News Archive: Year Three
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)
To see many splendid daguerreotypes documenting the Club’s antics, click here.
6th September 2009
New Club Merchandise Arrives
Here at Sheridan Towers we have taken delivery of a new batch of bling: so handsome are the enamelled lapel badges that all Members receive as their mark of Membership that we decided to use the same discs to make cufflinks, tie slides and stick pins. These are available to Members for the dashed reasonable rates of £10 for a pair of cufflinks, £6 for a tie slide and £4 for the pin. Members are also reminded that replacement lapel badges are available for £3. If you wish to make an enquiry about any of these either buttonhole a Committee Member or email Mr Hartley.
4th September 2009
Club Riveted by Tales of a Wily Widow
We were again honoured by an outside speaker at September’s Club Night. Mr David Waller, whom I met at a talk by Ian Kelly at the Hunterian Museum, is the author of The Magnificent Mrs Tennant and delighted us with a gambol through this lady’s life.
Gertrude Tennant early life is a tale of bohemian impecuniosity, thwarted love matches and political marriage-scheming, but she came to prominence as a widow later in life, through the literary and political salon she established at her home in Whitehall—habitués included Gladstone and Balfour, Mark Twain, Thomas Huxley, Millais, Henry James, Browning, Henry Irving, Oscar Wilde and Victor Hugo. She was apparently the only person on the planet of whom the explorer Henry Morton Stanley was afraid. She was also a lifelong friend of Gustave Flaubert and Mr Waller’s book is based on a previously unknown cache of letters between the two, found in a farmhouse attic.
2nd September 2009
The Tashes: A Shock Result
The Club’s annual cricket match took place on Saturday 22nd August. As before it was held at the Richardson Evans Memorial Playing Field in Roehampton and, as before, it was played between the Hirsute Gentlemen (all with facial hair, some of it doubtless glued on for the occasion) and the Clean-Shaven Players. But for the first time ever the moustachioed side won. A full match report will doubtless be forthcoming once sterling organiser Watermere has recovered sufficiently from the shock.
A Year in Custardy
That vanilla-infused musical extravaganza that is the Cirque de CrŹme Anglaise made its fifth outing (and its first anniversary) on Friday 21st August. Headliners were the David Goo Variety Band, a powerful combination of crowd-pleasing energy and quirky subject matter. (If Frank Zappa were reborn in a syna-gogue in the Balkans he would sound like this.)
Also playing, of course, were hosts The Furbelows, containing a good handful of NSC Members. Before them came the strange noises produced by The Lone Taxidermist, the solo act of Natalie Sharp, lead singer of The Bottomfeeders, who were supposed to perform on this occasion but had to pull out at the last moment. Combining keyboard, the odd bit of guitar, and heavy use of a looping pedal, she built up layers of strange vocal harmonies and rhythms played on finger cymbals and even a knife and fork.
CompŹre for the evening was H. Anthony Hildebrand, who writes humorous verse and prose and is also one half of the act Junior Ministers (the other half is currently in South America, allegedly hunting Robert Mugabe). Mr Hildebrand injected just the right amount of surreal and hilarious observation into the musical mix.
There was a TV camera in the room, courtesy of Tourdates.co.uk, filming everything and broadcasting it live on the Interweb; there had also been a plan to broadcast Jordan Thomas’s regular Friday night Recharged Radio show live from the venue too, but this proved a little tricky. However, I believe that for the next Cirque, on Friday 20th Novem-ber, there will be an ambitious attempt to have a multi-camera broadcast going on. Watch this space…
20th August 2009
The Club Makes Headlines
The New Sheridan Club has a reasonably prominent place in this article in the Telegraph. Many thanks to our Glorious Chairman Torquil Aruthnot for talking to Fleet Street on our behalf.
