News Archives: view stories from Year One of the Club (October 2006 to September 2007), Year Two (October 2007 to September 2008), Year Three (October 2008 to September 2009), Year Four (October 2009 to September 2010), Year Five (October 2010 to September 2011), Year Six (October 2011 to September 2012), Year Seven (October 2012 to September 2013), Year Eight (October 2013 to September 2014), Year Nine (October 2014 to September 2015), Year Ten (October 2015 to September 2016), and Year 11 (October 2016 to September 2017), Year 12 (October 2017 to September 2018) and Year 13 (October 2018 to September 2019)

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

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Club sprouts YouTube channel

12th October 2020 Tim Eyre, who gave our October virtual talk suggested we set up a dedicated NSC YouTube channel, to gather together the videos of these live-streamed lectures. And so we did. You can find it here.

Club retreats to virtuality once more

7th October 2020 By the time our October meeting came around the second lockdown was beginning, with the Rule of Six effectively preventing the Wheatsheaf from hosting us for the foreseeable future. So our talk came as a live-stream from Dr Timothy Eyre, on the subject of typography. The first part of the lecture was a gallop through the history of type, taking in key luminaries such as Johannes Guttenburg, William Caxton, Benjamin Franklin and Beatrice Warde, technologies such as type-cutting (a skilled task, but one which produced a punch that could be used by others to reproduce an unlimited amount of type), photo-typesetting, hot metal type and desktop publishing, and the typesetting origins of everyday phrases such as "upper and lower case", "out of sorts" and "minding your Ps and Qs". The second part was a consideration of the finer points of typography, such the use of "smart" rather than "dumb" quotes, the distinction between em- rules, en-rules and hyphens, and the use of the ellipsis character, plus the evolution and use of various fonts. Tim admits that he has been at times in his life quite a typography obsessive, but judging from the Zoom chat afterwards I think he found himself in good company—perhaps there is something pernickety, olf-fashioned and aesthetic about typography that makes it a natural fit with Chappism. You can see the archived video of Tim's talk at https://youtu.be/aktOhgYeeIQ.

Online quizzing rises like phoenix from lockdown flames

25th September 2020 One side-effect of the solitary lives we have been living since the coronavirus pandemic put a hold of physical gatherings has been a new tradition of online virtual pub quizzes. These have been running pretty much every week on Wednesday evenings—except the first Wednesday of the month when we have our monthly talk. The quizzes are conducted by Zoom virtual meeting software (the app is free, but I think that if you don't have it installed you can still join the meeting through a web browser). In practice there has been a hardy group of about 16 teams participating in each week, though anyone can take part by simply joining the Zoom meeting. A Facebook event is created for each quiz, where you will find the details and weblink for the Zoom meeting. See the Club's Facebook group to find forthcoming events. The quizzing starts at 8pm, though the meeting starts about 15 minutes earlier to allow for team registration and technical troubleshooting.

There was originally a plan that, once physical pub meetings resumed and the lockdown lifestyle was eased, we would carry on with the quizzes but scale them back to just once a month (probably the third Wednesday of the month, to space them evenely with the Club Nights). However, following our triumphant return to the Wheatsheaf in September the mood was to carry on conducting the quizzes weekly for now—especially as it turns out that the return to the pub was only fleeting. At time of writing it looks as if we have another six months of semi-lockdown ahead of us.

Monthly physical meetings resume—briefly

2nd September 2020 With the easing of lockdown pubs have been able to reopen with certain strictures, so for our September meeting we tentatively returned to the Wheatsheaf. About 16 souls braved the plague, and landlord David seemed grateful for the business: a waitress service was in operation so no one had to go downstairs to order and, as a pleasant bonus, everyone's first drink was on the house. The Earl of Essex delivered a long-delayed lecture entitled The Riviera: The Forgotten War, on an oft-overlooked front in the Second World War. Allied invasion of Southern France in August 1944 was generally regarded as a low- key affair, Essex argued, almost an afterthought and a ‘Hollywood offensive’ with US troops largely landing unopposed and soon able to sip Champagne with the locals in the fleshpots of the Cote d’Azure. The reality was somewhat different: the Allies desperately needed the deep-water ports like Marseilles to strike up through occupied France, and the local civilian population had suffered mercilessly under both German and Italian occupation, and worse from their own brethren, at the hands of the German puppet-regime, the Vichy government.

