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) and Year Nine (October 2014 to September 2015)
News Archive: Year Six
Members star in Chap-Hop video shoot
18th September 2012 At high noon a dozen or so Club worthies gathered at the Wheatsheaf in Fitrovia at the behest of Mr B. the Gentleman Rhymer. He was shooting footage for a video for his latest ditty Just Like a Chap. The tune is, to a certain extent, a reference to the Paralympics theme tune and the photography mostly consisted of a camera moving across stationary tableaux of figures, in reference to similar imagery featuring the "superhumans" used in idents and at the end of this video. We all await the finished film reels with eager anticipation.
Club learns about murder, theory and practice
17th September 2012 Our Film Night this month was the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rope (1948), presented by David De Vinél. Two cocky students decide to strangle a classmate as an intellectual exercise to prove they are superior enough to commit the perfect murder—spurred on by the apparent theories of their old prep-school housemaster that superior people should have a moral right to commit murder, based on Nietzsche’s “übermensch” concept. To ram the point home the lads then host a dinner party in the very room where the body lies. One of the guests is the housemaster himself, played by James Stewart, whom they feel would surely approve. As the guests begin to wonder why the murder victim—also invited—has not appeared, Stewart begins to suspect. The film is based on a play (in turn based on real events); the original was set in England with a public school background, (which might explain the ingrained concepts of natural superiority). Rope was experimental in a number of ways: it was an early example of Technicolour, and the narrative takes place in real time, filmed in long takes to give the impression of one continuous shot. This heightens the claustrophobic tension as one of the killers starts to crack under the strain and Stewart begins to suspect the horrific truth. The backdrop to the main set was an artificial New York skyline which had to evolve (at great expense) from day to night as the film progressed. This constant reminder of the height of the penthouse appartment does a good job of emphasising the killer's lofty sense of superiority over the mass of humanity below. When the teacher discovers the truth, rather than calling the police he fires shots from the penthouse window—and we hear the gathering hue and cry of the masses who will bring the downfall of the übermenschen above.
David followed the main film with a screening of the episode of Psychoville that is an homage to Rope.
Stalwarts assemble for annual beerathon
8th September 2012 Mr Ian White, a longstanding member of both the NSC and the real ale body CAMRA, took us on his annual NSC Pub Crawl, this time focusing on Belgravia. The meeting point was the Weatherspoons in Victoria Station—not an eminent public house in itself but relatively easy to find, given that some of the establishments we visited were tucked away down tiny mews. Next stop was the Grenadier on Wilton Row, a small, quiet place panelled in dark wood. Originally built in 1720 as the Officers' Mess for the First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, it became a pub in 1818. It's apparently haunted by the ghost of a man beaten to death for cheating at cards, though we didn't experience anything paranormal. Next stop was the splendid Nag's Head on Kinnerton Street, the interior of which can occupy you for hours, such is the collection of swords, spears, hats, skis, shovels, even a typewriter adorning the walls. The ceiling is a collage of images from magazines. By this stage we had acquired Dave Hollander, who had earlier been on Russell Nash's menswear walking tour in St James's, and Craigoh complete with his scion Zachary, who remained glued to his computer game for the whole afternoon. From here it was a stagger of about 50 feet to the Wilton Arms, purveyors of Shepherd Neame ales (although I felt the interior was rather sterile). Having acquired Suzanne Coles, we next made for the Star Tavern in Belgrave Mews which offered a singular and well-chosen spirits range (Sipsmith is their only gin and it's the only pub I've seen that stocks Amrut Indian whisky) and an impressive food menu. We then stopped at the Antelope on Eaton Terrace, where Scarheart pitched up having come from a wedding in the Cirencester. We huddled in the back room under a large television screen, before breaking for the last pub on the list, the Fox and Hounds on Passmore Street. Unfortunately there turned out to be a private event on that night. The landlady did run out to us and say that, since we were so well dressed, we could come in and buy drinks at the bar, but it was pretty crowded to we high-tailed it to the Orangery on Pimlico Road—where Manfred managed to find us, arriving with a companion fresh from watching a polo match somewhere.
Many thanks to Mr White organising this boozy bimble and showing us some fine drinking establishments.
