News Archives: view stories from Year One of the Club (October 2006 to September 2007), Year Two (October 2007 to September 2008), Year Three (October 2008 to September 2009), Year Four (October 2009 to September 2010), Year Five (October 2010 to September 2011), Year Six (October 2011 to September 2012), Year Seven (October 2012 to September 2013), Year Eight (October 2013 to September 2014), Year Nine (October 2014 to September 2015), Year Ten (October 2015 to September 2016), and Year 11 (October 2016 to September 2017), Year 12 (October 2017 to September 2018)
and Year 13 (October 2018 to September 2019)

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News Archive: Year 11

Club learns about death

6th September 2017 Our speaker was Chloe Clark, who gave us a talk entitled "Lifting the Veil on Roman Death". Despite being a bit of a goth, Chloe did not choose her subject out of morbid whimsy—she is a proper archaeologist who is doing a PhD on the symbolism of different colours of bead found in Roman graves. Her talk was more general, however, looking at graves in Rome and in Roman Britain and taking in such things as how the burials of rich and poor differed, and the various trades who made their living from death (including professional mourners, actors and musicians who would be part of the opulent funeral procession, and even gladiators who would partake in funeral games). These classes were viewed with suspicion or distaste (despite their necessity) and much of their activity took place in dedicated regions of the city, often by night. Wax death masks were made and brought out for processions, so that the ancestors continued to play a role in the household. Chloe also showed us some odd burials, such as people who were buried face down or with their shoes removed, seemingly to stop them from wandering or returning after death. One was even buried with a yoke over his shoulders—no one really knows why (Chloe observed that the tradition was to attribute anything you don't understand as "ritual").

Croquet replaces cricket in calendar

2nd September 2017 Many thanks to those souls who turned up to the first ever Watermere Memorial Croquet Match in Regent's Park. After ten years of organising the annual Tashes cricket match, William Maple Watermere stood down last year, not least because he now lives in the frozen north and cricket meant a long journey south with loads of kit. Moreover, each year we never quite fielded enough competitors for two recognisable teams. So rather than trying to soldier on with this event under new management, we decided to try a new thrill and have a croquet game instead—Craig Young having won a set of mallets, balls and hoops as a raffle prize at a previous Club party. And I have to say it was a huge success. Croquet has the advantage that even someone who had never played before has a reasonable chance of doing OK; and we were playing by the "golf" rules, whereby as soon as one player makes it through a hoop, all players then move on to the next one, which makes for speedier play. The first person through a hoop scores a point and the person with the most points wins the bout. Needless to say, those with some experience of the game were at an advantage (clue: Torquil revealed that he spent most of his sixth form playing croquet) but the dodgy terrain added an element of randomness that was a levelling influence. We had originally decided to play near Gloucester Green, but we had arranged to rendezvous near the park's "Smokehouse" burger joint and, seeing what looked like level ground opposite, plumped for this as the nearest option. In fact it wasn't that level, and next year we may well seek a smoother playing surface, but it worked well enough and we kept up the games for a good four hours before repairing to the Edinboro Castle public house for the real business of the day.

Mysteries of the stars revealed

2nd August 2017 Our speaker was Eugenie Rhodes, with a talk entitled "Stars and Hogs". This began with an introduction to the principles of astrology, before then looking in detail at a chart showing astrological readings for King Richard III, examining how the predictions of the stars fit with what we know about Richard. (I think Eugenie chose Richard because she has an interest in the Ricardian apologist movement who are keen to remove the smears to Richard's reputation introduced by the tudor dynasty who came after his reign.) Eugenie began by asking who in the room believed in astrology, to which just one person raised their hand, joined by a couple of agnostics, so straight off the bat she was playing to a hostile crowd. Well done to her for toughing it out: I can't say that I entirely followed all the intricacies, but it was certainly interesting to find out just how complex and nuanced it all is.

Changes at the Chap Olypmics

15th July 2017 July Saw The Chap magazine’a annual festival of unsportingness, in which immaculate dandies gather to take part in an ever-changing roster of silly games. Competitiveness and athleticism are frowned upon and élan, panâche and creative cheating are positively encouraged.

