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) and Year Eight (October 2013 to September 2014)
Weather God smiles but River God rages
23rd April 2016 Every year by tradition we have a punting picnic in Oxford on the Saturday nearest to St George's Day—which this year fell on a Saturday, making it easy to fix the date. As usual we gathered at the Turf Tavern for a sharpener before trolling down to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and embarking on a flotilla of five punts. It's always touch-and-go with the weather—we have had glorious sunshine and torrential downpour—but this year we were fairly lucky. Although it got a bit chilly towards the end of our picnic it didn't rain. However, the rain of recent days was having its effect and the current was strong: as we approached the rollers, where we would haul the punts up to the higher level of the river, a weir emptying into our level was so strong it was almost impossible to punt past without getting pushed to the side. And once we did claw our way past, we found that the rollers themselves looked impassable; the quayside was submerged and water was cascading down the rollers themselves, so it would have been impossible to stand on the side and pull the boats without getting soaked. So we decided to tie up where we were and have the picnic right there.
Another tradition is that every year (with the notable exception of last year) someone falls in, usually on the drunken return journey. This year the River Gods chose Chico St Martin (who in fact was also the victim about three years ago: see http://bit.ly/1qLeS6H, who was swept overboard by an overhanging tree as he was paddling from the front. Nowadays there is always a sweepstake on who will succumb: we are not sure who held the winning ticket but no one claimed their prize, so the money was given to Chico to replace his jumper, which was sadly torn during the carnage. After returning the boats we usually head back to the Turf, but the current landlord had been rather a pain when we were there in the morning so we repaired to the Bear, a tiny, ancient watering hole with a handsome collection of club and regimental ties, contributed by visitors from all over the world—though sadly they are out of space so we were not able to add the NSC tie to their collection.
Comics cut the mustard
6th April 2016 For this month's meeting our speaker was club member Darcy Sullivan (at what was his first ever attendance at a Club Night, I believe), talking to us about "Comics for Chaps". While on the Continent there is a long tradition of comic strips (Bande desinée or "BD") and graphic novels aimed at an adult audience, the UK is still a culture where it is considered a format for children—despite the fact that some of the most famous and respected writers and artists within the form hail from these shores (and frequently have to look to overseas publishing to achieve any success). Darcy took us through some of the most notable examples of the genre, organised by category such as "Adventure Chaps", or graphic adaptations of classic literature, for example.
Club treated to display of indoor punting
2nd March 2016 At the March meeting our speaker was Robert Beckwith, giving what was actually his first Turn, despite being a founder Member of the NSC and the Old Sheridan Club that preceded it. His subject was punting, one that is close to his heart, and something he is particularly good at, as anyone who has been lucky enough to be in his boat at the Club punting picnics will know. The term "punt" was originally pretty general but it came to mean a square-ended, flat-bottomed boat propelled with a pole that is pushed against the river bed. Originally they were large vessels for cargo or platforms for fishing or shooting birds and the punter would plant the pole then walk the boat past it. With the invention of the "saloon punt" as a leisure craft, which seats in the middle for passengers, the punter was less able to move about the vessel, so the technique of "pricking" was developed: the punter stands still and moves the pole. Robert treated us to a demonstration of how the punter handles the pole, pushing against it, pulling it out of the water, planting it ahead and pushing off it again, steering by pushing slightly outward or inwards with each stroke. He even showed us his famous one-handed punting technique, which enables the punter to propel the boat while nursing a drink in his other hand. Modern punts have a raised deck area at one end. This was originally the stern, but when punting for pleasure became popular, passengers would naturally sit themselves at that end, so they could rest against the deck; so the punter positioned himself at the other end and reversed the direction of the boat. This is still the tradition at Oxford. Punting came later to Cambridge, and by that time saloon punts were fully developed with comfortable seating in the middle, so punters continued to treat the stern as the stern and punted from that end. To this day in Cambridge they still punt from the opposite end from Oxford, a matter of no little pride and rivalry. In fact the most efficient place to stand is midway along the boat, and this is still where competition punters place themselves. Many thanks to Robert, whose talk comes conveniently shortly before our annual St George's Day punt trip, on 23rd April.