Club basks in the majesty of the Met
5th September 2012 Member Lord Finsbury Windermere Compton-Bassett gave us a sterling address on A Brief History of the Metropolitan Police & Special Constabulary—his connection being that he joined the Specials himself not very long ago. "There are nearly 50,000 Police Officers on our streets," he said by way of an introduction, "but how many of us know how they came into being and how their roles and powers have changed over the years to make the Metropolitan Constabulary that we know today? As it's a Force nearly 200 years old, there is plenty to tell." He ended his original introductory notes with, "Bread rolls optional." Those of you familiar with the Woodhouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories will know that the Drones Club knows only one way to respond to the appearance of a police officer—a cry of "Bluebottle!" and a hail of bread rolls. We neededn't have worried about keeping up traditions, as C-B's closing remarks were the cue for an impressive bread-storm. Bakery products aside, we learned some interesting things about the Met, its divisions and ranking (and the fact that there is a move to get beat officers back into dress uniform—something of which I'm sure we all approve), and the distinction between Special Constables (who have all the powers of full time officers) and Community Support Officers (who don't). Many thanks to C-B for putting his neck on the block.
Life of Colonel Blimp offers sobering message
13th August 2012 Our latest Film Night at the Tea House Theatre was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) presented by Member M.C. Tierney. This comedy-drama from Powell and Pressburger was part of a trilogy that included I Know Where I'm Going (1945) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). It starts with a clash between an impetuous young officer in the Home Guard and General Clive Wynne-Candy, who seems the epitome of stuffy, outmoded notions of the "gentlemanly" conduct of a war. Then we are taken back 40 years to see the dashing and headstrong officer "Sugar" Candy. Through a series of relationships with three women and his lifelong friendship with a German officer, we are shown how difficult it is for him to adapt his sense of military honour to modern notions of "total war". This satire on aspects of Britishness was more than just a comedy—the dark message was that if the British did not embrace the need to win by any means necessary, then the Nazi menace would obliterate all that they held dear. Churchill apparently was displeased with the sympathetic depiction of a German, Wynne-Candy's friend Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, but he plays an important role—because he knows what it is like to be on the losing side of a world war, which is not some game in which everyone can just return to old lives and old relationships as soon as hostilities are over, and because he has first-hand experience of the effects of Nazism, having been rejected by his own children when they joined the Party. Michael Powell also pointed out that it was "a 100% British film, but it's photographed by a Frenchman, it's written by a Hungarian, the musical score is by a German Jew, the director was English, the man who did the costumes was a Czech". At other times he has also pointed out that the designer was German, and the leads were Austrian, Scottish and Welsh. Perhaps he felt that in those times it needed non-English, especially Continental Europeans, to make the English realise just what was at stake.
Many thanks as ever to Harry and Grace for allowing us to use their venue, and to Mr Tierney for his suggestion and opening address, which will appear in essay form in the September newsletter.
Club swoons at polar hero's exploits
2nd August 2012 Given how empty London has become since Boris warned us all to stay away during the Olympics, it was heartwarming to have such a throng turn up for Dorian Loveday's lecture on "The Irish Giant: Tom Crean, Greatest Polar Explorer of Them All, with spectators lining the corridor, straining to hear Dorian's words. Most of us have probably never heard of Crean, but the unassuming Irishman served on expeditions with both Scott and Shackleton—the first time largely by accident, as he just happened to be in Christchuch when the Discovery was in port, short of a hand. As a young navy man who had recently been demoted to Able Seaman, he perhaps saw volunteering a way to advance his career. His toughness, optimism and mental fortitude proved invaluable, and Scott was quick to choose him for his second attempt on the Pole—in which Scott perished and Crean made an epic 18-hour solo trek to save his remaining comrades. Shackleton chose Crean for his planned Trans-Antarctic expedition, and when the Endurance sank Crean was one of the six who made the perilous sea voyage to South Georgia, in an open boat in the polar winter, then the treacherous crossing of the island on foot (something no one has been able to repeat with the speed in which they did it). He survived all of this and even (unlike some of the team) survived the Great War upon his return, and went on to a quiet life running a pub, where he was modest about his achievedments, for which he won three Polar Medals.
Chap Olympiad expands to fills two days
8th July 2012 This month saw the eighth annual Chap Olympiad, a celebration of the indolence, caddishness and debonair élan that characterises readers
of the The Chap magazine, the organiser of the event. Attendees are invited to participate in Chappish contests, such as the Martini Relay (in which each team constructs a Martini cocktail in stages), Bounders (in which a line of men approach a line of women and attempt to say or do something roguish, the winner being the first to get a slap in the face), or the 10 Yard Saunter (in which the winner is the last person to cross the finishing line). Needless to say, competitiveness is frowned upon and creative cheating positively encouraged. In many cases, even the stewards and stalwart MC Tristan Langlois admit they don’t know what the rules are.
