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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) and Year 12 (October 2017 to September 2018)

6 To see many splendid daguerreotypes documenting the Club’s antics, click here.

View previous year

 

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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