Leather jackets flaunted at Club meeting
3rd February 2016 Our speaker was Ed Marlowe, with an address entitled "Leather Chaps", or more accurately "Leather, chaps", making the case for the leather jacket as a wardrobe essential. This may have raised a few eyebrows, perhaps as the leather jacket is often lumped with jeans as the garment of choice for the anti-smart. But Ed took us through the history, how these items were developed as warm, wind-proof protection for dashing aviators and motorcyclists, and how they were partnered with collars and ties like any other kind of suit or sports jacket. He showed us the various styles that were developed by both sides in both wars—although the Germans did not for a long time issue them to their own airmen. WWI German airmen tended to be aristocrats who simply bought civilian jackets that took their fancy; by WWII the RAF had the cheap but effective sheepskin Irvin jacket, and Luftwaffe pilots took to wearing their own Irvins, bartered from capture Allied pilots. A number of members of the audience wore leather jackets in support of the theme, including Mr Eyre who wore an entire outfit of black leather, including a leather shirt and tie. Many thanks to Ed for his stimulating and expertly delivered address.
Club applauds grit and heroism of The White Mouse
6th January 2106 At our January meeting Ensign Polyethyl told us all about Nancy Wake, whom she actually met. New Zealand born, Nancy travelled the world in the 1930s and worked as a journalist before marrying a Frenchman. When the Nazis invaded she became a courier for the resistance, earning herself a 5-million-franc bounty on her head and the Gestapo nickname of The White Mouse for her ability to escape capture. Fleeing to Britain she joined SOE and was later parachuted back into France to help put together a 7,000-strong resistance force that harried the Germans for the rest of the war, inflicting 1,400 casualties with only 100 losses. Described as a "bombshell" often able to flirt her way out of trouble, Nancy was also a crack shot, happy to execute traitors, and once killed a German sentry with her bare hands.
Chairman gets near to the knuckle with Africa travelogue
3rd December 2015The Chairman delivered a broadside entitled There Won't Be Snow in Africa this Christmas, the 4th Lady Malvern Memorial Lecture. (Lady Malvern had habit of writing travel guides to countries in which she had spent but a fortnight, and this gives you an idea of the tone of the lectures.) Our speaker attempted to give a rounded introduction to the continent, taking in such key points as whether they do actually drink Um Bongo in the Congo (in at least one place they do), what to look for in a dictator and whether there will in fact be snow in Africa this Christmas (yes, though possibly only on Mt Kilimanjaro).
Club gets curiouser and curiouser about Wonderland anniversary
28th November 2015 Occurring slightly earlier than usual this year, on 28th November, the New Sheridan Club's Christmas party this year took its theme from the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll's classic of Victorian nonsense literature Alice in Wonderland. In addition to the expected consignment of Mad Hatters, White Rabbits and Alices, we also had a Walrus and a Carpenter, some louche, loose takes on the hookah-smoking caterpillar, and some amazing hats and headpieces with trippy Alice-inspired decoration. Our games included the traditional shooting game, this time attempting to shoot the hat off the Mad Hatter (gamely played by Action Man as usual) without actually hitting the hatter himself—something that at first seemed almost impossible, but in the tie-breaker between players who had managed it, Stuart Mitchell succeeded in doing it three times in a row! Umbrella Croquet involved using an umbrella to knock a hedgehog-ball through hoops made from giant playing cards. And the Drink Me game required participants to taste the contents of a mystery miniature bottle and guess the ingredients of the cocktail contained therein. In addition we had our traditional Christmas bran tub, filled with glorious tat and the odd genuinely desirable item. And finally, of course, our Grand Raffle, with a groaning table full of prizes. Like the party itself, the Raffle is free to enter for Members of the Club, including anyone wise enough to sign up on the night. Many thanks to all who came to the party and to Hal and Grace for letting us use the appropriately named Tea House Theatre as a venue. A full set of pictures may be found here.
Members discover boozers around Smithfield
19th November 2015 Club Member and CAMRA stalwart Ian White took us on the annual NSC Pub Crawl, this time focusing on pubs around Smithfield meat market. Began at the Old Mitre, an extremely hard-to-find old watering hole, then to the Viaduct Tavern, on Holborn Viaduct, with an extraordinarily ornate interior complete with cut glass panels, Pre-Raphaelite paintings and eerily lit cherubs. Nowadays it also has an elaborate gin menu, including G&T variations featuring their own strange infusions. Then into Smithfield itself, to the Bishop's Finger, named after the nickname for a finger-shaped style of Kentish road sign. After pausing to take some photos by the vintage telephone boxes in the market, we moved on to the Hand and Shears, a more intimate, authentic old boozer, before finishing at the Art Nouveau grandeur of the Fox and Anchor (where Craigoh was delighted to discover some New Zealand beer). Many thanks to Ian for organising this jaunt.