Those who have been attending since the early days will remember when it was just a gathering of like-minded folk in a park, bringing picnics and grog and the appropriate attitude. These days it is a commercial operation run by Bourne & Hollingsworth, who rigorously police the bringing in of one’s own drinks (even soft drinks were banned this year). This, of course,
is a red rag to a bull, and the NSC has a proud tradition of smuggling drinks past the guards.

All in all, however, most people agreed that this was one of the better years. For a start the weather was almost ideal: warm, but not so hot that it made the wearing of tweed unbearable, with only the odd sprinkling of rain now and then. The atmosphere was relaxed and affable, without the heavy influx of “tourists” or corporate fun-dayers that occurs some years. By and large, Chappist types like tradition and are suspicious of change, and the raft of new games this time raised some eyebrows; but in fact they were generally considered to be successful (with the exception of Louche Libre, a sort of toe-wrestling game by men in masks). Although I suspect it may have been imported directly from the real world, Carry the Cox proved to be a fast, punchy, fun and visually stimulating way to end the day, especially
when compared with Not Playing Tennis, the intrinsically low-key and sometimes stultifying nal event of recent years.

As usual, NSC Members played a major part and won most of the medals—which this year were actually trilby hats from Laird, along with some silk scarves from Simon James Cathcart and a timepiece from the Camden Watch Company. Il Grande Colonnesi comes up with ever more complex on-stage narratives, involving props and sidekicks, and this year he took it up a notch when his Umbrella Jousting bout versus Chopper seemed about to end in his defeat, when suddenlly Il Piccolo Colonnesi, played by Sophie and Andy’s toddler Nate, appeared in his own trademark leopard print, complete with miniature umbrella, to win the day. The victorious Colonnesi dynasty even paraded with a NSC flag.

Club taken back to 1980s

7th July 2017 Louise Newton gave her debut talk on "Japan the Band and bands from Japan", taking us on the musical journey of her favourite synth-pop combo and her relationship with them. As she point out, Japan (the band) disbanded two years before Louise was even born: she was happily into Marilyn Manson when her mother commented that if Louise was into men in make-up she should check out Japan, a fave of her mum's back in the day. The rest is history (and Louise has actually met Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri). The band were not initially influenced by Japan (the country), having taken their name from a Bowie lyric and presenting a glam-rock sound, but after a stubborn failure to achieve much popularity in the UK, the management decided to try them out in Japan, where the pop market was more easily governed by a strong look. Consequently by the time Japan arrived in Japan, they were greeted by hordes of screaming teens, even though had yet to play a note there. But this gave rise to collaboration with and influence by Japanese artists such s the Yellow Magic Orchestra (although their stand-out album Tin Drum was more influenced by Chinese music).

Summer party is positively otherwordly

1st July 2017 Our summer party took its inspiration from the golden age of vintage sci-fi, the 1920s to the 1950s. The belief in the possibilities of science—for good or evil—reached a frenzied peak, and the invention of exotic alien worlds gave endless scope for adventure, inevitably coloured by the era’s ingrained xenophobia. (I’ve just discovered that when Buck Rogers awakes from accidental hybernation in the 25th century, America is now ruled by the Han, a high-tech Mongol horde.) Plus plenty of scope for erotic fantasy: I mean, if you’re going to invent a planet, why not have one with a cohort of blonde space Amazons who go into battle in high heels and skimpy legionary outfits? In fact if you look at covers from the pulp magazines of the era—Amazing Stories (launched in1926), Astounding Stories, Startling Stories, Planet Stories, Super Science Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, etc.—women seem to spend an awful lot of time inside glass tubes of pods being acted upon by male scientists. (I did flirt with the idea of making a big perspex science pod and having a game where the girls had to get inside it, but I honestly couldn’t think how the game would unfold after that.)

