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 13

Club collectively scratches head over "fintech"

4th September 2019 Our speaker was Stewart Lister Vickers, on the subject of Fintech (financial technology), something about which he has recently become quite the evangelist. I won't pretend to have understood it all, but it seems to be a mechanism whereby ordinary people can play the stock market easily and, according to Stewart, become as rich as Gatsby. We also dwelt on Bitcoin for some time, with a long debate on the floor in which those who understood tried to explain what Bitcoin "mining" actually is to those who did not. Sadly it sounds as if, while in the early days someone in the room had a friend who mined three Bitcoins with an ordinary laptop, now, as it gets harder to come up with new numbers, only nation states or big criminal organisations have the resources to build the warehouse-sized computer facilities capable of the computations. The volatility of crypto-currencies was illustrated with the story of the pizzas that were ordered using Bitcoin in the early days, for a sum that would now be worth millions of pounds. Many thanks to Stewart—by next month he may either be a billionaire or kidnapped by a criminal cartel to work as a slave in their Bitcoin mines. Exciting times.

Chap wedding snatches victory from jaws of inclemency

31st August 2019 A splendid time was had by all present when Club stalwart Craigoh (Craig Young to the authorities) got hitched to fiancée Josie. It certainly wasn't the first Club wedding, nor was it the first of this summer (ex-Committee Member Horatio Scotney-Le Cheyne got married in June, also in a marquee in a field), but it brimming with attention to detail. There was a general 1950s Anglo-Kiwi nostalgia theme (manifested with some strange costumes—I never did work out why Craigoh's son Zack was dressed as a banana), with banners and flags, vintage bus rides and a prize vegetable competition. After the ceremony there were games inspired by the Chap Olympics (see below). In fact there wasn't even time for everything—a table of tombola prizes was laid out but never got deployed. The couple themselves were relaxed, having had the official ceremon in a Register Office in the morning, and appeared first in Victory rolls, tea dress and kilt (you can work out who was wearing what) for a cream tea, then reappeared dressed as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for a repeat of the ceremony for our benefit. At one point it looked as if rain would stop the planning to have the ceremony outdoors with guests seated on hay bales, but the skies cleared just in time. Hearty congrats to the couple. You can see a bulging album of photos here.

Chap Olympics goes west

11th August 2019 The Chap magazine's Chap Olympiad is an annual festival of silly games celebrating languid elegance, eccentric dandyism and louche, work-shy bonhomie. It started as an ad hoc get-together in a London park, with picnics and occasional sponsorship from Hendrick's gin. Then one year it took a lurch into a more commercial sphere as Bourne & Hollingsworth took over running it: the venue was Bedford Square Gardens, it became a ticketed event and guests could not bring their own drink in, but had to buy grog from the various B&H bars inside. A tannoy system was acquired for announcements and commentary, live entertainment punctuated the full day's activities and a massive stage was erected on which all the competitions took place. Hundreds of dapper chaps and chapettes gathered for this unique social occasion and a hard core of New Sheridan Club types made up the bulk of those participating, with inventive schemes to cheat creatively for the amusement of spectators. Indeed some performances (for such they must be considered) involved careful planning and the creation of elaborate props.

Of course many people grumbled that what had been a spontaneous happening was now a commercial enterprise (and I remember one occasion where a particular event was clearly open only to guests of a corporate sponsor), but at the same time it was welcomed as a large gathering of the Chappist clans and a chance to show off both one's finery and one's imaginative prowess in the arena. But in time the event was clearly not making B&H the money they wanted, and the great costs were hard to cover (I gather the stage alone cost £5K and insurance costs were sky-high given the risk of physical injury). The 2018 version was a shadow of its former self, and in 2019 B&H decided not to go ahead. Instead, a scaled-back version popped up at the Firle Vintage Fair (conveniently close to Chap HQ in Lewes).