To try and cover all bases we managed to deliver a live-stream video broadcast of the talk at the same time, using the pub's rather flaky wifi. This was a success (you can see a video archive here) and we were all set to make this our new regular practice. However, later in the month, with COVID cases rising the government announced new strictures, including a pub curfew of 10pm and a ban on groups greater than six gathering either indoors or outdoors. David the landlord contacted us to say that under these new circumstances the Wheatsheaf would not be able to host us, so for now we will have to return to online meetings.

Club meetings continue as virtual lectures

5th August 2020 As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, the Club's traditional meetings on the first Wednesday of each month have obviously been curtailed. Following Mrs' H.'s groundbreaking live-streamed talk on Rex Whistler in April, we followed this up in May with an address by Oliver Lane on the connections between the WWI Battle of the Falkland Islands and the WWII Battle of the River Plate—it's all to do with beef, apparently. You can see a video record of the lecture here.

Then on 3rd June Club Secretary Clayton Hartley delivered an electronic address on the history of absinthe—what it is, how it became popular, why it was banned and how it has experienced a revival. He also attempted to establish whether absinthe really does give artists creative inspiration and heightened expressive powers: 15 volunteers from within the Club were sent samples of absinthe in advance. They were asked to create some sort of artwork beforehand, as a "control"; then on the night of the talk they were asked to consume their absinthe and product a new artwork under the influence. The results were published in the next issue of Resign! so readers could decide for themselves if the Green Fairy had made a difference. You can see a video of the lecture here.

July saw Club Member and gin maven David T. Smith give a talk about the Gin & Tonic, exploring variations of ingredients, glassware and garnish, opening our eyes to the wide vistas of possibility available from this single drink. See the archived results here.

Now in August Actuarius has given us a rousing guide to the the between-the-wars period that was the Golden Age of Speed, when records for the fastest speeds achieved on land, in the air and on water were broken with breathtaking regularity. The famous Schneider Cup, intended as a sort of sea trial to encourage the development of seaplanes at a time when aero techonology was accelerating faster than the provision of aerodromes on land, became and out-and-out speed contest, while the pursuit of land speed produced some luscious vehicles that Actuarius drooled over at some length—and which gave rise to "streamlined" styling on production road vehicles that in fact gave no performance benefits but looked good. This talk was delivered by Zoom, so there is sadly no video archive of it.

Club first as coronavirus drives meeting online

1st April 2020 Since the official coronavirus-related rules banning social gatherings meant that we could not have our usual monthly Club Night (not least because the Wheatsheaf pub where we gather is shut anyway), we decided to try give a talk as a live-streamed video via Facebook. The Earl of Essex was scheduled to talk to us about the little-known fighting on the French Riviera during the Second World War, but he wasn't keen to try and do this virtually, so Mrs H. stepped in with an address on the artist Rex Whistler, one of the Bright Young Things (and subject of the current exhibition of Cecil Beaton photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, which is sadly also closed now). Whistler went from fairly humble beginnings to become a society portraitist and muralist—his extraordinary trompe l'oeil murals in stately homes are a unique legacy. He was someone who seemingly couldn't stop drawing or painting but despite his success he was always short of money because he was financially disorganised and rather too generous with his time and talents. His most accessible work for collectors is his commercial output, for book jackets, magazine covers, advertisements and catalogues, and Mrs H. showed many items from your own collection. When the war came Whistler felt he should serve on the front line and ended up in command of three tanks. He seems to have been very popular with his men—a recent Antiques Road Show episode turned up a hand-drawn Christmas card he made for the son of his sergeant. Apparently they welded a metal box on to his tank to store his paints and brushes. Sadly Whistler was killed in action at the age of just 39.

You can actually see the whole of Mrs H's talk as a video at https://www.facebook.com/clayton.hartley.77/videos/10156746984400855/An essay version of the talk will appear in the May newsletter.

David and Sara Smith tune into the talk live.