15th July 2009
Chap Olympics Returns From the Wild
After last year’s excursion to the badlands of Hampstead Heath (and the mysterious—if slightly frustrating—treasure hunt of clues to work out exactly in which clearing it was taking place) the Chap Olympics returned triumphantly to Bedford Square Gardens on Saturday 11th July, facilitated in part by sponsorship by the bar Bourne and Hollingsworth, who laid on two drink tents and a barbecue. (And presumably in part by the £15 admission fee that was introduced for the first time.) This unfortunately meant that guests were not allowed to bring their own drink with them as in previous years. This might have been more acceptable if it had been more widely communicated beforehand; as it was there was a sad heap of confiscated booze by the gates, all ticketed so that it could be retrieved on the way out.
But no one seemed to mind the entry price: the mood was excellent and the costumes as outlandish as ever, but pleasingly without the corporate freeloaders who used to smirk along in the days of sponsorship by Hendricks gin. There was a proper PA system (I remember three years ago doing the compering myself with nothing but a highly directional megaphone…) and DJs playing suitably Chappist tunes all day. Ambitiously there was also a programme of live entertainment in the evening: the jazz/swing/gypsy band Ta MŹre, a burlesque performer who did a routine in which she was an animal-skin-clad Fifty Foot Woman menacing an Action Man and crushing cardboard buildings, and also a man in army uniform who did impressions of spitfires starting up. In fact the evening show was hurried up early, as many people had already gone home: perhaps after an afternoon of Olympian capers people had had just about as much fun as they could manage for one day.
After the lighting of the Olympic Pipe and its parading around by Michael “Atters” Attree, the line-up of games was thus: the Martini Relay (teams concoct a martini cocktail in relay stages, the winner being the one with the drink judged most successful by a man from Bourne and Hollingsworth); Cucumber Sandwich Discus (contestants throw a sandwich on a plate and are scored by how close the one is to the other at the end of the throw); Tug of Hair (in which teams tugged on either ends of a giant moustache notionally attached to Atters himself); Hop, Skip and G&T (like a conventional triple jump except that contestants must carry a gin and tonic and are scored simply on how little they manage to spill); Umbrella Jousting (like normal jousting except players pass each other on bicycles and attack with umbrellas, with only a stiffened copy of the Telegraph of FT for protection); the Pipeathlon (the athletes must walk a bit, ride a bike for a bit, then complete the course without their feet touching the ground, all the while keeping a pipe alight); Bounders (gentlemen approach ladies and, using whatever lines they choose, compete to be the first to get slapped); and the Chap Steeplechase, where chaps wearing rubber animal heads carry ladies on their backs and race over low hurdles—sounds more energetic than it really is). Scoring was, as ever, ramshackle and arbitrary but I can report that Louise Quatorze (formerly Tallulah) won the Bronze Cravat, the Chairman won the Silver Cravat and Farhan Rasheed won the coveted Gold cravat. And it scarcely rained.
Tempting Fźte “Imaginatively Conceived and Impressively Executed”, Says Local Vicar
The ancient weather gods smiled on the Club’s summer party on Saturday 4th July (an ample return for all those virgins locked into Wicker Chaps, doused with malt whisky and elegantly flambéd, I’m sure you’ll agree). About 100 ladies and gents in summer finery—plus one morris man and one Green Man—strolled through the balmy evening up to the City Tavern near London’s Bank station. We had managed to persuade the local vicar, George Bush, the Rector of St Mary Le Bow, to open proceedings with an amusing anecdote and the cutting of a ribbon. He later reported how much he enjoyed the party (though observed that as he left he realised the venue wasn’t actually in his parish after all…), so it looks as if we had successfully hedged our bets on the deity front.
Our first entertainers were the wonderful Fitzrovia Radio Hour, who performed for us a live radio play about a woman’s attempts to find love despite being fully 35 years old, steering a course through cads and ne’er-do-wells—and all punctuated by musical plugs for the show’s sponsor, a medicated shampoo. Later we had a vigorous demonstration of the Victorian self-defence technique of Bartitsu, a martial art that was popular around the turn of the last century and involves much use of the gentleman’s walking cane. Fortunately there is little motor traffic around that neck of the woods on a Saturday so our smart-trousered pugilists were able to use the open roadway to demonstate ways of fending off a shillelagh-wielding thug or even of firmly escorting a drunken guest from a party (though why you would do that is a mystery).