This album shows photos are of both the Chap Olympics and the fair in general. (There was also a hoard of classic cars—see the separate album for those.) The fair runs from Friday to Sunday and the Olympics were scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but owing to dangerously high winds the Saturday event was cancelled at the last moment. The Olympics were rescheduled for the Sunday but, even though Saturday tickets were declared valid for Sunday, obviously many people who'd been planning to come on Saturday were not free the next day. The result was that Chappist attendance was pretty thin. It was nice that there were enough volunteers to take part in the games but many of these were jeans-sporting passers-by or boisterous children. It was undoubtedly low-key compared to previous years, but it was a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere with food and drink both more affordable and available in greater variety than at Bedford Square Gardens. Chap editor Gustav Temple seems keen to stick with this new venue for now, so it'll be interesting to see if more Chaps can be persuaded to attend next year and achieve some sort of tweedy critical mass.

Secrets of the Silk Road revealed

7th August 2019 Our speaker this time was Samuel Marde Mehdiabad, taking us on a whistle-stop tour of the art of the ancient Silk Road, the trade route that carried goods back and forth between the Far East, the Middle East, north Africa and Europe in classical times. And along with the trade goods, ideas and culture was disseminated too. For art historians this presents an interesting challenge, as statues, coins, etc, from one region can bear features one would associate with another. Sam started off by showing us a number of art objects and challenging us to guess where they were found—with hilarious consequences. We learned how Hellenistic naturalism in statues, and particularly the modelling of drapery, passed into the east; but by the end of this period distinctly eastern features, such as large, stylised eyes, were appearing on Roman statues. He read us an extract from an eastern historian describing how the Romans cultivated silk worms—in fact they did not. What they did was import Chinese silk textiles, unpick all the silk threads then reweave them with their own designs, which they then sold back to the Chinese. Crazy times.

Summer party invites torrent of nostalgic smut

27th July 2019 Our summer party this year took its theme from the 50th anniversary of the release of Carry On, Sergeant—a British comedy film that would go on to spawn a franchise of 31 “Carry On…” movies. (True to the chaotic tone of the films, the 50th anniversary in question was actually last year.) These movies are much-loved as quintessentially British—and what could be more British than loving them despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that most of them aren’t really very good? Their stock in trade is seaside-postcard smut, crude double entendre and casual sexism, while championing the little man and undermining the bureaucratic tyrant. They essentially feature the same cast of regulars transplanted into a series of milieux: after Sergeant (about the British experience of National Service), they started with other obvious institutions (Teacher, Nurse, Constable), then branched out into trade unions (Carry On at Your Convenience, set in a toilet factory), the British holiday experience of the time (Camping and Abroad) as well as historical subjects (anything from the French revolution, to Henry VIII and the much-loved Carry On Up the Khyber), filmic genres such as horror and westerns and lampoons of specific films, such as Carry On Cleo (Cleopatra) and Carry On Spying (James Bond).

Our party saw a good number of doctors (and a ward sister), a couple of Cleos, two sets of characters from Carry On Screaming, a couple from Carry On Up the Jungle—and the Mitchells came as Pepe and Floella from Hotel Elsbels. We didn’t have any live entertainment this time, as frankly we couldn’t think of anything particularly relevant to the theme, but we had a range of games. The traditional shooting game featured the traditional appearance from Action Man, this time dressed as a member of the 3rd Foot and Mouth Highland regiment from Carry On Up the Khyber. The film plot revolves around the regiment’s fearsome reputation being based on the fact that they wear nothing under their kilts—until one Private Widdle is captured and turns out to be wearing knee-length underwear. This emboldens the rebellious natives. The film’s denouement involves a battle that is won when the regiment are ordered to line up and formally lift their kilts to reveal the absence of underwear. In our game Action Man was connected to a Heath Robinson contraption in which sand trickled from one vessel into a bucket attached by cord and pulleys to Action Man’s head; when enough sand has entered the bucket the weight pulls Action Man upright—his hands are gripping the hem of his kilt, lifting it up for all to see. Players must try and shoot the soldier before he can reveal the truth about his underwear situation.

Our other performance-based game was the Sid James Chuckle contest, though players were also allowed to do impressions of any other character’s catchphrase. Meanwhile there were a couple of ongoing competitions running during the night—Carry on Fibbing gave a list of 71 Carry On titles and players simply had to mark whether they thought each one was genuine (and here we included not just the movies but the TV spin-offs and stage productions too) or false. The false titles included some that had been proposed but never got made, as well as some that Scarheart simply made up. Finally guests also had a chance to do some crafting and create a poster for their very own Carry On film. The three most promising entrants were invited on stage to pitch their idea to the crowd, and the one with the most applause won.