The venue was again Bedford Square Gardens, but this year for the first time the event spanned two days, Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th, with many events occurring on just one day or the other, and separate opening ceremonies and winners’ award presentations for each day. Unsurprisingly, Saturday proved a lot more popular, reaching its 900 or 1000 capacity ahead of time—which actually gave the Sunday a strangely relaxed feeling, akin to the old days (before corporate partner Bourne & Hollingsworth got involved) when it was unticketed and more do-it-yourself. Having two days also spread the risk as far as the weather was concerned—and those who were there last year will remember just how torrential was the rain that time. In fact we were relatively lucky this time, with scarcely any rain falling on Saturday at all; Sunday morning bode ill, with heavy rain right up till about 1pm, but the skies cleared and more or less stayed that way until the closing ceremony was safely over—at which point it bucketed down again.
As is traditional, new events were added to the canon this, time—Swooning (a kind of antithesis to Bounders), Butler Baiting (a name that has occurred before, but this year seemed to involve piggy-back riding, perhaps borrowed from the Steeplechase which was absent this time, somehow combined with ironing), a Briefcase Phalanx game which was basically British Bulldogs with briefcases, and Synchronised Slippages, a game involving a paddling pool, of which no one really understood the object.
Lessons had been learned from last time and much of the seating was under canvas. We brought the trusty NSC gazebo, though on the Sunday it was co-opted as a first aid post by Atter’s mysterious nurses who raced on to the field at regular intervals and administered gin to contestants who looked like their blood alcohol levels were critically low. As usual B&H were stopping and searching guests for booze on the way in—there is a certain amount of resentment among those who remember the free-form days when people brought their own—but it seemed that more or less everyone had managed to smuggle in a hipflask.
I’m pleased to report that the NSC did well, taking Gold on both days (Ed Marlowe on Saturday and Craigoh on Sunday) plus bronze medals for Miss Minna and Andy Hill. Commiserations to Farhan, who was tactically aiming to a silver, to complete his set—there’s always next year…
You can see many more photos of the event at our Flickr page.
Essex examines strange life of über-snob MP
4th July 2012 The Earl of Essex came to talk to us about Sir Henry "Chips" Channon, a mercurial figure of the early 20th century who, though American born, rejected US values and embraced the creed of wealth, rank and privilege that he found in London society. He married well (into the Guinness dynasty) and was a long-serving MP though he never achieved high office owing to a tendency to back the wrong team—first Edward VIII shortly before his forced abdication and then Chamberlain's Nazi appeasement policy. Nevertheless he was clearly popular and skilled at making useful connections. His most interesting claim to fame is his detailed diaries, though he stipulated in his will that they not be published until a certain time after his death—which is coming up in a few years time. Apparently many from the era who might feature in them turned white when they discovered the journals existed…
Your chance to save a vintage cinema
26th June 2012 If you live in Walthamstow you will probably know of the EMD Cinema, but even if you don't you can play your part in averting its demise. A public entertainment palace has been on that spot since 1887 when the Victoria Hall was built. In addition to hosting dances, concerts, plays and meetings, it was also the site of one of the first public film screenings in 1896. From 1907 it was converted for full time cinema use and in 1930 it was bought by Granada moguls Sidney and Cecil Bernstein who made it their flagship new "super cinema". The interior was inspired by the Alhambra, with moorish arches and grille work in the auditorium. It had a built-in Christie organ and, being designed for stage performances too, it played host to many famous artists including Count Basie, the Beatles and the Who. It has changed hands, and names, many times before being the EMD, owned by businessman Mohan Sharma. Now, however, it has been bought by the Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who want to convert it to religious use.
The cinema has its own support group, the McGuffin Society (named after the concept of a "McGuffin" coined by Alfred Hitchcock, who used to come to the cinema as a child and became a friend of Sidney Bernstein), who campaigned when Odeon, who sold the place to Sharma, included a clause prohibiting the screening of English-language films—the society felt that the venue should remain as somewhere accessible to the whole community. Now for the same reason (it is the only venue of its kind in the borough) the McGuffin Society are campaigning against the conversion of the site. Waltham Forest Council rejected the UCKG's first proposal, but must now consider a new one, which claims that film screenings will continue alongside the religious use. However, at another UCKG site, the Finsbury Park Rainbow, the same claim was made—and there only two films have been screened in 13 years. Everyone is encouraged to write to the council and voice their objections—but the deadline is Saturday 7th July.