The final performance of the evening was the inimitable Mr B. the Gentleman Rhymer, professor (and indeed inventor) of Chap Hop, approaching the gentleman’s concerns about 21st century through the medium of hip-hop and banjolele. His popularity has clearly soared since he first played for us at Christmas 2006, judging by the number of guests roaring along to the words. The standing ovation was deafening and indeed Mr B. graced us with an encore.
Meanwhile, the Club’s tradition of games was kept up: there was a tombola running all night with an array of suitably undesirably prizes—although we still seemed to have sold 90 tickets over the evening, thanks, in no small way, to Miss Tara Elarte who became obsessed with winning some cosmetic frippery and persuaded her young man to empty several pounds into the game (at 20p a ticket).
Then there was the precision cheese-rolling. Real cheese-rolling, of course, is a dangerous activity practised once a year at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire where locals race a large cheese down a very steep hill. Every year is ends in an amiable orgy of broken bones. Our version was more suited to a pub—contestants chose from a cheeseboard of round British cheeses and rolled them down an artificial (but artfully contoured) grassy slope aiming for an Action Man dressed as a morris man. Only two contestants scored two hits out of three rolls, Miss Sarah Bowerman and a mysterious geek who studied the game for a long while before announcing he had worked out the best strategy. He was right to an extent—yet, in the tie-breaking, sudden-death cheese-off, he ultimately had to concede defeat to Miss Bowerman.
of the evening, of course, was the Grand Raffle. Owing to some last-minute
developments, not every prize we anticipated was available (sadly the Lock’s
hat never came through) and some had not arrived in time and were represented
by an IOU. But many good things were won, including a voucher good for a
haircut at Trumper’s, a bottle of rare Bulldog gin and a £100 voucher from the
magnificent Old Town outfitters. (We had planned to have a contest of Turnip
Jousting, a game
stolen from closely modelled on Orange Battle, but the
time the Raffle was over it was after midnight and the company’s will seemed
broken, so we decided to save that delight for another time.)
Throughout the evening guests visiting the bathrooms were treated to a range of unguents, colognes, pomades, moustache wax, etc, kindly supplied by Trumper’s. (At least until someone stole the colognes.) Thanks to Trumper’s and to all our sponsors for the Raffle.
A splendid and merry time was had by all. The only sour note came later when the venue claimed we had not made our minimum spend agreed upon at the bar and demanded that we give them a £500 fee. This was an awkard matter as the Club obviously does not have that much. We aim to spent what we take from subscriptions on events or other benefits, so right after a party is when we are at our most impecunious. Fortunately we managed to negotiate them down to £100. (Thanks to those of you who actually sent in donations to us to help us stay afloat. It has been well spent on a fine selection of waistcoats for the Committee.)
Troupe of Thespians Brings Note of Pathos to July Club Night
At the last meeting, instead of a lecture, we were treated to the first scene of Broken Holmes, written and directed by Mr Robin Johnson and performed by the Semper Theatre troupe of strolling players. As the playbill says, “Sherlock Holmes investigates a duke’s murder. But the real mystery is, why does an intelligent, sensitive soul like Watson stay in a relationship with an abusive, egotistical drug-addict?”
NSC members arriving early at the Wheatsheaf would have found the upstairs room awhirl with various individuals in stages of undress. Since only two were actually acting it was somewhat puzzling to see five or six tearing off and putting on clothes, but perhaps this was part of the troupe’s “warm-up exercises”.
The first scene is most amusing, with Holmes and Watson squabbling away like an old married couple, taking offence at perceived slights and trying to make amends with surprise gifts. Mr Johnson obviously knows his Sherlock Holmes well, as the dialogue contains many references to actual stories and characters. Like many parodies, it is clearly written with a great affection for the original.
Mr James Bober as Holmes and Mr Canavan Connolly as Watson acted splendidly, hitting the right note of verisimilitude and lampoon.