Mark Christopher messes with our minds

4th March 2020 Our speaker this month was Mark Christopher, addressing us on the subject of cognitive bias. Mark has been many things in his time, including a teacher, a film extra and a photographer's assistant, but these days works in the City, so has developed a keen interest in investment strategies and, as part and parcel of that, why certain people make the investment decisions they do. His talk touched upon things he learned when studying Warren Buffet, such as how we can be influenced in our decision-making by what other people seem to be doing, what other people want us to do and whether we feel (consciously or unconsciously) obligated towards them. He used some extreme examples, such as cult leaders who could somehow persuade hundreds of people to kill themselves and Chinese prison guards who managed to persuade captured American servicemen to speak out against America without the use or threat of violence at all. Was he encouraging us to use these same strategies on others, or helping us be aware when others try to use them on us? You'll have to decide that for yourself—don't be influenced by me…

Mackintosh proposed as dandy

5th Februray 2020 Addressing a healthily full house, our speaker was Professor Philip Hancock, inviting us to consider the career of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the question of whether he can be considered a dandy architect. He certain was an architect, though one who struggled to find work, as his genius was too radical for many during his lifetime—inspired by Japanese design his rectilinear style and clean minimalism were at odds with Edwardian love of frilly clutter. Yet he was well regarded on the Continent and influential on the Art Nouveau, Secessionist and Art Deco movements. Whether or not his trademark moustache and distinctive louche, floppy neckwear qualify him as a dandy, he certainly ploughed his own aesthetic furrow. Hancock's argument was that Mackintosh's insistence on a total decorative aesthetic, embracing all aspects of a living space, and indeed of life, from work to leisure, qualifies him as a dandy, in the sense of one who makes his life his art.

Chairman steps in to avert crisis

2nd January 2020 Our first meeting of 2020—falling on only the second day of the new year—saw a compact but respectable crowd. Sadly our scheduled talk from Luca Jellinek on What's so great about Art Deco? had to be cancelled at short notice, as Luca had fallen ill, but our Glorious Chairman Torquil stepped in with an off-the-cuff address on the Royal Baccarat Scandal of 1890, which took place at a house party at Tranby Croft in Yorkshire and involved the Prince of Wales—the future King Edward VII. One member of the party, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, was accused of cheating at the (not even very highly regarded) game of baccarat, an affair that would eventually require the prince to given evidence in court…

Top Hat in white tie

30th December 2019 The British Film Institute have been having a major season of musicals since October, as part of which they screened the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers classic Top Hat (1935). The PR department kindly gave us some complimentary tickets in return for attending the screening in top hat and tails. Other cinema goers certainly seemed amused and appreciative and we had many compliments (and a fair few perplexed enquiries as to what was going on). Many thanks to the BFI for the tickets and to Fred and Ginger for a fun movie (the set-designer's vision of what the Lido in Venice looks like is quite something to behold…).

Christmas party goes bad

7th December 2019 Our Christmas party this year took place at the Morpeth Arms on Millbank, in the upstairs room which they call the “Spy Bar”, because it looks out over the MI6 building. The room is decorated with James Bond novels and secret agent paraphernalia, so we decided to give our party a fitting theme and declared the dress code to be “Come as your favourite villain”. We did emphasise that the interpretation of “villain” was not limited to Bond villains, and indeed we had costumes ranging from Cruella Deville, to the Joker (left) to the Taxman. We even had two rival Cardinal Richelieus (Richelieux?).

Traditionally one of the silly games with which we populate the evening involves the ancestral nerf gun, and on this occasion we had a game based on the inevitable scene at the end of a Bond movie where Bond returns to the villain’s lair, this time accompanied by an army of ninjas (or partisans or gangsters or some other group that he has persuaded to side with him—see this YouTube clip). As the ninjas descend from the roof on ropes you, as the villain must try and shoot them before they reach the ground. The ninjas in question were Lego Ninjago characters: as a weight pulled on a cord it turned a drum that unwound the Ninjas’ ropes at a steady rate.