"Every written objection counts," say the McGuffin Society. "The planning officers will consider each one as part of their deliberations and those received from local residents carry particular weight. It is also vital that residents keep up the pressure and continue to voice their support for the EMD – if significantly fewer objections are sent than on previous occasions, UCKG will inevitably claim the new scheme has won the support of local people and should be allowed to proceed."
Objections can be sent via post (to Development Management, Sycamore House, Town Hall Complex, Forest Road, London E17 4JS) or email (to dmconsultations@
walthamforest.gov.uk)—but be sure to quote reference numbers 2012/0764 and 0765/LB. More here.
"It's heartbreaking to hear such a beautiful, important historical building and centre of entertainment is being lost to the local community. I fully support the campaign to keep it open and provide film, music and the arts for generations to come." —Sir Mick Jagger
Never Mind the Jubilee…It's the NSC summer party!
16th June 2012 For our summer party this time we couldn't ignore the fact that our Queen had been on the throne for 60 years this month; but we also acknowledged that not everyone in the Club is a royalist, so our theme was broadly "Jubilee", interpretable in whatever way people chose. Some came as monarchs themselves, some simply in patriotic colours, while others evoked the punk spirit of 1977, the year of the Silver Jubilee.
Our games included, for the monarchists, Who's Queen? in which Rachel Downer (who reminds many of Queenie in Blackadder) sat on her throne and contestants had to lob an inflatable crown, quoits-style, on to her head. What many failed to realise was that this was an exercise as much in garnering royal patronage as dexterity, and if you complimented Her Majesty then she might be inclined to try and help you out…) For anarchists we had Pin the Safety Pin on the Queen, in which blindfolded contestants were given three safety pins and invited to push them into an image of HMQEII, in the style of the Sex Pistols' cover imagery. Marks were awarded for plausible piercings. And for Bolsheviks we had the Shoot the Romanovs in a Basement game, in which a set of Russian dolls, with the faces of Tsar Alexander and his family stuck on to them, were set up as targets in a mock-up of the basement in Ekateringberg, and contestants used the NSC ancestral foam dart gun to try and knock as many over in two shots as they could. (The fact that the darts are now so knackered that their fins point in random directions made the task all the more unpredictable.)
Further entertainment came from Club Member Niall Spooner-Harvey reading a specially penned jubilee poem, and the tweedpunk musical combo Lobby Lud and the Luddites, the frontman of which is also a Club Member. The evening concluded with the traditional Grand Raffle, in which most people went home with something, whether a book or DVD connected with royalty or a vintage souvenir from the Queen'scoronation, the 1937 coronation of George VI or even the 1935 silver jubilee of George V. We also had a bottleof The King's Ginger, a liqueur concocted by Berry Bros. & Rudd specially for Edward VII, and a£100 voucher from Kettner's, the Soho restaurant where Edward VII used to meet his mistress Lillie Langtry. Many thanks to Members Grace and Harry, owners of the venue, the Tea House Theatre, for letting us use it.
Club swoons at strongman's physique
6th June 2012 Mr David Waller, who previously addressed us on the subject of Gertrude Tennant, returned for our June Club Night to talk about the subject of his latest book, Eugen Sandow, a Victorian music hall strongman and fitness guru, whose physique was considered anatomically perfect. Just as Mr Waller's previous book was sparked by the discovery, within his family, of a chest of letters, so too his interest in Sandow derives from the fact that the great man was Mr Waller's great uncle. From humble Prussian origins Sandow trained himself up as a gymnast before coming to London and dramatically announcing himself by taking up the standing challenge of two charlatan stage strongmen. He became an overnight success. But in addition to feats of strength on the stage—touring the British Empire and North America—he offered physical training using his own exercise system, he sold food supplements and exercise equipment, and was clearly a canny businessman well aware of the value of a personal brand. He was a friend to Edward VII and Professor of Physical Culture to George V. But when the First World War came, Sandow's Germanic origins deeply dented his standing with the public. Yet even this was not enough to explain his rapid fall from grace. When he died in his fifties, he ended up in an unmarked pauper's grave, with virtually no one at the funeral and disowned by his family. In the past there have been suggestions of homosexual scandal or that he died from syphilis, but Mr Waller has been unable to find any evidence to support this, so the nature of Sandow's end remains a mystery. Mr Waller's book The Perfect Man: The Muscular Life and Times of Eugen Sandow, Victorian Strongman is published by Victorian Secrets.