Afterwards there was a whip-round to help the troupe pay their expenses to the Edinburgh Festival, where they will be performing Broken Holmes. Let us hope it achieves the success it deserves.
17th June 2009
Compton-Bassett Boots Wellington Into a Cocked Hat
At the June meeting we were treated to a rousing delivery by Lord Finsbury Windermere Compton-Bassett of his address, The Military Life of the Duke of Wellington. Scarily, in those days anyone (well, any gentleman) seems to have been able to become an army officer simply by buying the position, often at a ridiculously young age. Fortunately for us all, Arthur Wellesley turned out to have a bit of a knack for soldiering. Despite unpromising beginnings—his mother considered him feckless and dubbed him “my awkward son”, while his early attempts to marry his eventual wife were rejected because of his poor prospects—he went on to thrash Napoleon twice, serve as Prime Minister and invent a boot.
We were also graced by the presence of a radio journalism student (a friend of Tim Kennington’s) who, naturally, wanted to produce a broadcast about our movement. Of course he chose to interview me right at the end, after four pints and half a bottle of wine on my part, so with hindsight I don’t suppose much of what I said made sense. But it was doubtless enthusiastic.
2nd June 2009
Gentleman Thief Outwits the French
A man in a fedora hat walked into a high-class jewellers Chopard in Paris last Saturday, produced a pistol with a silencer and instructed staff to put necklaces and watches worth £5.8 million into a bag. Then the unmasked, smartly dressed man in his 50s walked from the building and melted into the tourist crowd. The sauvely audacious raid took less than two minutes and was executed yards from the offices of the head of the French criminal justice systems. Doubtless there will now follow an intense manhunt, as ladies all over the country seek to shower the Silver Fox with offers of marriage. See the full story here.
Is The Chap On Its Uppers?
You may have heard the rumours, or seen the message on thechap.net, suggesting that The Chap magazine was in dire financial straits. Indeed the website states:
“Like many venerable institutions, The Chap has run into financial difficulties, due principally to a disastrous result in the 2.30 at Wincanton. But also the spiralling costs of paper stock, printing ink and distribution services, and of course the increase in tax on tobacco products.
“The harsh reality of the current situation is that if the June issue doesn’t go to press, The Chap will cease publication for ever.”
Gustav Temple, the organ’s editor, goes on to touch passers by for a hand-out to help him through the crisis—there is a button on the page enabling well-wishers to donate instantly via PayPal.
So what is all this about? After what seemed like steady growth both in the physical magazine and its reach across the nation, can it really be true that behind the facade the august institution’s financial health was distinctly sub-prime?
We dispatched ace reporter Torquil Arbuthnot to establish the truth. He returned hours later have tried the cunning ruse of simply asking Gustav, and this is what he reported: “Managed to have a chat with Gustav last night. He’s just short of the readies to get out this particular edition in the new, larger format—it’s just temporary cashflow problems rather than sales dropping. Once June’s edition is printed, he’s going back to the old A5 size.”
So there you have it: the magazine is essentially healthy but Gustav has miscalculated and finds himself short of the up-front cash to publish the June edition. If you did feel minded to tuck a few notes into Gustav’s blazer pocket he is offering to list all donors in the magazine and give the top benefactors free VIP tickets to the planned Chap 10th anniversary party in October.