Life of Chap-of-all-trades revealed
4th November 2015 Our guest speaker was Derek Collett, who addressed us on the life of Nigel Balchin, about whom he has just written a biography. Balchin was a mercurial figure who studied natural sciences then worked as an early industrial psychologist, an experience he then used to write satirical books about how businesses are run. He worked in marketing and invented Black Magic chocolate (and possibly Aero and Kit Kat too). During the war he worked first for the Ministry of Food then as a military scientific advisor. He reached the rank of Brigadier (unusual for someone so young) but felt constantly frustrated that scientists were not paid more attention to. On the side he was also writing novels, and it is this for which he is probably best known. He also worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and was a county level cricketer. Yet problems in his love life and eventual divorce led to alcoholism, as with so many writers. Many thanks to Derek, whose book you can buy on Amazon.
Members directed to cash in their attics
7th October 2015 It was gratifying to have a bustlingly good turn-out for the meeting that marked the ninth anniversary of the New Sheridan Club, including seldom-seen coves like David Saxby. Our speaker was Harrison Goldman, who introduced us to his passion for collecting art and antiques. He took us through the typical house, room by room, advising on items one might look out for, what types of antiques are hot at the moment and which might be not selling so buoyantly in the current market. He told us how he grew up in a household where only the newest was desired and how, through his grandmother, he developed a contrary taste for the old, starting his collection when still a boy. He's only 21 now, but talks impressively confidently about his subject, and offered to evaluate items brought in my members of the audience. Many thanks to Harrison for his time.
Club haunted by eerie music
2nd September 2015 Our speaker this time was Susi O'Neill, a.k.a. Ms Hypnotique, who is officially Britain's third greatest exponent of the theremin, the world's first electronic, instrument invented by Leon Theremin in 1920. It is played by moving one's hands within an invisible field around two aerials and it produces eerie keening noises that many will be familiar with from the soundtracks to certain 1930s and 1950s horror and sci-fi movies, such as Spellbound and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Theremin himself was championed by Lenin, who saw this futuristic instrument as a symbol of Soviet progressiveness, and Theremin was allowed to tour the US promoting it. His lifestyle of hanging out with avant-garde musicians and wealthy socialites must eventually have ruffled some feathers, as he was suddenly recalled to the east, where Stalin packed him off to a gulag; he managed to escape that in the end when he used his natural ingenuity to come up with an improved system for organising the trains in the gulag, and the KGB took an interest in him. (In fact he had invented a number of other things, like an alarm system and a wireless covert listening device.) Ms Hypnotique also regaled us with tales of the interesting places her theremin has taken her, including the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square (where she discovered there was no power supply—without which a theremin can make no sound) and Britain's Got Talent. Many thanks to Susi for struggling in with the instrument and associated equipment.
Hirsutes seize the Tashes trophy
15th August 2015 The Tashes, New Sheridan Club's annual cricket match played between those with facial hair (the Hirsute Gentlemen) and those without (the Clean-Shaven Players) took place on 15th August. Owing to a limited number of players being able to make it in the end, the game was played with single batsmen and even so play was over by about 3pm. However, a good time was had by all. The trophy went to the Hirsutes and Man of the Match was Torquil Arbutnot for his devastating bowling. A full match report will appear in the September edition of the newsletter.
Club briefed on novel fortification
5th August 2015 Our lecture came this time against the odds—rescheduled from April it happened to fall on the day of the tube strike. However, the NSC shifts for no man and we actually had quite a respectable audience struggle in. Our speaker was Simon Pile, telling us about Fort Burgoyne, a Napoleonic fort that he looks after in his role at the Land Trust. Built to plug a perceived gap in the defences, guarding the rear of Dover Castle, the fortification is massive in scale and innovative in design, offering a low profile that rendered it hard to damage with artillery. The assumption was that an enemy would thus send in ground troops who would be trapped in the dry moat and mown down by hidden guns. Of course, it was never tested, and it switched armament and uses in the First and Second World Wars, before eventually being used just for storage. As restoration work continues buried munitions are constantly being uncovered, but the ultimate aim is for it to earn its keep—whether as a museum, hotel, conference centre, etc. Simon is hoping to organise a trip for Club Members to go an visit the site.