At the very last minute, at the suggestion of our hosts the Teahouse Theatre, we introduced a Suggestive Jelly Competition, but the only person who had time to enter was Grace from the venue, so she won. Grace also won the star prize in our traditional Grand Raffle, a DVD boxed set of all 31 Carry On movies. As partygoers drifted into the night Harry was already planning a month-long Carry On film festival at the venue…

Many thanks to our hosts, not least for the buffet (including the suggestive sausages), and to all who came along and made the effort with their costumes. Many more photos can be found in this album. We shall return with our Christmas party in December, with a theme that we will doubtless decide upon a couple of weeks before the event.

Club awed by prehistoric monsters

3rd July 2019 Our speaker was Dorian Loveday and his mission was to enthuse us about prehistoric sea creatures. Inspired by fossils as a lad, he has clearly harboured a lifelong interest—in fact I discovered that he is shortly to begin a Masters in paleoarchaeology. He did a good job of helping us visualise just how mind-bendingly long ago these beasts lived, how one era followed another (helped by a couple of mass extinctions) and how scientists stumbled to their current understanding of them, not helped by some petty rivalries and the chauvinistic suppression of the contribution of fossil hunter and expert Mary Anning, the poor daughter of a cabinet-maker who was responsible for discovering some landmark fossilised skeletons but, as a woman, did not always receive the credit due her. Dorian even brought in some fossils for us to handle, including a tooth and a vertebra disc.

Chap Magazine celebrates 20 years and 100 issues

8th June 2019 A party to celebrate 20 years and 100 issues of The Chap magazine, held in a dedicated room within Bourne & Hollingsworth's 1940s-themed Blitz Party. Chap editor Gustav Temple was present (though declined to address the faithful)—that's him on the left. Many familiar faces from the NSC crowd, though not always that easy to pick out in the gloom—the images in this album are essentially an experiment in trying to takes photos in the dark!

Question is posed: Yachties or Notties?

5th June 2019 Our speaker this time was George Tudor-Hart, telling us all about how to charter a yacht for a group sailing trip, what you need to know to do it, and why you might want to do it in the first place. He talked us through the evolution of yachting as a leisure pursuit, and the evolution of the vessels, which changed in design once the idea of chartering, and running a charter business, became popular. It turned out that George actually had an ulterior motive—he was trying to recruit crew members to join him for a trip. (He had previously belonged to a club, but apparently they had just thrown him out!) He assured us that it was not necessary to have done it before as long as there was an experienced captain and at least some of the other people were willing to put in a bit of effort. If you fancy joining George on one of these jaunts, get in touch and I can hook you up with him.

Tense stand-off with River Gods in Oxford

4th May 2019 So the aeons wheel and the gods harbour deep grudges, and it is spring again and time for the New Sheridan Club trip to go punting in Oxford. In fact this annual tradition is so ancient it predates the NSC itself, spawned from primordial ad hoc meetings via the original Chap Room chatroom—the club absorbing it just as early Christians tried to absorb pagan rites and celebrations they found among the peoples they hoped to convert. Rites the dark truth of which they could never have grasped.

So it is with the annual Punt, Picnic ‘n’ Plunge. The old folk know the River God must be satisfied—each year one punter from our number becomes the sacrifice as he or she tumbles into the waters. In fact Scarheart has for some years been running a sweepstake: each participant chips in a pound and gets a number. These numbers are randomly assigned to all the people present. When someone falls in, the person holding the number that corresponds to the sacrificial victim wins the kitty. And yet last year no one fell in. (Actually Rowan did, but she was two years old and hadn’t been registered in the sweepstake.) According to Scarheart the money would roll over into this year’s game—and yet where was Scarheart this time? Mysteriously unable to attend. And the money? Apparently just “resting” in his bank account.