In the end our games were:

Pin the Space Capsule on the Georges Méliès Moon Face, in which contestants are blindfolded and are given an Edwardian space capsule with a pin in the nose cone, which they must stick into an image of the moon from the 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon, to create the famous image of the moon with the capsule in his eye. The winner was Ali, who seemed to be the only person to feel for the edges of the paper and try to calculate where the sweet-spot should be, rather than lunging forward and trusting to blind(fold) luck.

Design an Emblem for NSC Starfleet, which was running all evening in the background. Guests were provided with crayons, glitter pens and chunky markers and invited to create a badge that would be emblazoned on 10,000 epaulettes and forage caps. We declared four winners in the end, each of whom won an Amazing Stories anthology reprint (from 1927, 1928, 1940 or 1961).

Shoot the War Rocket Ajax Before it Reaches Earth—tradition dictates that there is always a shooting game, using the club’s nerf gun. The name is a reference to the 1980 reboot of Flash Gordon, and the game involved a silver rocket ship that ran along a washing line between an inflatable Mongo and an inflatable Earth. (The planets came from an educational inflatable planet set that was one of the prizes, but I’m not sure which planet from our solar system stood in for Mongo.) Despite the weeks of R&D that had gone into the mechanism (the trolley wheels were from a sliding shower door), the Mongoan technology proved not to be very robust—it wasn’t being shot at with foam projectiles that did for it, but repeatedly slamming into the wall at the Earth end—and eventually fell apart. So Scarheart resorted to simply carrying it along its trajectory. Three people managed to hit the target, but in a tie-breaking shoot-off no one managed to hit it again, so Ming, in his merciless wisdom, declared Susi O’Neill to be the winner. Her prize was the Ajax itself, which in fact was marketed as a money box (we had even miraculously managed not to lose the plug that goes in the bottom of it).

Evil Laugh Competition, in which players were invited on to the stage in front of the microphone, handed a card with a feed-line devised by Scarheart, which they had to read out, followed by their best evil laugh. The efforts were judged by audience applause, measured with a high-tech clap-o-meter (a decibel meter), and the winner was John Callaghan, who came back on stage to reprise his cackle, proving it was well deserved. His prize was a DVD box set of the entire 1930s Larry “Buster” Crabbe Flash Gordon movie serial. You can see all the feed-lines in the box on the page opposite.

Entertainment came in the form of a theremin recital from Hypnotique. You may not recognise a theremin or know how it works, but you will know its eerie electronic keening from the soundtracks of many a period sci-fi movie. Hypnotique performed to a video backdrop showing clips from some of the movies she was excerpting from, and she also gave out prizes to those who could correctly identify which famous tunes were genuinely recorded using a theremin (a famously difficult instrument to play) and which featured ersatz devices that merely sounded like theremins. She told us how, when demonstrating his invention to Lenin, fearing the premier’s humiliation if he himelf attempted to get a tune out of the instrument, Leon Theremin held the leader’s hands and guided them to make a pleasing sound. Hypnotique tried the same ruse with Miss Minna, guiding her hands to play the theme from Star Trek, which was appropriate as Minna was wearing a Star Trek outfit. (Although as Hypnotique pointed out, the Star Trek theme does not feature a theremin at all, but simply a woman singing.)

Guests were greeted when they arrived with a “Buffet”—but in a reference to one of the enduring early 20th-century notions about the future, all the dishes were in pill form. (The role of the nutri-pills was played by Tic Tacs: for the record they were mint, orange, lime, peach lemonade, grape, the two shades of pink that make up “strawberry fields”, the blue-green ones that tasted of TCP but are officially wintergreen.) Fear not, there was a real buffet later on, which went down very well. Our thanks go to the Water Poet kitchens for the excellent grub.

The walls of the party room were adorned with chrome portholes yielding views out into the inky vastness of space. You can see Ali’s designs for all of them in the Club Flickr album for this event. The eagle-eyed among you may recognise the portholes as the same ones that graced the walls of our 20,000 Cocktails Under the Sea party, when they brass-coloured and showed underwater scenes.

