Geoffrey Price is retiring. It's the end of an era for the Cavalry and Guards Club at 127 Piccadilly. Geoffrey's Bar has been a favourite watering hole for more than 30 years. He came to the Club in 1975 when the two famous Clubs merged. He had been with the Guards' since he was 14, though not behind the bar until he was 17. He started by doing the glasses and clearing things away, plus important and responsible jobs like taking members' bets round to the bookies and then collecting their winnings.
Ask a London taxi-driver for the Guards' Club these days, and you might get a blank look. Or he might say, "Oh, do you mean the Cavalry Club?" When the C & G merged, it soon became a takeover. After all, it is well known in military circles that the Cavalry do add tone to what would otherwise be just a vulgar brawl. Horses look good in paintings or in statues: just look around our public squares.
But "woodentops" on parade look terribly dull. However good the drill, it is only the movement that makes it live. Neither an oil nor a water-colour can do a parade justice, but a cavalry charge looks grand on a staircase. Even hog-sticking looks the business. The only painting of the Guards in the Club that is really moving is Lady Butler's famous Roll Call, after the battle, in Crimea. It hangs next to a painting of a routine duty of the cavalry, mucking out the stables. You can see why the cavalry hated losing their horses, like the Royal Scots Greys in Palestine in 1939-40.
Portraits of Field Marshals grace the two anterooms. The First World War gave the Club Wully Robertson (the only private soldier to find that baton in his knapsack), French, Haig, Allenby and Byng. The Second World War provided Alexander of Tunis. Post-war Generals and Field Marshals to grace the hall of fame include Hull, Carver, Stanier and Bagnall.