Because this is England the weather is hugely unpredictably at this time of year: we have had scorching sun and cannonades of hailstones (possibly on the same day). All eyes were on Stuart Mitchell, our resident meteorology guru (he works for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts). Official scryers predicted chilly temperatures of 10 degrees but kept changing their minds about whether it would rain or not. Stuart, however, tried to explain to us that blanket forecasts for the whole area meant little, and showed us a phone app that plotted weather fronts as they moved towards and away from your position. Tense times.

Seven of us who were in town day before fulfilled another tradition, meeting for a black tie dinner at the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant. (It’s not cheap but actually pretty good value for the quality.) An agreeable time was had. Stuart Turner arrived on a bicycle that folded down the size of a matchbox and Stuart Mitchell advised us when to leave on the grounds that it would rain in 16 minutes. (Whether or not it did turned out to depend on which way you turned out of the restaurant.) All seemed right with the world. Surely the gods would smile on us the next day?

Saturday morning looked crisp but sunny. In the morning Sheridanites emerged from their burrows and picked through the city’s comestibles emporia like industrious ants. At a cheese shop in the covered market the man serving asking what the occasion was, as mine was the third NSC badge he’s spotted in there that day. Come 11am the antediluvian pull of beer drew us to the Bear Inn for a pre-punting sharpener. By now our numbers had swelled to 14. (For many years the meeting point was the Turf Tavern until The Incident, when the incumbent landlord took exception to our presence, baulked at selling us food and drink at opening time, then had a hissy fit when he spotted one of our number eating his own sausage roll while seated at one of the pub’s outdoor tables. Scarheart declared that we would never set foot in the place again. Had it been the old days in Heidelberg the matter would have ended more gorily, but these are less manly times. He did, however, write the brewery a stiff letter. On cardboard.) The Bear has the distinction of walls adorned with a huge collection of club ties—before you ask, we did offer an NSC example but they long ago ran out of space for any new additions.

From the pub it was a short lope down to the Magdelen Bridge Boathouse. Here we were joined by Jessie and Caroline and the Beckwiths, taking our number to 20 including three junior deckhands. The weather god was keeping us on our toes, having sprinkled us with rain a few times already, but we decided to shake our fists at Olympus, take to our boats and head upriver.

At the first stop-off, a point by Magdelen Fellows’ Garden where we always tie up alongside a sign that says “NO MOORING” for a group photograph, we discussed our ultimate destination. Traditionally we punt up to the rollers—literal metal rollers up which you can haul the flat-bottomed boats to a higher section of river—move up and carry on to the High Bridge, where we tie up and have a picnic. But for several years now the water has been too high, flooding the area around the rollers, making it impossible to disembark. This year those punting declared that the current was not so strong. But the wind was keen. Robert pointed out that once you got up the rollers you were on an exposed plain, whereas down in the lush lowlands before the rollers we were sheltered by a screen of trees. So we decided just to head straight for the same picnic spot as last time.

As we laid out our picnic blankets and newcomer James cranked up his portable gramophone, the sky strobed between crystalline sunrays and iron-grey clouds. We soon realised that when Stuart Mitchell put his (distinctly un-Chappist) anorak on it meant a shower was imminent and we should cover the picnic items. At one point we retreated under a large tree till the sprinkling was over. But the rain never lasted long and we had plenty of time to stuff our faces with pies and Prosecco.

As it approached 5pm it occurred to us that we needed to get the boats back by 6pm, so we loaded up squiffily and pushed our vessels out into the hungry waters. This was traditionally the point where, undone by alcohol, punters were more likely to overbalance and plunge into the arms of the Naiads. On the plus side the current was with us going back, making it easier to propel and steer the boat—though Stuart Mitchell still managed to thrust his punt pole into a tree, dislodging a branch which scraped his knuckles as it fell, then landed on my head. Fortunately I was wearing a bowler hat which took the brunt of the impact.

In a trice the boatyard was in sight and our punters, now seasoned, expertly steered their boats into the moorings, with plenty of time to spare. But what was this? It quickly emerged that not one person had tumbled into the drink. Can the gods be denied two years in a row? Perhaps Scarheart had kept us safe by feverishly sacrificing rare animals in his mystic tower? Perhaps Robert’s sweet singing and melodious strumming of the ukulele had placated the deities? Or perhaps the ziplock plastic bags that Stuart Turner had wisely distributed for the protection of mobile phones had taken all the fun out of the divine dunkings? Whatever the meaning of it, woe betide anyone who ventures on to the water this time next year. (Date to be announced shortly.)