Ensign Polyethyl attempts marathon march for charity
3rd May 2012 This spring, to raise vital money for the Coming Home campaign, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and the Honourable Artillery Company will be joining forces on the Ypres March. On 18th–20th May 2012, four members of the FANY—including our own Ensign Polyethyl—and four from the HAC will march 100km around the Ypres Salient, taking three days to complete the route alongside military and civilian teams from across the world.
Sponsorship raised will be split between the three charities, half going to Coming Home, the charity campaign to provide specially adapted and appropriate housing for the hundreds of injured Service personnel in need of rebuilding their lives. A quarter will go to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, whose members give their time freely to support both civil and military authorities within the UK, on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the City of London Police Casualty Bureau in times of major emergencies. The last quarter of the money raised will go to the Honourable Artillery Company Benevolent Fund, which helps needy members of a regiment that trains and equips soldiers as surveillance and target acquisition specialists, with skills in covert intelligence gathering, communications and logistics.
By marching a route around Ypres, a town which has dedicated itself to peace and remembrance, the FANY and HAC are joining together to support Coming Home’s crucial work. To find out more about Coming Home, the FANY and the HAC, please visit the websites below.
www.coming-home.org.uk Charity No: 1125556
www.fany.org.uk Charity No: 249360
Club stalwart pops the question
3rd May 2012 Captain Coppice, a Club Member since the outset, had some good news to impart today: he and his inamorata Rosie have become engaged, with a view to a wedding in September. I'm sure I speak for all the Club when I wish the two of them every good fortune and happiness.
Club witnesses calvalcade of well-dressed beatniks
3rd May 2012 At our May meeting Mr Sean Longden got our mojos working with a "multimedia" presentations on Popular Music Artistes (1950 to the Present Day): Lessons for the Modern English Gentleman.
The lecture examined those individuals in popular music who have ignored the fashions of "youth culture", instead dressing and behaving in a manner that might have gained them entrance to the New Sheridan Club. We encountered mainstream candidates such as The Who and The Jam, who asserted a self-consciously English image, when so many of their compatriots seemed to want to pretend to be American; Haircut 100 who took the preppy look to a ridiculous degree; Sailor, who swung between camp mariner and full-on evening wear; Dave Vanian of The Damned, who started as a well-dressed Vampire and has managed to age well by adjusting his look over years. There was was also a detour into Euro-loonies Laibach who, despite their frankly rather Nazi overtones, deserve credit for resisting Americanisation in the most extraordinary way. Then there are the more obscure outfits such as
1960s US garage band The Scarlet Henchmen who wore cravats, smoked pipes and sang a curious ditty about Crystal Palace.
We finaled on a video by self-consciously English pop-rockers XTC, who have a fondness for an agrarian idyll of country villages (c.f. Love on a Farm Boy's Wages), in this case their 1989 single The Mayor of Simpleton featuring obvious references to The Avengers plus London buses, red telephone boxes, chess, college scarves, umbrellas, fencing and a tricorn hat.
Weather gods smile, river gods frown
21st April 2012 For at least a week before the event, this year's annual Oxford Punting trip, usually held on the nearest Saturday to St George's Day, looked as if it would be rained off. To date we had always been lucky with the weather but this time the forecasts were fairly adamant. Yet once again we received proof that God really does love the NSC: apart from some spitting during the picnic and a light sprinkle as we were preparing to set off back home, the deluge never appeared. However, the heavy rain of the previous days certainly made itself felt, as the river was swollen and the floodgates upstream had been opened, creating a heavy current. The boatyard even advised us not to try punting upriver but some of our party were expecting to meet us at the usual picnic ground, so instead we tried a different route, a smaller branch with less current. It worked, but eventually we did rejoin the main river and from then the going became to so tough that eventually we had to give up and and moor where we were. As it turned out the banks by the rollers (where you have to haul your punt up to a higher section of the river) were under water, making it impossible to get beyond that point. But the picnic spot we found was very agreeable and the wine flowerd. All in all a very enjoyable day out: although there is one other tradition, that each year someone falls in. As we approached the boatyard at the end, so far without incident, we became suspicious; but sure enough (in a scene reminiscent of the Final Destination films) just as we were moving the last punt into place there was a collision that sent the punter (me, as it happened) flying into the drink. Once again the river gods had extracted their pound of flesh.
