Seductive slumber stories

July 05, 2012 , On the road, London

Tyler Wetherall | All Rights Reserved
I’m in a candlelit kitchen sipping gin from a teacup trying to hold a conversation while wearing nothing but a silk night slip and suspenders. This could be one of those dreams in which I’ve suddenly found myself in a room full of people with no clothes on, except this is significantly more glamorous. Especially as everyone else is in their own decadent take on nightwear as well. I am in the basement of an East End Queen Anne townhouse with a group of attractive scantily-clad strangers. Anyone would think we were here to do something saucy, but it’s quite the opposite: we’re gathered here tonight to be told bedtime stories.

The idea was born of the marvellous imagination of Mr David Carter – photographer, gentleman, fabulous flaneur – who hosts the evening of cocktail-drinking and tales – called Bedtime Stories – at his home and hotel 40 Winks. The boutique abode has none of the usual gizmos or gadgets, or even customary things like a reception or TVs. Instead, it’s decorated as a playful and luxurious blend of Victorian genteel decadence with a Vivienne Westwood-style anglophilia. Fantastical, opulent, dripping in magic, it carries you away to a place of make-believe – the perfect setting for an evening of story-telling, and what better attire for being told stories than one’s pyjamas? There is something utterly beguiling in entwining something so innocent and something so titillating; the thrill of being semi-clad in public with the nostalgia of the childhood nightly ritual.

Presiding over the evening is Mr Carter himself, as strict with the rules as a slightly wayward parent. The ‘dressiquette’ of ‘jimjams and nighties’ is enforced, and upon arrival you must answer a riddle for entry. You’re promptly told to remove your shoes and given a pair of slippers – if you haven’t brought your own – before being escorted to the sumptuous boudoir to change. By jimjams he doesn’t mean that old chequered flannel pair your gran bought you – he means the sort of undergarments that might have been donned by Parisian courtesans in the 19th century and their dapper gentleman callers. Think silk, feathers, corsets and smoking jackets. You’ll be amply praised through the medium of flirtation if you dress the part, though if you haven’t quite understood the brief – like an unfortunate group of Spanish lawyers who arrived in matching bunny baby grows – be duly denigrated. Though Mr Carter kindly awarded the rabbit lawyers a group prize for the ‘Most Glamourous Nightie’ to make up for his teasing.

Tyler Wetherall | All Rights Reserved
After gathering guests in the kitchen for Hendrick’s cocktails, finger food and flirtation, we were escorted into the opium den living room for our first 45-minute story. The night’s theme is Death and Desire, which is perfectly fitting for Guyanan Tuup’s macabre parable. His rapt audience sat on the floor around his feet visibly shuddered at his sound effects; especially chilling was the slurp of the she-demon as she sucked the tongue from her lover’s mouth.

Tyler Wetherall | All Rights Reserved
After another kitchen sojourn to top up on gin, we moved upstairs to be beguiled by Katrice Horsley, the national storytelling laureate and deservedly so. My mouth remained agape from the moment she began her tale, her shadow dancing against the dim light behind her as she called the story gods to account. I was utterly mesmerised. I came away from her tale having learnt the important lesson that when presented with the opportunity to bed the devil a girl ought to take it. Equally, when tickets to another of Mr Carter’s Bedtime Stories events comes up again, they should be set upon with equal abandon.

Tickets are £25 and can be booked via info@40winks; 40 Winks, 109 Mile End Road, London; +44(0)20 7790 0259

For more recommendations, check out our London City Guide, available on our website and in all app stores.

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