“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be the same as the man who went out.” (Aldous Huxley)
In the little village where I live there is a converted textile mill now doing time as a large gite. The entrance to this edifice is protected by two magnificent bronze doors, dating from the Roaring Twenties. This pair of portals show surprising restraint (usually the French opt for ornate ironwork) in design; simple geometric style relieved by wide scrolls and backed by huge plates of milky glass.
However these austere gatekeepers are not original to the mill; they are imports and if you think they once graced the entrance of some chic and seriously expensive hotel well… nothing could be further from the truth. They are, in fact, the doors that graced the entrance to a lively Marseilles bordello. Well perhaps the seriously expensive might apply.
Now that opens up a whole new stream of speculation. What tales could they tell? What hands rapped, tapped or scratched on those glass panels seeking entrance? Sailors on shore leave looking for good-time gals? Portly businessmen, pillars of the community, playing away from home? A nervous first-timer egged on by his mates? The lonely or Misunderstood by the Missus?
And once through these bronze behemoths, what would we find? A sleazy fleapit with raddled whores stinking of sweat and cheap wine? Or, perhaps these doors opened onto elegant salons where the girls rustle and hustle in a frou-frou of lace and satin watched over by the all-seeing eye of the Madam. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
How it is that the doors came to be separated from the bordello and abandoned in a scrap yard I have yet to discover. But here they are, a little out of place in this modest village, enjoying a second career whilst quietly greening with verdigris under the hot Occitan sun… just waiting for someone to write a story about them.