NSC sweeps the board at the Chap Olympics
11th July 2015 At the 11th Chap Olympiad, held once again at Bedford Square Gardens in London, Members of the New Sheridan Club (for the first time ever, I believe) tooks Gold, Silver and Bronze Cravats (respectively Ed Marlowe, Artemis Scarheart and Dawn Parsonage-Kent, pictured left). Organised by The Chap magazine, the event is a big social occasion attracting some 1,500 spectators. The games themselves are tongue-in-cheek Chappist contests in which effort and competitiveness are frowned upon and dapperness, élan and creative cheating are applauded. Following the opening ceremony, with the lighting of the Olympic Pipe, which is passed among contestants on the stage, the games this time were: Tea Pursuit, in which pairs of contestants, one with a teapot and one with a teacup, must pour tea while both are mounted on moving bicycles; Pyramid of Dextrous Dandies, in which groups of players form a human pyramind while simultaneously attempting to pour a Champagne fountain; Beach Volleybowler, where teams toss a bowler hat over a net and attempt to land it on an opponent's head; Well Dressage, where contestants parade around the stage on a hobby horse, competing with each other in the realm of elegance and panâche; Umbrella Jousting, which does what it says on the tin, which contestant pedalling bicycles towards each other and jousting with umbrellas—it usually ends in hand-to-hand combat on foot; Freefrom Bread Basketball, in which players lob bread rolls and attempt to land them in a bread-basket, which an opposing team of gluten intolerants try to stop them; Aunt Avoidance, in which players must get from one end of the track to the other while strategically placed aunts try to stop them with absurd requests; the Corby Trouser Press Challenge, in which athletes were expected to change into six consecutive pairs of trousers placed in Corby Trouser Presses; and Not Playing Tennis, in which two players are given tennis rackets, balls and nets and must studiously not play tennis. Half-time entertainment came from cabaret scamp Champagne Charlie. In the early days the Olympics was simply a coming together on like-minded souls, bringing food and drink and generally making a day of it, but for some years now it has been a ticketed event with a pay bar; minions of the operators, Bourne and Hollingsworth, are posted at the gates to confiscate any booze. Needless to say, NSC Members take great pride in inventively smuggling alcohol in, hollowing out books, loaves of bread or event a melon to conceal a bottle inside. This year hiding places included a lettuce and a baby's bottle. As is traditional, NSC types repaired to the Jack Horner pub for more libations. Congratulations to all who won prizes, successfully smuggled, or simply got royally trolleyed.
Club treated to sultry evening of sex and violence
1st July 2015 Our July meeting fell on what was apparently the hottest day of the year—heat is always a problem for those who like to dress properly, and it was perhaps no surprise that we were a bit thin on the ground. Our speaker this time was Lord Rupert who was fizzing with excitement about this passion for VHS, the video tape format that dominated the market in the 1980s. He cheerfully admits that the picture quality is not very good—unlike the rival tape format Betamax. Yet VHS won the battle to become the standard because the consortium behind it was happy to allow it to be used for all manner of entertainment, whereas Betamax's backers would not allow pornography to sully their format. Rupert pointed out that the porn industry is as big as Hollywood, so that was a clincher. Much of Rupert's fondness for the format derives from its game-changing role in democratising video—in a pre-internet age, this was the first time that moving images could be disseminated without official control. Moreover, people could use the format to make their own video content. It beckoned in the age of the "video nasty", low-budget, artistically barren horror flicks with levels of graphic violence that would never have got past the BBFC for the big screen. Not only violence but sex and Nazis were also good elements to throw into the mix. In the hysterical media backlash many films were labelled as "video nasties" which were no such thing. Even now a number of flicks remain banned, while others are so rare that they command £10,000 on the open market. Rupert waved one tape that he said was worth £2,500.
Club sinks to new depths for summer party
6th June 2015 Our summer party, 20,000 Cocktails Under the Sea, this time celebrated all things nautical. The venue was the wooden-decked cellar bar of the (aptly named) Water Poet pub in Spitalfields, which we adapted with portholes on the walls, blue-green lighting and a projection of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on one wall. We had live music from the Bohemianauts, playing grog-sozzled, accordion-driven shanties, dark demi-monde ditties and wild gypsy anthems. In addition to our usual Snuff Bar and world-famous Grand Raffle, we had a competition to design a non-Euclidian undersea city to house dread Cthulhu in his slumber of aeons, a game to shoot Lord Nelson (ably played by Action Man) with a foam dart gun, and a whale-hunting game, where players must stand on one leg (Ahab only had one) and catch a small white whale with the hook on the end of an unwieldily long harpoon. Many thanks to all who came, and to Greg Taylor, David Bridgman-Smith and Lorna Mower-Johnson for donating raffle prizes.
