guy with shirt open to reveal an alarmingly hairy chest sidles up to us and tries to join us. More and more I feel like I have been sent back in time to the 1980s. Unlike last week in Cookie, where they picked the best dance tunes of that decade, on this occasion the DJ persists in picking the most annoying remixes of all time. The novelty value wears off as we wait in vain for the DJ to gauge the mood of the dancefloor.
Inevitably, we stay a good half-hour longer than we should have, and by the time I leave I am feeling middle-aged and cranky. Nostalgia is not what it used to be.