7th May 2009
Fairytale Turn From Ms Rhodes
We were gently led to the very gates of the Fairy Kingdom last night by Eugenie Rhodes, who gave an intriguing talk at the May meeting entitled, Faeries, Their History and Reputation. We learned both of the universality of mankind’s belief in a fairy world and fairy folk and how our attitudes towards them have changed over the years: if 21st Century Londoners give them little thought and doubt their existence, this is much less the case as you move away in both time and space. In fact Willow Tomkins testified that when she was growing up in Ireland the existence of fairy folk was a given; and they were not benign Tinkerbell characters, but mischievous, sometimes malignant forces that were an unavoidable fact and needed to be placated. A bit like the Mafia, I suppose. In fact fairies are not necessarily small at all—they can sometimes appear colossal and opaline. Rather like Dr Manhattan, by the sound of things. Needless to say, Ms Rhodes is a firm believer in the fairy world, seeing it (if I understood her correctly) as a more natural, spiritual, emotional counterpoint to the hard, logical world of our everyday perceived reality. She also revealed that the fairy folk give her stock market tips which have yet to let her down…
Mad Hatter Under Threat
It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Bates, the splendid Jermyn Street hatter, may soon be no more. It seems their evil landlord wants to develop the site of which Bates is a part. I would have thought that if you remove the colourful, traditional establishments like Bates from the street not only will gentlemen struggle to outfit themselves but the tourist value of the place will also plummet, leading to lost revenues all round. If you would like to berate Westminster Council for their dunderheadedness in even considering this planning application there are details of how you can help on the Bates website. In theory you can comment on the case online but it seems the deadline for this has passed, so I guess it must by letter—and soon.
8th April 2009
NSC Women Are Revolting—Official
In a worrying demonstration of independence and organisation, Miss Isabel Von Appel is establishing a dedicated ladies’ wing of the Club and has asked me to post this message:
“Ladies of the New Sheridan Club, your club needs you! Heed the call and join the NSC Women's Auxiliary!
“The Women's Auxiliary is the delicate feminine extremity of the New Sheridan Club. It will provide a haven for NSC ladies to meet and discuss important topics such as kittens and frocks. Knitting, cakes and vintage hairstyling demonstrations will prepare members for facing the Great Un-Interested and spreading Charm and Civility wherever we go. No New Sheridan Club woman will stand aside as the hour for approaches!
“Your membership in the NSC WA is absolutely vital. Please join us for our inaugural meeting at 19:30 on 24 April 2009, at the residence of Mr Niall Spooner-Harvey. Cake and tea will be provided. Address on application to email@example.com (with the “fake” removed."
7th April 2009
Earl in Woollies Probe
At our April meeting the doughty Earl of Essex, in his second outing as a Club Night Turn, treated us to a history of the Woolworth’s brand. We learned of the humble origins of its founder F. W. Woolworth and his revolutionary idea of a shop where the goods were on open display for the customers to handle and everything had a low, fixed and clearly displayed price. The idea was a hit and Woolworth became very wealthy. Sadly his descendent Barbara Hutton managed to fritter away the whole fortune in her endless and unhappy pursuit of an ideal husband, Woolworth’s mansion Winfield Hall fell into disrepair and, of course, most recently the UK company went bust. Many thanks for Essex for his thoughtful elegy.
30th March 2009
Prototype Club Cufflink Announced
Working with Brighton artisans Ring Jewellers, the Club has unveiled a Club cufflink, pictured left, priced at £24 a pair. If you are interested in purchasing one, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Torquil Arbuthnot. Needless to say, they are available only to Members of the NSC.
Members Execute Dazzling Display of Chappist Knowledge
March saw the first ever New Sheridan Club Alehouse Challenge. This did not, in case you are wondering, involve the Committee being helicoptered from one alehouse to the next, frantically quaffing pints against the clock while chattering to television viewers through headsets. In fact it was a pub quiz, organised by Mr Artemis Scarheart, and a very fine job he did too. The venue was the Fitroy Tavern, a haunt of many a booze-soaked writer and thinker, so we were on appropriate territory The nine rounds covered a broad range of subjects but all tending towards a Chappist sensibility—including a Chappette round set by Miss Minna, testing the teams’ knowledge of plucky heroines and vintage fashions. The quiz was set at just the right level—neither too hard nor too easy—and some fierce competitive spirits emerged, not least from Devils in Skirts (pictured right) who won, largely thanks to the huge brain of Mrs H. Well done to everyone.
Film Crew Turn Out for WWII Fashion Talk
There was a good turn-out for the March gathering, where the historian, Mr Sean Longden delighted us on a subject close to all our hearts, 1940s fashion. In particular he examined the ways that British soldiers, envious of the stylish uniforms worn by the Americans and others, tried to enhance their own unflattering dress to make it more modish. We heard how some would have tailors adjust the lines and how it became fashionable to wear German army belts. In addition, we learned how, as the war drew on, some soldiers found ways to express their individuality by augmenting their uniforms with silk scarves, riding boots, umbrellas and eccentric headgear such as top hats.