In an attempt to push the party to new pinnacles of chilling realism we also had some dry ice on hand, to create the classic eerie floor-level layer of mist. Unfortunately, although it did work, the mist dissipated pretty quickly and never made much of an impact. The lesson? Next time get ten times more dry ice.

The evening ended as it always does with our famous Grand Raffle. You can see all the winners with all their prizes in the Flickr album online, but highlights included Craigoh’s box of sand Moon Dust, Dr Blah’s plasma ball, Oliver’s genuine pocket theremin and the remote-controlled UFO drone with built-in camera, which was won by Curé Michael Silver—undoubtedly the person in the room least likely to know what it was, let alone have a use for it.

Chairman bestrides Europe

7th June 2017 Our speaker this month was Matthew "The Chairman" Howard delivering the fifth instalment in his "Lady Malvern Memorial Lecture" series, taking its inspiration from the P.G. Wodehouse character who had a habit of writing definitive travel guides to countries she herself had scarcely visited. This time, in the light of recent Brexit shenanigans, he took the whole of Europe as his subject—Europe being the place British people hop across the Channel to for a holiday. Much of his talk seemed to address exactly how we will adapt our own behaviour following the point when the Continent is finally cut off from Albion. I shan't attempt to explain Howard's thesis—you really had to be there.

Cheap chapbooks rise from the ashes

3rd May 2017 Our speaker this time was Francesca Albini, talking about "chapbooks" and the "chapmen" who sold them, primarily in the 17th and 18th century. Essentially these were very cheaply made books, without covers, usually made from a single sheet of paper folded and cut to make pages, sold for the entertainment of those without much money. The content might be folk stories or folk wisdom, tales from the Bible or scurrilous gossip (including libellous allegations that often seemed to get the publishers imprisoned). They were sometimes illustrated with simple woodcuts—which often had no connection to the content—sometimes crudely coloured by hand, perhaps using child labour. Francesca herself writes chapbooks and her publisher, Alban Low, was present, showing us how a single large sheet was folded, stapled and trimmed to make the A6-sized pamplets, which in his case are always just 16 pages—he feels that the limitations of the format create discipline and focus for the writer. His publishing company, Sampson Low, has actually been running since 1793, though in fact it didn't publish chapbooks back in the day. Many thanks to Francesca and Alban.

Club comes over a bit queer

5th April 2017 Our speaker was Auntie Maureen, with a talk examining the forbidden subcultures of early 20th-century London and the clandestine clubs that sprouted up to cater for them, safe places where gay men and women could be themselves—beginning with the fancy-dress Chelsea Arts Club ball which was seen to be hijacked by men seizing the opportunity to dress in drag and going on to include clubs like the Caravan and Billies, as well as the Shim Sham which specifically catered for queer black customers. Sadly the history of these places seemed to have revolved mostly around police surveillance, disgusted neighbours, raids and arrests. In this year, the 50th since homosexual acts were legalised by the Sexual Offences Act, Maureen has been engaged in a number of events marking this anniversary, and she showed us photos from a recent one at what is, as near as possible, the original site of the Caravan, which they lovingly decorated to match original photos of it. (They even smoked loads of fags in there and stamped out the butts, to get an authentic stage cigarette aroma…)

Pen shown to be mightier than the wordprocessor

Lost Art of Letter Writing1st March 2017 At a particularly packed meeting, our speaker this time was Priya Kali, on the subject of The Lost Art of Letter Writing. Pri took us on a canter through the origins and history of the written letter, the role played by letters in Shakespeare's plays, the importance of letters between soldiers and their loved ones during wartime and the efforts made to ensure a postal service that could cope, crazy concepts like "V-Mail" where your letter was photographed on to microfilm for transport by plane across the Atlantic before being printed out again on the other side, and finally to the era of email. Discussions were had within the room on the relative merits of email versus the written letter, and the indeed the relative merits of different types of pen. Finally Priya reminded us that last summer she launched Milady Sweet Pea's Postal Service, which aims to match people with pen pals to keep alive the traditional of exchanging written letters.