So cocky were we feeling that for our traditional post-punting pint or three we even ventured to the Turf. (Sorry, Scarheart, but the Mitchells were staying there anyway.) And all was well.

More photos from the day in this album.

Sheffield recognised by Club

1st May 2019 Our speaker this month was Giles Culpepper, a longtime Member giving his first talk. His subject was Sheffield, the city where he grew up (although he wasn't actually born there so, he claims, the natives will never accept him as one of their own). It was a broad sweep through history and culture, from Classical times to the city's establishment as the centre of the steelmaking industry (an area in which, contrary to what many may assume, it still plays a major role), to iconic modern sons of Sheffield such as Peter Stringfellow, Michael Palin and, of course, Sean Bean. We also learned about the Love–Duck Line, a geographical division on one side of which people will call you "love" and on the other "duck". Many thanks to Giles for his passionate presentation.

Chaps hold Easter Parade

21st April 2019 The brainchild of Tom Carradine, this was simply an opportunity to put on your glad rags and process around London's West End being gawped at by tourists. I did wonder whether morning wear would be the order of the day (à la Easter Parade, the 1948 movie) but on the day it was rather too warm for that sort of rig and most of the men went down the linen-and-boater route. The crew gathered in Covent Garden before processing down the Strand to Trafalgar Square then up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus, where there was a brief stop at Zedel's. Then it was up Piccadilly, through Burlington Arcade, back across Regent's Street and on into Soho, where we ended up at the Coach and Horses. It was an ideal route (and more satisfactory than the London Hat Walk route of the last couple of years) and the whole wheeze a resounding success—next year's parade is already being planned and Champagne Charlie's expectation is that within three years they'll be closing roads for us. Many thanks to Tom and Charlie for organising the jaunt. For more photos see this photo album.

Strong Showing from Club at London Hat Walk

7th April 2019 London Hat Walk is a celebration of headwear, organised as part of London Hat Week (see www.londonhatweek.com). For the second year our route took us from the Tate Modern along the river to the Scoop by City Hall, not far from the LHW supplier fair. (Our band of NSC types, however, repaired instead to the pub: tragically the Shipwright's Arms, where we went last year, had closed down so we wound up at the Mug House, a Davy's pub in the arches under London Bridge.) Not much really happens other than some good-natured promenading and the opportunity to be photographed by all and sundry—so quite a good fit for the NSC. For more photos from this year's walk see this photo album.

Nile report offers record number of slides

3rd April 2019 Our speaker was Pandora Harrison, offering a report of a recent holiday of a lifetime that she and husband Andrew went on to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Their destination was Egypt, but the twist was that the whole trip was 1920s-themed: guests all dressed—well, like Members of the NSC—and they were accompanied by real-life archaeologists and vintage enthusiasts Colleen and Professor John Darnell. Part of the trip took place aboard the Sudan, a restored vintage paddle steamer that featured in two film versions of Death on the Nile. Pandora announced via Facebook that her talk would feature 661 holiday snaps—one might have though this was an April Fool's joke (although I just checked and it was 2nd April not the 1st), but I had just finished putting them all in PowerPoint and I knew this figure was correct. Pandora's last talk, on corsets, had lasted over two hours (some say two hours 50 minutes) and had featured only 410 slides, but she was as good as her word—she said she'd be done in an hour and she was (well, an hour and five minutes). Everyone agreed the talk was thoroughly enjoyable and I'm sure it has inspired others to consider taking the same trip (with Goodspeed & Bach, if you're tempted).