For the evening we were also graced by the presence of a team of cinematographers from Lincoln University. Needless to say, the Earl of Waveney is the connection here and the film crew were making a documentary about Chappism. They interviewed Mr Longden and various other Members. They even took what I believe is known as a subjective tracking shot from the point of view of someone entering the venue, climbing the stairs and approaching the Club table to sign in.
8th February 2009
Blitz Party Goes Down Like a House On Fire
Saturday 7th February saw the first of what will presumably be a series of parties with a a Blitz theme—the venue, some converted railway arches in Shoreditch, had been decked out with sandbags and wartime food products, the punters came in wartime uniforms and 1940s fashions and even the drinks menus were styled as ration books. Entertainment came in the form of swing disc jockeys and the live band Twin and Tonic, a swing combo fronted by the lovely Holland twins. It was co-hosted by The Chap magazine (though quite how much input Gustav Temple had, I’m not sure) so the usual crowd were out in force. There were, to be honest, plenty of people there who didn’t really have much interest in the period or its stylings, and saw this as just another fun theme, but a lot of effort had gone into the costumes—with special mention having to go to the chap who came as an evacuated schoolboy (as it were), even if he did bear a striking resemblance to Angus Young out of AC/DC…
Welsh Grit Saves Nation
At our February meeting the redoubtable Ensign Polyethyl put us right about the French invasion of Pembrokeshire in 1797, an event of which many outside of the area were probably not aware. Jessie took evident delight is regaling us with the manifold inadequacies of the French plan and its execution—such as the use of a taskforce consisting of shackled convicts arms with just 100 rounds each for the entire campaign. In fact the troops who landed were relying upon meeting up with two invasion forces; no one had thought to tell them that these invasions had been cancelled. But the humiliating defeat of the French by a much smaller local force was to a large extent down to the pluck of local peasant women, including the famous Jemima who rounded up a dozen or so Frenchmen single-handedly.
Many thanks to Jessie for a thoroughly researched lecture, presented with clarity and gusto. Bravo!
Custard-Crazed Musicians Rampage
Hosted by The Furbelows, a beat combo that features three Sheridan Club Members among its number, the Cirque de CrŹme Anglaise is a musical evening of dark humour and tomfoolery, blending raucousness with theatricality and cabaret finesse. The venue is the Cross Kings in London’s King’s Cross. For the Cirque’s third outing on 3rd February, The Furbelows were joined by Orlando Seale, a singer of intense and frankly rather sad songs (imagine Nick Drake crossed with an acoustic Radiohead) and the MC was the delightful Des O’Connor, who sings witty, and frequently rather rude, ditties to the ukulele. There was supposed to be a third band, Whitestar, but sadly the freak snowy weather had paralysed the transport network and half the band were stuck in Kent. Thanks to those hardy souls who braved the ice storms to be there.
28th January 2009
The Film Night Goes Stateside
The Ides of January saw the second in our new run of Film Nights. Perhaps appropriately, given the Obamania sweeping the land in the run-up to the new US President’s inauguration, the night had an American theme. Miss Isabel Von Appel, who herself hails from the former Colonies, showed the odd film True Stories, made in 1986 by David Byrne, then lead singer in the art pop band Talking Heads.
Byrne himself appears in the film, a pseudo documentary, and addresses both the camera and the other characters. He is visiting Virgil, Texas, on the eve of its Celebration of Special-ness for its 500th anniversary. It’s about the death of traditional Main Street America as shopping malls move in. But it is also a study of how strange ordinary people are when look.
This latter part is Byrne’s stock in trade, and much of the dialogue and, in particular his voice overs, sound just like Talking Heads lyrics, a rich seam of faux-naive observations about the oddness of life and people, delivered in Byrne’s studiedly autistic deadpan.