Exotic murder mystery solved by Club Member

Essex with Earl of Errol1st February 2017 Our speaker was the Earl of Essex, recounting the lurid story of Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. Always a playboy and a rogue, round about the time of WWII he got himself into a situation where it seemed best to start a new life in Kenya, among the drug- and booze-addled expat community known as "Happy Valley". Soon he was once again carrying on with another man's wife, in this case Sir “Jock” Delves Broughton. So when Erroll was found shot dead in his car by the side of the road, suspicion naturally fell on the cuckold—but a jury failed to find him guilty. In fact no one was ever convicted. Others have suggested he was slain by his lover because he wanted to end the affair, or by a jealous former mistress. Moreover, Erroll had also thrown his lot in with Oswald Moseley and declared a desire to bring Fascism to Africa—was his killing political? Was he assassinated by government spooks as a Nazi collaborator? Essex believes that the way Erroll was shot and the fact that his body was moved within the car rules out most of the conventional theories. To find out whodunnit, see the March issue of the NSC newsletter…

Club reprises Riviera cruise

Henly trip 201728th January 2017 So idyllic was the day trip to Henley on Thames organised by Stewart Lister Vickers last January that he was persuaded to do it again. The team rendezvoused in this well-heeled riverside enclave better known for its famous regatta in summer, yomping across fields to lunch at the Flower Pot Hotel, a pub filled with a record-breaking amount of taxidermy, before descending upon the town's vintage and antique shops—under the blessing of a dazzling rainbow. At four o'clock they headed for a Deco-themed tearoom, Upstairs and Downstairs, a place where Stewart himself used to work, before heaving themselves to a series of idyllic pubs.

Jack tells family stories from the Blitz

Two interlopes at January NSC meeting4th January 2017 At what was not a bad turn-out for the early days of January, we gathered for a low-key meeting. Eschewing audio-visual display technology in favour or simple words, our speaker, Jack Defer, told us about his great uncle who was a fire fighter during the Second World War. There was talk about Chiselhurst caves, which were used as an air raid shelter. There was considerable discussion about Anderson Shelters. We were clearly having such a jolly time that two interlopers from downstairs came to see that it was all about. They bummed a fag from Adrian and demanded to be photographed (see above), but I don't think they really threw themselves into it…

Christmas Moot finds new home

NSC Christmas moot

22nd December 2016 As is traditional we met up in a pub just before Christmas. Since time immemorial the pub in question has been the Dover Castle in Weymouth Mews, but last autumn it sadly closed down. The replacement chosen was the Rising Sun, another Sam Smith's pub, tucked down an alley near to Smithfield meat market. Opposite the pub is St Bartholomew the Great, the oldest church in London. Jack Defer also took the opportunity to announce his engagement to Jessica Von Hammersmark. Congratulations to them both!

Dr Black delivers death from above

Dr Black on Sydney Carline7th December 2016 Our speaker this time was Dr Jonathan Black, telling us all about Sydney Carline, who showed promise as an artist from an early age—then surprised everyone by joining up as a fighter pilot in the First World War. He proved to be a natural behind the joy stick, adept even in the powerful but notoriously unstable Sopwith Camel. He carried on painting and sketching, however, even producing artworks from mid-air, controlling his plane with his knees. By his own admission he enjoyed flying so much that he sometimes forgot the reason he was up there was to engage with the enemy, and although he scored a number of confirmed kills it was eventually considered that he lacked the requisite killer instinct and was made an official war artist instead. Dr Black's talk was, as you can imagine, illustrated with a number of Carline's works, shedding light on the experience and importance of the RFC/RAF's role in the Mediterranean during the Great War. Dr Black has curated an exhibition at the Estorick Collection which opens in January.