WWII propaganda flick rouses at Film Night
16th April 2012 The movie this time came courtesy of Isabel Spooner-Harvey and Fruity Hatfield-Peverel, both fans of the film who bonded over one particular scene where a Frenchman describes his perfect meal. The film concerns a US tank crew in the Libyan desert. Cut off and largely surrounded they make a dash to safety, hoping to rejoin their unit. On the way they pick up a group of Brits (conveniently representing all parts of the British Isles, though with rather unconvincing accents), a Frenchman, a Sudanese with an Italian prisoner and then a German pilot whom they have shot down. Low on water they head for a well, only to discover it is virtually dry. While they wait for their canteens to fill with the last drips a German force approaches and they try to bluff that they are a bigger number than they are and also that the well is full, offering water if the Germans lay down their weapons. Needless to say they end up capturing most of the enemy and killing the rest, although all the non-American good guys get killed as well. If the film was meant to persuade the American people that the fight was a good one, it made no bones about the likely cost. Interesting is the characterisation of the enemy: the Germans are villainous aryans, evil to the core, while the Italian is likeable and ends up sacrificing his life to try and help the Allies. He even describes his people as peace-loving and good-natured but somehow misled by Mussolini. Thanks to Isavel and Fruity (especially Isabel—Fruity didn't actually turn up!)
Waveney mourns the noble tram
4th April 2012 At our April meeting the speaker was the Earl of Waveney, addressing us on a topic close to his heart—vintage public transport. This year in fact marks both the 60th anniversary of the last tram to run in London and the 50th anniversary of the last trolleybus, so these were Waveney's subject. London's trams ran on rails along the city's streets, getting their power from overheard electric wires (and discharging into an electrified rail sunk into a conduit). Trolleybuses were free of rails, much like diesel buses, and took power from a pair of overhead wires. At the time electricity was cheaper than diesel and the electric vehicles were also quieter in use and produced no fumes. But the infrastructure had to be installed—it's hard to picture but back then all the routes would have had a spider's web of overhead cables slung from poles. When the Blitz came it also became clear that trams were not very adaptable: damage the rails and they can't run at all. But Britain led the world in this sort of public transport and when the end came huge crowds turned out to wave goodbye. Many ex-London vehicles ended up serving in places like Spain and South Africa. Later this year there will be a unique gathering of all the extant London trams and trolleybuses in the country—see the events page.
Club raised among the gods of the silver screen
26th March 2012 The second of our new Monday evening Film Night screenings took place at the Tea House Theatre, run by Members Harry and Grace Iggulden. This time we finally got to see the episode of A Very British Party that features the New Sheridan Club. The idea behind the series was to look at a range of Brits as they prepared for a big party. This time we met a hippy woman who was dressing as a Panda and auctioning all her worldly goods to raise the money for a ticket to a new life in New Zealand, a sex shop owner organising a fetish party, a coke-addled It Girl who somehow never got round to organising anything at all, a woman trying to set up a beauty pageant in Huddersfield… and the New Sheridan Club. The Voice of Reason. The crew followed Scarheart and filmed at Club Nights, at his palatial residence, at an entirely faked "committee meeting" and at the party itself. Everyone agreed that we came out of it rather well, though perhaps our secret is that it is impossible to lampoon what is already so tongue in cheek. Mind, you I can't help noticing that the month in which it was originally aired turned out to have the lowest acquisition of new Members of any month ever…
Thanks to Harry and Grace for the screening facilities and the supplies of cakes, teas, beers and wines, and to Scarheart for his introductory comments which fooled nobody.