For a film with no real plot, apart from the narative of John Goodman’s character’s search for a wife, it’s remarkably engaging and thought-provoking.
If you have a film or combination of films (Isabel had some shorts to show but technical difficulties overwhelmed us) that you think would make a good presentation for a NSC Film Night please get in touch.
Des’s Inner Journey
At our January meeting, Des Esseintes, a figure who has been absent from the glittering soirées, creative furnaces and festering opium coaches of the Club for quite a while, returned in style with a talk all about his impressions from working in India as a teacher.
The only setback was that he had never actually made it there. He and his partner had accepted jobs, sold their homes and packed their steamer trunks, only for the Indian authorities suddenly to change the rules and declare the work visas would only be given of noble Englishmen if they could prove that no Indian could do the job in question. Given the sheer number of Indians in existence, the ergonomics were overwhelming. Des Esseintes did make it to India but only for a few days.
But he decided that this need not hinder his lecture. In fact he found he was in distinguished company in the business of appreciating a foreign land from the comfort of one’s own home. In fact even his namesake, in Huysman’s A Rebours, having intended to visit England, enjoys himself so much in an English-themed tavern in Calais that he decides that to go ahead with his visit would only be likely to spoils his mental picture, and he returns home.
1st January 2009
The Sheridan Christmas House is an institution now in its fourth year. The idea is that a bunch of us hire a big country house for a week, where we take it in turns to do the cooking and otherwise spend our days loafing about, going for long walks, perhaps doing some riding (there usually seem to be facilities near by) or motoring to some local attraction for a spot of sight-seeing. Basically we pretend we’re the idle rich from a hundred years ago. One day is designated as “Christmas Day”—complete with traditional meal, stockings and “secret Santa” gift-giving. In the evenings we dress for dinner: black tie, except for Christmas Day, which is naturally white tie.
In the past we have stayed at Eskmeal in Cumbria and Stonebarrow in Devon. This time we returned to last year’s haunt, Treharrock Manor near Port Isaac in Cornwall, on the grounds that it was hard to improve on the place: plenty of space in handsome premises, extensive grounds, yet handily close to shops for all the comestibles you realise you’ve forgotten. Evidently built in 1815 (that’s what’s carved on a block in the wall of the cellar) the place boasts about a dozen bedrooms, three reception rooms plus a dining room, huge kitchen with Aga and conventional cooker, endless laundries, sculleries and other obscure chambers, with some working fireplaces—and you can smoke there too, which is pretty rare in these places.
One day, when the Club is finally endowed by a wealthy mystery benefactor, I imagine we shall purchase this place and set it up as a Home for Distressed Fops.
The Kredit Krunch Kabaret
The Club’s Christmas party, on 6th December, had a Weimar theme this year, in a nod to the nation’s unfortunate fiscal situation. The setting was the Punch Tavern on Fleet Street (renamed the Putsch Tavern for the occasion) a rather beautiful gin palace filled with mirrors and ornate mouldings. Sadly one of our main attractions, German comedian Henning Wehn, had to pull out at the last minute owing to a hernia operation. (I suppose if you’re a comedian and you’re going to blow out a gig, then a hernia is a suitably comic reason for doing it.) But we were still blessed by cabaret singer Maria Trevis and pint-sized Hibernian burlesque dancer Miss Dolly Tartan. The fun included two silly games—Shoot the Top Hat Off the Plutocrat and Blind Man’s Dada Painting—and our famous Grand Raffle. As ever, many pictures may be found at the Club’s Flickr page.
Cricket History Knocks Us for Six
At our December meeting, Mr Niall Spooner-Harvey delivered his History of Ashes Cricket, a race through 130 years of leather on willow. I think his main thesis was that it all went downhill when the players stopped sporting moustaches, though Niall was forced to bend the rules for Mike Brearley, about whom no evil can be spoken—even though he is the one who wants a more relaxed the dress code at Lord’s.
We also heard how Ted Dexter went on to write cricket-themed crime novels and it transpired that Ian the Padre, present in the audience, was the nephew of Brian Statham, requiring Niall to demand an autograph at once.