Ghostly chill descends on Club

6th March 2019 Our speaker this time was the prolific Earl of Essex, who must have delivered more lectures to us than any other Member, and his subject was Borley Rectory, on the Essex–Suffolk border, in its day known as the most haunted house in England. Yes, for once no Nazis featured whatsoever (though Essex could not resist beginning with a bogus feint about jackboots in the Sudetenland). The rectory was built by the new Revd Henry Bull in 1862, but it was on the site of the previous rectory, and there were already stories about a ghostly nun—buried alive for conducting an affair with a monk—and a phantom coach driver. Sightings (and hearings) continued and what perhaps made the hauntings so notorious was the frenzy of the media and the attentions of various psychical investigators attempting to bring the modern gaze of Science to bear on the matter. The main figure was Harry Price, whose findings were controversial to say the least. Eventually the place was destroyed by fire in the mid-20th century, but today Borley is still a place of pilgrimage for ghost hunters, whose attentions now focus on the nearby church.

Chaps taxonomised

6th February 2019 Our speaker was Luca Jellinek, with a bold attempt to analyse the way that Chappism appeals to and is consumed by its adherents. The Many Meanings of Modernism and the Chappist Critique divided vintage types into four categories based on the way that they rejected modernity, represented by four stereotypical characters. So, Andy Apart rejects modernity because he likes to stand out and be different. Ellie Exquisite rejects modernity because she feels the styles of the past are more beautiful. Francis Fogey essentially values tradition and the old order. Beverly Bolshie values progress but feels the contemporary world is modernity that took a wrong turn. Luca then compared these types by asking questions and looking at how each would answer it: for example, Andy dislikes modern fashions because they are dull and conformist, Ellie because they are ugly, Franics because they are vulgar and Beverley because they are brand-obsessed rather than functional. I'm sure that the whole exercise left everyone in the room questioning which camp they themselves fell into—though Luca did say that in reality most people probably fell into more than one.

Club is shown how to dress

2nd January 2019 Scarcely into the new year (Wednesday 2nd) we convened for our first talk of 2019, and pulled quite a respectable crowd, considering. Our speaker was Callum Coates, who is an actor by trade and does a lot of work for English Heritage, in character as various historical figures. At Eltham Palace he often plays Stephen Cortauld, who owned the place in the early 20th century: Stephen and his wife Virginia were society hosts and Callum has given demonstrations of cocktail making and a talk, "What is a Man to Wear?", on the development of men's evening wear, which he reproduced for us on this occasion. He traced how it was Beau Brummell who led the change from a world where men wore whatever they pleased and vied to display their wealth in the opulence of their attire, to an ethos that valued simplicity and "correctness". Yet anyone expecting a detailed list of dos and don'ts would have been disappointed, as Callum's thrust was that in fact that these things evolved gradually and at any given time there would not have been one accepted way to dress. Using fashion plates and advertisements from the era, he showed many examples of groups of men between them wearing long and short coats, stand-up or turn-down collars, white or black ties and waistcoats, etc. We wondered whether in the early days men would have grown up with evening wear and would have been entirely comfortable with expressing themselves in the medium, whereas in the post-war years perhaps many men who found themselves needing to dress for formal events may never have worn those clothes before and were keen for someone to give them rules—hence the development of dress codes about what was "correct" for each of occasion. Callum brought along with him a range of suits and accessories, so of which he modelled for us.

Club Moot rounds off year in glut of affability

21st December 2018 Our traditional pub gathering just before Christmas. The primary function is to check that Lord Mendrick is not dead (he spends most of the year in Malaya, teaching the children of the rich)—last year he confounded us all by simply not turning up, but it seems he was nevertheless alive, a fact he proved vibrantly this time around: that's him in the picture on the right, although the magazine only proves he was alive when issue 19 of The Chap came out. In case you're wondering what the Chap magazines are doing, I stumbled upon a caches of back issues under the sideboard and brought them along to give away. (These are mostly numbers 17 and 19: if you fancy some, let me know and I'll bring some along to a club night.

Christmas party celebrates Christmas

1st December 2018 After much furious debate, pounding of tables with fists and drunken pistol duelling, the Glorious Committee finally decided that our Christmas party this year would be themed around—Christmas. But more specifically a Chappist Christmas, the kind that Bertie Wooster would dream of. We even had a singalong of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but with revised words to suit the Chappist theme. We used PowerPoint slides so that everyone would know what words to sing.