Viscount Rushen spills the beans on Freemasonry

Freemasonry2nd November 2016 Our speaker this time was Visount Rushen MHK, with a lecture that he described as “An introduction to Freemasonry, a useful talk for the uninitiated dispelling a few myths and explaining what it is and how it works (but no secrets).” Rushen attempted to explain what Freemasons actually do, what Freemasonry’s appeal might be (mostly a love of ritual and feasting, as far as I can tell) and what it is not. He also looked at where the order came from and why it might have developed a reputation for sinister secrecy. I wasn’t able to attend myself (not because I am excluded from certain levels of revelation, but simply because I was on holiday), so my thanks go to the Earl of Essex and Richard D’Astardly for taking photos for the newsletter. Viscount Rushen is by day the Speaker of the House of Keys, the parliament of the Isle of Man, and had taken a break in his busy schedule to fly in and deliver his talk—thus dispelling the myth that Freemasonry is a secret club for the powerful elite who pull the strings of history from the shadows.

Noel Coward fails to attend Club meeting

Harrison Goldman on Noel Coward5th October 2016 Our speaker this time was Member Harrison Goldman, with a talk entitled An Evening Without Noel Coward, examining the life and impact of this hardy perennial of the Chappist sphere of approval. In a technological coup we were treated to video footage of Mr Coward performing some of his ditties. It was almost as if he were there.

Club celebrates its 10th birthday

birthday cake1st October 2016 Yes, believe it or not we've been doing this for ten years. To celebrate, instead of our usual summer and Christmas parties, the Glorious Committee decided to throw our scant energies into one big birthday party instead. As such, the event wasn't really themed in the way our normal bashes are, but had a general "DECADEnt" theme (see what we did there?) and a nostalgic air, looking back at our previous 19 parties.

Mr BThe venue was the events room at Cecil's in London Bridge, a strange space done up like an indoor garden of earthly delights, full of trellising and astroturf, including its own treehouse and fake trees bearing fake fruit. For entertainment we had expert DJing from Auntie Maureen, joined by Member Jennifer Grundulis belting out some classics, plus the incomparable Mr B. the Gentleman Rhymer, creator of Chap Hop and a stalwart of a number of our earlier parties. All the performers were excellent.

We had three games this time: one was a return of the Indoor Tiger Shoot from our Mad Dogs and Englishmen party of 2008, where contestants must shoot a cuddly tiger with the ancestral foam dart gun; but to simulate the problems of firing from a moving howdah players had to sit balancing on a Swiss ball (feet off the ground!). This seemed to tax people more than I remember it doing eight years ago, but I guess we're all older now! The second game was Ten Green Bottles, in which ten little green bottles contained mystery liquids that emitted aromas associated with Chappism (gin, tea, pipe tobacco, linseed oil, petrol, plus more abstruse ones like the north face of the Eiger) which players had to identify. Finally, our Ten Commandments Bowling game involved a ten-pin bowling set, with each pin named after a commandment. Using a spinner, players were randomly issued with a commandment to break by knocking over that pin (and only that pin). If a player hit the right pin they scored ten points, but they lost a point for every incorrect pin they also knocked over. (The winner was Susi O'Neill, the only person to take out the target pin and nothing else.)

Tiger shootTo keep our blood sugar up we had arranged for a container-load of pizzas to arrive at 8.30, made at the excellent pizzeria next door, and these seemed to go down very well. Rounding off the evening was our traditional Grand Raffle, and it was particularly grand this time: in addition to a range of decadence-themed smaller items we also had some exquisite items donated by sponsors: Stewart Christie, the oldest tailor in Scotland, gave us a voucher for made-to-measure trews worth £350, Atelier Milliners gave us two splendid hats, Murdock London gave us a voucher for a luxury barbershop experience, Spencer's Trousers gave us a voucher for trousers in any of their wide range of fabrics, Laird Hatters gave us £75 in vouchers and the Black Tie Ballroom Club gave two tickets to one of their events and two dance classes. Moreover, thanks to SW4 Gin ("The Gin of Champions!") everyone got to take home a bespoke miniature bottle of the juniper nectar. Thanks to all of these fine institutions for their support, and thanks to all who came along on the night and helped make it such a stonking good time. Here's to the next ten years!

Charles Tsua wins the star prize

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