30th November 2008
Just Desserts for Custard Fans
For a second time the Cirque de CrŹme Anglaise came to town on 19th November, a musical event in which, among other performers, four NSC Members graced the stage. Organised by The Furbelows, the night is intended to have a coherent theme of dark humour, cabaret swagger and worthwhile words. (The first Cirque, in August, featured Club poet Niall Spooner-Harvey and Member the fabulous Mr B. the Gentleman Rhymer.)
This time the show opened with Mesparrow, a mysterious French lady who performs alone, either at the piano or acapella with a digital looping device, with which she built up a layered backing of her own voice. Next up was Club Member Marmaduke Dando a crooner of what he calls “morose ballads” whose stage image was somewhere between Noel Coward and Bryan Ferry. The Furbelows themselves played third.
Headliners were the startling Cesarians (pictured), a horn-heavy troupe whose world combines Kurt Weill, Tim Burton and Edward Gorey. True to their reputation, they lifted the roof. Thanks to all who came along.
Record Turn-Out For Gorefest
Either vampires are a popular subject or Miss Minna is a popular lady—because our November meeting, at which Miss Minna delivered her talk on The Vampire and the Modern Age, was the best attended Club Night ever, with some 50 people cramming themselves into the Wheatsheaf’s exquisite wood-panelled room.
Whatever the reason, it was a boisterous and good-humoured meeting. Miss Minna explained to us how, up to the beginning of the Victorian age, vampires were viewed as bestial. Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula was foul-smelling and the spin-off Nosferatu was, frankly, a bald leech. It was Bela Lugosi, his dandyism and his knowledge of correct dress codes, that led to Dracula’s appearing dressed “for an ambassador’s reception”, and the idea of the vampire as seductive sophisticate. Christopher Lee carried on this tradition of Dracula as a high-brow in white tie.
From there Miss Minna charted the popular incarnations of the undead dandy, including Blackula (which, she claims, is a very good film) up to Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire series. But her point was that the concept of the vampire seemed to be adopted regularly to represent whatever we might be afraid of at the time, whether it be syphilis, miscegenation or AIDS. The subject provoked great interest and many questions from the floor.
4th October 2008
Neckwear Reinforcements Arrive in Nick of Time
As I’m sure you have been all too painfully aware, our supplies of NSC Club ties ran out some time ago. I had fair developed the jitters, I don’t mind telling you. Fortunately, there was a knock at the gnarled Club House portal last night and, standing in the rain, clutching a tattered parcel stood an ancient mariner type. Never found out anything about him, to be honest, because he tottered in and promptly kicked the bucket. But the good news is that the parcel turned out to contain 100 new NSC silk ties. So either this fellow had intercepted a villainous plan to steal our ties and laid down his life to return them to their rightful owners, or UPS have seriously lowered their recruitment standards.
Anyway, if you’re a Member of the New Sheridan Club and you’d like to own one of these glorious ties, they are a mere £15. Not bad for 100% silk, especially as they have the Club logo subtly incorporated in an ingenious “shadow weave” that runs along the black stripe (see picture). Contact us for more details.
October Meeting Breaks With Tradition: Chaos Ensues
Lock’s of St James’s, the world’s most famous hatter, contacted us a while ago to say that they were sponsoring a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society by Colonel John Blashford-Snell on the subject of Livingstone and Stanley. It was a charity fundraiser for the Merseyside Youth Association (both explorers grew up in that area). As it happened the date clashed with that of the monthly Club Night. But since it was a subject undoubtedly of interest to Club Members, and a Good Thing to boot, we decided to make this our Turn for the month. So a dozen or so NSC Members attended the lecture then hot-footed it back to the Wheatsheaf to join the other Members for a few ales. The lecture was excellent and was, in a way, a classic celebration of the Great British Heroic Failure: despite his fame, Livingstone never found anything he was looking for and even as a missionary—his original reason for travelling to Africa—he only ever converted one African, who subsequently lapsed.
As you can see, complete pandemonium has broken out; Torquil offers a birthday toast to Robert; which he graciously receives