Fact and fiction entwine around notorious shipwreck
3rd June 2015 Our speaker was Member Greg Taylor, talking on the subject of the sinking of the Lusitania 100 years ago last month.It is a subject that has always fascinated Greg—so much so that he spend years researching the subject to write a book about it. Although a work of fiction, Lusitania R.E.X. uses as much fact as Greg could unearth, so rich is that period with intersecting narratives of the rich, famous and influential, combined with imagined events that attempt to explain some of the more mysterious facts about the tragedy. The Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine, despite being an unarmed civilian liner. The Germans claimed she was carrying war supplies, which was almost certainly true, although even this makes it hard to explain the mysterious second explosion that ripped the ship apart causing her to sink in minutes, taking almost 1,200 men, women and children with her. Some of these were US citizens, and the act precipitated America into the war. The German embassy had actually placed newspaper adverts advising Americans not to travel into the war zone by ship; moreover, the conventions of the time required that warships should warn vessels before attacking and allow passengers to evacuate before capturing or sinking the vessels, yet the Admiralty had let slip their standing orders to shipping to ignore such warnings and to ram enemy submarines instead, which admittedly left the U-boats with little choice but to torpedo ships without warning. Greg's tale includes Alfred Vanderbilt, who was on board and inexplicably gave away his life jacket, plus German spies, Irish nationalists and a secret doomsday weapon… Many thanks to him for his talk, and for donating a signed copy of his book as a prize in the Grand Raffle at our summer party the following Saturday.
Question of "What if?" hovers over Club meeting
6th May 2015 Our speaker was the Earl of Essex (quite possibly the holder of the record for the most addresses to the Club), talking this time about Lord Halifax, the aristocratic politician who could have been Prime Minister instead of Churchill. Essex gave us a detailed portrait of Halifax's life and times (even referring to him as Lord Irwin when discussing the period from 1925 to 1934 when this was his title), how he enjoyed hunting and shooting, despite having been born with no left hand and how his early uninspiring political career gave way to the period for which he is most remembered: his time as Foreign Secretary taking a pro-appeasement stance and having endless meetings with Hitler. When confidence in Chamberlain as PM dropped, the job was offered to Halifax, who turned it down, begging the question of how the war might have turned out if Halifax had accepted—when German forces surrounded British troops at Dunkirk, Halifax tried to persuade Churchill to negotiate a peace settlement… Many thanks to Essex for his talk.
Surreal dandy flick bemuses viewers
8th April 2015 Our Film Night presentation for April came from Darcy Sullivan, offering The Final Programme, a somewhat psychedelic movie from 1973. It is based on a novel by Michael Moorcock (the first of the Jerry Cornelius series), though he washed his hands of it, which is a good indicator of how troubled the production was. The plot concerns a future in which war and famine rage and a group of scientists seek to create an immortal self-replicating human by splicing together man and woman using a super computer. But they need the help of playboy scientist Cornelius, as he has just inherited the formula from its creator, his father. Cornelius agrees (though his motivations aren't clear), but his main interest is in defeating his psychopathic, drug-addled brother who is holed up in the family mansion experimenting on their sister, whom Jerry is keen to save. Jerry must negotiate the defences of the house and engage in shoot-outs with his brother using guns firing needles; for some reason the scientists come with him, bumbling into booby traps and wandering around in a Maurice Agis "Dreamspace" style environment (of its time, I suppose). Clearly there was some attempt to have token action (pleasantly undermined by a final fight where Jerry calls out to chief scientist Miss Brunner, "I'm losing!"), but in his introduction Darcy himself ilustrated the studio's discomfort by comparing the UK poster and the one for the US (pictured)—where the film was titled The Last Days of Man on Earth and desperately pitched as a Planet of the Apes style adventure. For all its confusion, however, the film is an engaging romp with moments of camp, stylish strangeness that only flicks from that era can muster.
