Beware the homophone.
Attended a meeting yesterday at the Guardian’s knockout new offices, ‘Kings Place’, in up-and-coming north King’s Cross: a flagship for regeneration, and a quite stunning piece of working architecture. The centre of the building is a soaring public atrium, with a cafe and tables, and this bringing the outside in seemed to me to have a significantly beneficial effect on the space, bringing life to the corporate office atmosphere.
After the meeting we were shown round the building, and one particular meeting room - which had an arrangement of low sofas in a continuous large square – reminded me of the sort of North African cafe where men sit around to smoke and talk.
So I remarked: “This room looks as if it should have some hookahs in the middle”. Which harmless aside was greeted with a stunned silence.
It took me a little while to realise what I’d done, but I think the shock and embarassement passed off OK in the end. In all honesty I couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate newspaper office for a howler like that if I’d tried (well perhaps Spare Rib in its heyday): if I’d been at the Telegraph someone would probably have agreed with me.