Men in hats lend Club a certain loftiness
7th March 2012 At our March meeting Charles Henry Wolfenbloode, Duke of Tipa, gave us a passionate talk about the top hat, how it is made and how to look after it. Although the exact origins of the style are lost in the mists of time it is likely that it was invented by a Frenchman towards the end of the 18th century. The first man to wear one in England was allegedly a hatter called John Hetheringon who was arrested on the grounds that his outrageous titfer was disturbing the peace. The shell of the hat is made from pieces of calico stiffened with shellac (with extra layers added for more stiffness if the hat is intended to offer protection in an equestrian context) shaped on a wooden hat block. This is then covered with an outer cloth finish, originally beaver fur felt then silk plush. This soft, glossy, downy silk was mostly made in France and the method was lost when the last factory closed in Lyon in the mid-20th century, allegedly when the two brothers who owned it had an argument and one of them wrecked the machine in a fit of pique. Modern top hats are made from fur "melusine" instead. Charles gave us a few tips on maintaining and polishing toppers, and the correct way to fold the opera hat (or "Gibus hat" after the chap who invented it—French again, I'm afraid), which has a collapsible crown made from a sprung metal frame. Members present who owned a topper were invited to wear it, as you can see from the pictures…
Film Night beats the Curse of the Compton-Bassetts
20th February 2012 Our second attempt at Lord Compton-Bassett's film presentation of the BBC drama Beau Brummell: This Charming Man was nearly as doomed as the first—last time we discovered on the day that the venue had closed down without telling us. This time we discovered that C-B's DVD (surreptitiously burned from a download) had become damaged or corrupted in some way and wouldn't play. But the night was saved by Aleksandra who found another online source and downloaded it again. While this was happening we amused ourselves streaming Charlie Chaplain shorts from YouTube. But we eventually got under way. Our venue was the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall, run by Club Members Harry and Grace Iggulden, and Harry had constructed an impressive screen—the most substantial to which we have yet been treated, accompanied by a sophisticated sound system too.
The film concerns Brummell's rise and fall in the favour of the Prince Regent. At first the royal patronage opens the doors to the luxury clothes, trinkets and lifestyle that Brummell craves, but his arrogance and gambling habits were to prove his downfall. When the Prince withdrew his support, Brummell was left at the mercy of bailiffs and he was eventually forced to flee to France where he was to die in poverty of syphilis. C-B followed the film with some thoughts on how accurate a portrayal we had just seen and concluded that, for all his faults, Brummell was a hugely important figure sartorially, inventing a look that took the country by storm and which persists in many ways in the modern suit.
Harry is keen to make this a regular monthly event, and we have a couple of Members already lined up. Dates coming soon…
Club learns of aristocratic ladies' pluck in the Great War
1st February 2012 Bit of a late start at the Club Night in February, thanks to the absence of a vital cable to join the laptop to the projector. After some time spent rattling the shutters of shops in the area, Mrs Downer eventually came to the rescue, pointing out that her office was only ten minutes away, so we went and raided the IT supplies there. By then it was about 9.20 and the natives were restless, but Ensign Polyethyl managed to whip them into a disciplined listening unit in no time with her illustrated address on her own unit, the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). Formed just before the Great War by a Sgt Baker who had a vision of ladies galloping (side-saddle) into battle, administering first aid to fallen troops before tossing the men over the pommels of their saddles and galloping back to safety. Baker was later thrown out for being only a sergeant and fearfully lower class, but the FANY became a reality, driving ambulances through the mud in the war—though initially working mainly with the Belgians, who happily accepted the offer of nursing help while the British Army bristled at the fact that the FANY weren't part of the army at all and wouldn't do what they were told (which would probably have been to go back to Blighty and stop trying to do men's work). In fact the British men would even sabotage the FANY's ambulances. The FANYs were an aristocratic lot: not only were they unpaid but they had to stump up a subscription to be part of it and you had to supply your own ambulance too, which ruled out most social strata. But so plucky were the girls under fire that they eventually won armfuls of medals and even the grudging acceptance of the British Army. Nowadays the FANY, a registered charity, also supports the police in times of national emergency, such as terrorist attacks.
Club makes it on to Colombian television
4th January 2012 At our January Club Night Evadne Raccat gave us a splendid and surprising talk about the little-known collection of wax (and in some cases, plaster, wood, straw and leather) effigies held by Westminster Abbey of some of the more notable people buried there. Sometimes taken as death masks, sometimes sculpted and sometimes dressed expensively in the real person's clothes, these were mostly of monarchs and were intended to keep the image of the monarch—or more importantly of the monarchy—alive while the permanent stone monument was being made. They fell out of fashion, many were damaged, and were consigned to a cupboard, in bits, until being later rediscovered and conserved. The one oddity is that of Nelson—because he is not actually buriedat the abbey. By this stage the effigies were more of a tourist attraction than a religious or social symbol and Westminster wanted one mainly to make up for the humiliation of having Nelson's actual body buried at St Paul's.