Our first game was Shoot the Partridge from the Pear Tree. As luck would have it, there is a company that makes plush toy partridges (ours arrived finally on the very morning of the party: as a contingency plan its stand-in had been a duck from Hamleys). If you pressed a button on its back it made a noise that, we were reliably informed, was the sound a partridge makes. (The only sound I’ve ever heard a partridge make is a gentle sizzling in the oven.) The role of the pear tree was played by a cheap fake Christmas tree decorated with real pears hung on paper clips. After three or four contestants managed to knock the bird off its perch, the game went to a shoot-off, in which only Seonaid managed to score a direct hit the second time around.

You can see the missile passing just over the partridge's head

We had live entertainment from Tom Wild, a tweed-clad banjolele-toter singing songs about such Chappist sentiments as why he doesn’t want children and why he can’t drink cider any more, after an incident in his youth, and pondering why it is that his dog attracts all the winos in the park when he takes it for a walk. Tom kindly donated a couple of is CDs for the Grand Raffle and the Lucky Dip.

Following the singalong, we had our second game of the evening, a highly involved and nail-biting test of skill and nerve. Players were given a pole on the end of which, hanging on a length of string, was Action Man dressed as Santa Claus. Taped to one hand was a crude hook made from a bent paper clip and the game started with a sack of toys hanging on the hook. The arena of play was a model of a domestic drawing room with a chimney. Using the pole, players had first to lower Action Man down the chimney, then deposit the sack of toys. Finally—and this was far and away the toughest part—they had to pick up a glass of sherry using the hook and extract Action Man with it. The “glass” was actually a plastic shot glass with a wire loop that looked like a bucket in comparison to Action Man. Successful contestants got to drink the sherry (the finest supermarket nectar that £5.50 can buy). Players were also racing against the clock, with a time limit of 60 seconds; there was a lot of blundering around and knocking over the pail of sherry (the action took place on a plastic tray with sides to contain the spillage but some of the liquor still found its way on to the steps of the stage, rendering them sticky for the rest of the evening). Successful contestants showed the merits of slow, careful play and nerves of steel. Three players managed to extract the sherry: two of them did in just under the time limit, while our winner Sebastian Alexsander did it in an impressive 40 seconds.

Carrying on in the background throughout the evening were three other entertainments. Hunt the Cow Creamer was simply that—hidden somewhere in the venue was a cow creamer, which had to be found. Needless to say the prize was the creamer itself. (In case you’re wondering, this game is a reference to a Wodehouse story in which Bertie is tasked with stealing a cow creamer.)

For those with a crafting bent we had another competition, to design the Committee’s Christmas card, which goes out to corporate clients, heads of state, the Pope, etc. A wealth of materials were provided, from felt tips and crayons to paints, paint pads, a paint roller, and some potatoes for making potato prints. It was a tough decision for the judges, who were torn between Darcy’s diabolical Krampus figure, Ali’s bloody handprint (a protest, it turns out, about the fact that, due to an oversight, no actual paint brushes were provided), and Zack’s card with its exhortation inside to “get bent” (which would have gone down particularly well at the Vatican, I’m sure). The prize eventually went to Ian White’s design which, though less agreeably subversive, showed technical inventiveness in its use of both glitter and potato prints of pipes and top hats.

And one other feature of all our Christmas parties is the Lucky Dip, in which an old swing bin is filled with shredded paper that hides delightful gifts, of a quality level that would make a Chinese cracker manufacturer blush. (You can tell how classy this operation is by the fact that one year the venue staff actually started using it as a dustbin, scraping plates into it: I think there are still morsels of spaghetti and Brussels sprout at the bottom.)

Rounding off the evening was our traditional Grand Raffle, featuring goodies of a Chappist and Christmassy nature, such as Christmas pudding flavoured gin and snuff, a pipe and slippers (plus some of Peterson’s Christmas tobacco), a smoking cap, some Christmas tree baubles containing intoxicating liquor, various DVDs of Christmas classics, some artificial snow and a DIY snowman kit: a carrot, two lumps of coal and a bottle of water (requires some assembly).

Many thanks to all who came and to Harry and Grace of the Tea House Theatre for hosting and laying on the buffet. Merry Christmas one and all.

