So March 8th was International Women’s Day and as fate would have it, I found myself the recipient of an invite to 10 Downing Street to help celebrate the event. Needless to say, I was both curious and delighted, and come the allotted hour, found myself in the security queue outside the famous iron gates.
As an interiors and architecture enthusiast, I couldn’t wait to see what Downing Street was all about. Obviously the guests were pretty interesting in themselves, from sports heroes to business people, politicians to music impresarios, but I must admit the chance to see inside such an iconic building was also a bit of a thrill for me.
But before I got inside, I had to walk the length of the street to get to number 10. What struck me was how it felt as if I had walked back in time – I could easily have been back in the 1680s, when the street of townhouses was first built by Sir George Downing. Other buildings have sprung up since, but there remains a core of buildings which feel just like a time capsule. Also fascinating on that short walk, was to understand a tiny bit of how it must feel to walk up to the door under a barrage of photography from the other side of the road.
Past Number 11 I walked, and there in front of me was the most famous door in the UK, Number 10. Rather quaintly, you need to knock to be let in. The door duly opened, and I walked over the threshold
My very first impression of the interior was that it felt much larger than I expected. Both in terms of the ceiling height and depth of the building – from the front door I could see all the way down a very long corridor (white rabbits came to mind), and I wasn’t expecting that. For some reason I had always imagined number 10 as rather homely and cosy, which is faintly ridiculous when you consider the number of people who need to operate in that building to assist the PM.
So down the long corridor I went, and then up the iconic staircase to the first floor reception rooms. They are huge, and decor wise, pretty much what you would expect – high ceilings, period detail, classical columns here and there, a touch of gold detailing, some serious drapes and some even more serious chandeliers. Portraits of previous prime ministers adorn every wall, with one notable and very memorable oil painting of Lady T
The PM has an apartment in one area of No 10, and of course no one has access to that. But what I did see was the somewhat hidden and absolutely charming garden that abutts her private quarters – a real gem just tucked away.
Back inside the main reception rooms, I also spied some fun pop art pictures of the Queen, and a neon writing sign above a door, the wording of which I couldn’t quite make out. I wasn’t expecting that either.
All too soon the evening was over and we all tipped back out into the night, taking the obligatory photos in front of No10 as we left, much to the weary but good humoured resignation of the policeman on duty, who has obviously seen it all many times before.
After I got back out onto Whitehall, it felt rather as if I had been in another existence for the previous two hours.
One thing I didn’t see however. The Number 10 cat.