Once more we were graced by a film crew, this time from Colombia, sent on a mission to film not just the 2012 Olympics but also some fun and unexpected aspects of London life—so naturally they were drawn to the NSC like a fly to a corpse. They interviewed extensively and even had us recreate a couple of the Chap Olympics events for them…
Club checks Menders is not dead
23rd December 2011 A bunch of us gathered for what has become something of a tradition: meeting up at the Dover Castle public house on the last Friday before Christmas. Lord Mendrick, one of the founding members of our movement (before the NSC even formally existed) nowadays teaches history in Egypt, but returns for Crimbo; so this is our annual opportunity to take his pulse and satisfy ourselves that he has not gone native—unlikely given his fondness for ale. That's Mendrick on the right in the picture, with the Earl of Essex (left), Father Michael Silver and Hartley.
Mole hunt takes place under guise of Christmas party
10th December 2011 The New Sheridan Club's Christmas party, "Tinker, Tailor, Dandy, Spy", this time had a spies and secret agents theme, based on the premise that there was mole lurking at the heart of the Club, feeding our secrets to our enemies. We had a seminar on subterfuge and misdirection by comedy magician Christian Lee, a Berlin Wall Jenga game (with the pieces lovingly decorated with actual Berlin Wall graffiti by Mrs H.) and the traditional shooting game, this time an attempt at shooting a Sean Connery action figure through the hole in a cut-out of the gun barrel image at the beginning of every Bond film—made more difficult by the fact that the cut-out was swinging from side to side.
We also had our usual complimentary Snuff Bar, bathrooms stocked with fine soaps, colognes, pomades and moustache wax, a Lucky Dip filled with glorious and perplexing tat, and the mighty Grand Raffle at the end of the evening…
Club receives solemn and timely warning on the dangers of vice
7th December 2011 Just in case any of our Members might be led by seasonal jollity down the crimson path of lasciviousness, our December meeting was graced by the Right Reverend Septimus Theophilus Dee, former Bishop of Matabeleland, ably assisted by Mr Ronald Jeremiah, the noted Shakespearian actor, who presented Vice and Lewdness in Georgian London: A Cautionary Lecture. We learned just what a festering den of iniquity Georgian London was and focused on the extraordinary publication Harris's List, essentially a guidebook to all the prostitutes of the Covent Garden area, then the epicentre of this particular trade. Jack Harris was the head waiter in one of the coffee houses of the district and he fancied himself Top Pimp to the whole of England. His book both praised the merits of those who impressed him and was blunt about those ladies he considered ugly, wilful, mercenary or frankly diseased. It appeared annually for some 38 years (long after Harris's own death, thanks to wily publishers) until the forces of rectitude clamped down and imprisoned those responsible for its publication. Harris himself was canny enough to know that such a volume would be out of date as soon as it hit the shelves so its existence wouldn't damage his own value as a pander with a little black book.
Global Circumnavigator Tells Bicycling Tales
2nd November 2011 We don't normally allow road vehicles into Club meetings but at our November Club Night our speaker was Mr Joff Summerfield, a chap who has pedalled all the way round the world on a pennyfarthing bicycle which he made himself. Greenwich man Joff spent two and a half years on the trip, camping where he could and frequently relying on the kindness of strangers, who were unsurprisingly fascinated by his mode of transport. (The only low point was on the roads of New Zealand where for some reason truckers take delight in trying to knock cyclists off the road—eventually succeeding in Joff's case, leaving him by the roadside with a broken wrist.) Best of all, he completed the whole 22,000-mile journey wearing a pith helmet. For a taste of his impact on the typical American, see here:
Club Celebrates Football in its More Gentlemanly Days
5th October 2011 The October meeting was the Club's 5th birthday! Yes, October 2006 was our very first get-together, when the Padre talked to us about bull fighting. This time, Miss Minna talked to us about her great grandfather who was a professional footballer, mostly for West Ham. She showed us how back then everything was a bit more relaxed and dandified—goalies and linesmen smoked during the match, the manager was a drunkard, the strip was infinitely more stylish than today and mass punch-ups on the pitch were not unusual. The team was nicknamed The Irons because they were originally the Thames Ironworks team, created to give the men something to occupy themselves to distract them from the evils of drink (which obviously didn't work in the case of manager Syd King). West Ham even pioneered floodlit matches—as a way of squeezing games into the evenings, so as not to interfere with work. They developed a healthy rivalry with Millwall—also an Ironworks team but one famous for strike-breaking, which only fuelled the rivalry. Their finest hour must surely be their "giant-killing" match against Manchester United in 1911, which they won 2-1. As rumours spread through the area that the Irons were actually winning, tools were dropped and skirts were hitched, as some 27,000 local people tried to cram into a stadium that held 12,000.