Grace wins the cow creamer

Members head south in search of beer

24th November 2018 Ian White reports on the annual NSC Pub Crawl: What better? A pub right by two rail stations, the Catford Bridge Tavern is an ideal starting point. A great example of the “Brewers Tudor” style of 1920s/1930s take on Elizabethan Tudor architecture, this pub, after a colouful history of as a music venue and a locals den, has been recently renovated, now with a big U-shaped bar. It seemed very apt that an ale was on offer called Stiff Upper Lip, from the By The Horns brewery. From here it was a quick saunter into Catford Constitutional Club, a premises hidden behind shops, down an alley to a former Conservative Club, that was apparently a farmhouse at an earlier stage—it’s quite odd to think of Catford as farmland. Inside there have been no renovations: it is just as it was found after 20 years of disuse, adorned by a quirky assortment of old furniture, collapsed ceilings, distressed-look pictures and framed Private Eye covers.

After the amusement of viewing the eccentric interior it is time to descend into Catford itself: no visit could be complete without a look at the hugew plastic Catford Cat and the grade II listed Broadway Theatre. A bus along the South Circular for a few stops takes us to the Blythe Hill Tavern, a small Victorian corner pub, already very lively for a Saturday afternoon with loads of regulars enjoying various sporting events on screens in the three rooms. Wood panelling, a wealth of sporting memorabilia and a garden with a big mural made for another photo opportunity. More from By The Horns brewery, in the form of a porter, plus a number of interesting ciders (including one aged in rum barrels). Another bus takes us to the Capitol in Forest Hill. This imposing former cinema is now a Wetherspoons with
a Grade II listed Art Deco interior. More Sheridanites joined our crawl at this point taking advantage of Wetherspooons hospitality to tuck into some food.
A walk to help digest dinner along the south Circular, past the Horniman Museum—worth a look even if only for its famous stuffed Walrus—then on to another bus into Dulwich, only a few miles away but a complete contrast to Catford. Dulwich is a village in south London, with large houses and white-painted fences. It was the turn of The Crown and Greyhound to be graced by the club. This pub was built in 1900 and its sprawling multi-roomed premises are Grade II listed. A short ramble and a final bus took us to the Half Moon in Herne Hill, yet another Grade II listed building. This too was a former music pub, but was badly flooded after a large water main burst a few years ago. A big restoration was undertaken and it is now a stylish gastro-pub, retaining the fine original interior. The evening set in until it was time to depart, concluding another fine crawl that introduced our members to several splendid pubs way south of the River.

Chairman Howard reflects on his life

7th November 2018 Four days after having celebrated his 50th birthday, Matthew “The Chairman” Howard regaled members of the Club with 50, Not Out: Re ections on a Long Life in the Chair, a variety of stories amassed during a life less ordinary (and yet oddly so), including his love of the sound of leather on willow, his misspent youth, Lincolnshire life, his tenuous connections with both Shane Meadows and Bertie Wooster, what’s wrong with Yorkshire, why he isn’t allowed to get his hair cut at Trumper’s any more and why his is no longer welcome at the Boat Race. As we have come to expect, it was a talk on the cusp of propriety, deviating substantially from its ostensible subject matter and with enough illustrations to ll the Picture Post.

Questions raised over Charles Bedaux

3rd October 2018 Our speaker was Dr Michael Weatherburn of Imperial College London, a friend of Priya's. His subject was Charles E. Bedaux, and his initial reason for researching the man was in an attempt to write a history of management consultancy—Bedaux invented a sort of time-and-motion system to quantify human labour. But what drew Michael further into Bedaux's story was his infamous association with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at the time leading up to the abdication. Bedaux is said to have orchestrated the Windsors' visit to Germany and, later on, was widely regarded as an evil eminence gris (and probably a Nazi spy), enticing the Duke to sympathise with his jackbooted masters. But looking at first-hand evidence Michael became suspicious of a scapegoating, especially since some of the documents have proved to be forged. Bedaux later committed suicide in FBI custody and even his suicide note has come under suspicion of having been altered. Michael's researches are still a work in progress so frustratingly he teased us with all this but was not able to come to a conclusion. Watch this space…

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