Club makes its own entertainment again
1st April 2015 At our April meeting we were hoping to hear about Fort Burgoyne, an 1860s coastal fortification, from its minder Simon Pile, but sadly he had to pull out at the last minute. Our thanks go to Dr Tim Eyre for his off-the-cuff talk on Eritrea and also to Paul Gunn who apparently gave a bow-tie-tying masterclass (sadly all over before I got there, hence no photos). Scarheart allegedly tied a bow tie for the first time in his life… Scarheart himself also organised some parlour games, including one called Reverend Crawley's Game (pictured), in which contestants stand in a circle and hold hands, but not with anyone directly next to them. Then they must untangle the knot without anyone letting go of anyone else's hand. Sheridanites are nothing if not resourceful.
Transvestites take the Club by storm
4th March 2015 At our March Club Night the speaker was Eugenie Rhodes whose subject was "What a Drag!", a history of cross-dressing. (Anyone who thinks the NSC are a bunch of staid killjoys would do well to note that the subjects of our talks for the last three meetings have been swearing, fist-fighting and transvestism.) Eugenie observed how, throughout history, people have dressed in the clothing of the opposite sex for reasons of safety or subterfuge. An obvious Classical example is Achillles, but she also mentioned examples of women who dressed as men to travel without harassment or suspicion. In fact many of the cross-dressers were women who wanted to do all kinds of things, from fighting to practising medicine, which were only allowed for those who appeared to be men. But we were equally treated to the likes of Fanny and Stella, Victorian men who dressed as women (much to the horror of the Establishment) as well as the Chevalier D'Eon and the notorious Abbé de Choisy who seems to have used his guise as a woman as a way to pray on real women. Many thanks to Eugenie for her talk.
Bleak but stylish Brit Noir flick at Film Night
11th February 2015 Our Film Night this month, presented by Sean Longden, was the 1958 Nowhere to Go. Made by Ealing Studios, this couldn't be further from the "Ealing comedy" stereotype, concerning Paul Gregory, a north American expat in London, who steals a fortune from a trusting widow and allows himself to be caught, planning to sit out the three year sentence then collect the money again when he gets out. But when he gets a surprisingly tough ten-year stretch he enlists the help of a fellow villain to escape: and that is where his problems start. The whole criminal fraternity know he has the money and there is, it seems, no honour among thieves. A young Maggie Smith is a disillusioned debutante who decides to help him, taking him to her family home in Wales. But when Gregory sees the police question her he assumes she'll betray him and makes a run for it. Stylishly shot with many popular noir tropes (such as shadows that seem to form bar around our antihero), the film is nevertheless striking in having virtually no sympathetic characters. Why was Gregory written as an American (or Canadian; it's unclear)? Just to appeal to the US market, or as a reference to the postwar idea that Yank gangsters were the real villains? Why did the urban plot suddenly take us to the country for the miserable denoument? To show that Gregory belongs in the moral quagmire of the city and can't survive outside it? The film provoked much debate. Many thanks to Sean.
Club braces for two-fisted delivery
4th February 2015 Our lecture this time came from “Chuckles” Younghusband (red shorts, 168 pounds, undefeated), who took us for a brief whirl through the history of bare-knuckle boxing, with a particular focus on the Victorian Camden-based hard man, Tom Sayers. Chuckes cheerfully admitted that it would have been a more thorough presentation had he been able to find time over the weekend to do a bit of research, but we nevertheless learned that in the early days it was a case of two men standing still and pounding away until one of them fell over; the largest invariably won, and it was not until the rise of the stocky but diminutive Daniel Mendoza that the idea of dodging or blocking blows caught on. Sayers was even lighter at 150 pounds, but went on to beat national heavyweight champion Bill Perry before accepting a challenge from US champion John Camel Heenan. The two-hour bout ended in chaos and was declared a draw, and Sayers did not fight again, but he had become so popular that public subscription raised a mighty £3000 pension and his funeral was attended by 100,000 people.
Foul language echoes through the Club's halls
7th January 2015 Despite January being traditionally a time when no one goes out, our gathering did fill up in time for this month's lecture, which was an address by Maximillion Conrad on "A Brief History of Profanity: Abridged but Uncensored", which he introduced as, "A chap's guide to swearing like a stevedore. A shocking romp through the underbelly of society, to leafy spires of academia, to illuminate the many forms and uses of swearing, blasphemy, lewdness and vituperation!" It was always a risk, given that both his talk and his slides were cesspools of filth, but it seems NSC types are hard to shock and there was no outcry, fainting or raids by the Vice Squad. Mr Conrad explained that the concept originated as an oath, usually on God or some part of Him, swearing that something was true or would be done. This was effectively to involve God in a three-way contract, and it was felt that to do this over something trivial was to use His name in vain—hence "swearing". In these early days offensive oaths were all religious in nature, and many of the anatomical or scatological terms we now find shocking were just everyday terms for facts of life. By Victorian times, however, they reached a peak of sensitivity about the body—even the word "leg" was considered too racy to use in front of ladies. Today we are more easy-going (the BBC does not even have a list of banned words any more and few newspapers would probably bother to miss out crucial letters when printing a swearword) but the concept of "bad words" persists, perhaps nowadays focusing on racial slurs. Many thanks to Mr Conrad for an enlightening talk.
Club finds it is not a number
6th December 2104 Our Christmas party, I Am Not a Number, I Am a Free Chap, had a 1960s theme, focusing on the dapper rebellion embodied by everything from the Mods to surreal and stylish TV series like The Prisoner and The Avengers. The part of Rover, the guardian in The Prisoner, was played by a large weather balloon lit from underneath by a colour-changing LED lamp. The venue was The Bear in St John’s Square, a new venue for us with very reasonable food and drink prices and a late licence. The venue’s compactness was made up for by the ample outside space where we had our games, which this time included an elaborate one in which one player had to rescue The Prisoner (gamely played by Action Man in the trademark blazer) from the beach at The Village, using a helicopter on the end of a stick, while another player meanwhile tried to swat him with Rover—in the form of white balloons filled partly with water and partly with air, meaning that they moved and bounced in rather unpredictable ways. We also had our traditional shooting game, this time having invested Club funds in a new foam dart gun. (The fins on the darts of the old gun had become some malformed that it was virtually impossible to hit anything.) The target was, of course, JFK, played by a cardboard cutout in a remote controlled toy convertible. Attractions also included our seasonal lucky dip in which guests reached into a dustbin filled with shredded newspaper and pulled out some piece of worthless tat to take home and treasure, plus our traditional complimentary Snuff Bar. Diehard mod Matthew “The Chairman” Howard provided us with a suitably groovy soundtrack, a playlist that he had been painstakingly assembling for weeks beforehand. Highlight of any NSC party is, of course, the famous Grand Raffle of diverse items, some genuinely desirable others more amusing in the context of the theme.
Thanks to all who trolled along to what was a very successful party indeed, both NSC Members and interested visitors, including
those souls who took the plunge and joined up on the night.
Club asked, 'Whither style?'
3rd December 2104 Our guest speaker was Mr Ian Scott Kettle, a designer and teacher of fashion design at Central St Martin's, talking on the subject of A History of Men's Accessories. His focus was on the difference between fashion and style, looking at periods when there seemed to be upsurges of confidence in defining and expressing personal style. He also presented his own range of accessories, ranging from fairly conventional ties and bow ties (but made from unexpected materials) to rethought cummerbunds and gaiters and even a coif (seen here being modelled by your beloved Secretary). Considering how unconventional some of these items are, the audience was very much in accord with Mr Kettle's love of strong personal style and were very curious to try out the wares on offer. Many thanks to Mr Kettle for taking the time to come and talk to us.
Chairman strikes blow for Little Britain
5th November 2104 Our speaker this time was none other than Matthew "The Chairman" Howard, with the latest instalment in his series of irreverent travelogues, A Package to India, relating his own, less than glamorous, experiences in that country, how he "went on a package holiday to Goa by mistake and ended up in Bombay on a Third Class train", and featuring a rapid-fire series of sight gags on PowerPoint. We were also once more graced by a TV film crew; I had been initially told they were interested in "vintage lifestyles" but it turns out the documentary is actually about Mayfair and the colourful types who live there. In this case they were shadowing Club Member Manthe and her partner Anthony. Manthe certainly made an entrance, arriving in rather 18th-century garb with a parrot called Sebastion on her shoulder…
Club gets a lesson in dressing a villain
1st October 2104 In the mid-1930s the term "wide boys" emerged to describe criminals and those working on the fringes of the law. One vital element was the wide boy look and the fashions they wore. Our speaker at the October meeting was Historian and NSC Member Sean Longden who looked at how wide boys dressed in the literature of the period and how their fashions were depicted on screen and in literature. In attendance were a number of Sean's chums in solidly 1930s and 1940s outfits. Sean himself even sported a bow tie (something he does not normally do) in honour of his observation that in the movies of the time the bow tie is a mark of the villain…
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