Ninjas invade—the weight on the right turns the drum that lowers them

Stuart Turner as Evel Knievel takes a shot a the ninjas; (right) Miss Minna lowers Action Man into the Tower of London

Our second game followed another tradition—that Action Man must somehow be involved. This time he was pursuing that time-honoured Evil Goal of stealing the Crown Jewels. Action Man, in suitable cat-burglar black attire and armed with a wire hook attached to one arm, was lowered by the player from a rope attached to a pole into a mock-up of the tower of London. Fortunately there is a company (Crowns & Regalia) who make miniatures of the Crown Jewels of various countries, so Action Man’s target was a suitably scaled set of jewels on plinths, each with a thin wire loop which the skilful player could catch with Action Man’s hook. Needless to say this is a lot more difficult than it looks, and most players swung Action Man around, carelessly knocking over the plinths, making their goal even harder. There were four items to collect—two crowns, an orb and a sceptre—but no one landed more than two items in the 60 seconds allowed to each player. Some people somehow managed to snare one of the plinths instead: the rules did not award any merit for this, but in the end we decided that, out of the various people who had hooked two jewels, we would award the prize to Stewart Lister Vickers, who landed both two jewels and a plinth.

Ali (as Medusa) and Rachel design an undersea villain's lair

Our final competition was running all the time in the background, in which guests were invited to design their own ideal villain’s lair. The winner was decided by popular vote—each design was held up, the details briefly described, and the audience invited to cheer for their favourite. Fortunately there was a clear-cut winner from Richard D’Astardly, with his highly convincing illustration of the benefits of “maximising evil through multiple occupancy”: there were separate apartments for Vlad the Impaler and Heinrich Himmler, a penthouse for Jeremy Clarkson, but seemingly just deckchairs (albeit with patio heaters) for Prince Andrew and Jimmy Savile. Darth Vader can be seen just arriving, while on the ground floor a row of individual retail units have been rented out to some of the more evil brands on the high street, such as Adidas, Nike, Abercrombie & Fitch, T.K. Maxx, O2 and UKIP.

(Left) Howard as Scaramanga and David as Richlieu; (right) Craigoh and Josie as Muttley and Penelope Pitstop

The evening ended as ever with our Grand Raffle, free to enter but only to Members (including anyone who joins on the night). Prizes were all themed, addressing different perspectives on evil, such a statuette of Baphomet and a copy of Sympathy for the Devil, some Charles Adams cartoons, a ring with a hidden compartment for poison, a burglar’s outfit (stripy top, mask and sacked marked “SWAG”), biographies of various scoundrels, a box of Black Magic, a skull goblet and a bottle of WKD to drink out of it, a Bond-style henchman kit (white boiler suit, hard hat sprayed silver, set off by a red belt with Evil NSC buckle) and an attaché case full of money (which winner Stuart Turner, pictured right, claimed he had spent on whippets and gravy within 24 hours). Many thanks to the venue for their hospitality and to all the Members who rolled up dressed in their wicked finery.

See the full set of photos in the album on Flickr.

Club subjected to a load of nonsense

4th December 2019 As is often the case at this time of year, we were a select band for the December meeting, which was a shame, as our speaker was Adrian Prooth, talking nonsense. Specifically, he addressed the British tradition of nonsense verse and prose, arguing that embracing it is good for the soul and an important and unique part of our culture. He looked at the likely suspects, such as Lewis Carol and Edward Lear, and examined how nonsense couldn't really exist without logic, and indeed some nonsense writing appeals because it seems to have its own internal logic, even though instinctively we know it to be nonsense. In other cases made-up words strike a chord because they seem to fill a niche, and sound as if we know what they mean even though they don't technically mean anything (see examples from the Uxbridge English Dictionary, a spin-off from the Radio programme I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and Douglas Adams's The Meaning of Liff). Many thanks to Adrian for his stimulating lecture. Or, as Stanley Unwin may have had it, the brainwarmy burblegift and chucklewise. Deep joy.

James Bond deciphered

6th November 2019 Our November event was privileged to have a talk by none other than our Glorious Chairman himself, Torquil Arbuthnot. His subject was Sundry Musings on the James Bond Novels and the thrust was to establish what sort of person Fleming presented in the books, as opposed to the movies. The "real" Bond was more human than the ubermensch of the silver screen—he drank and smoked too much and disliked foreigners. He didn't jump in an out of bed with women, but tended to have just one affair per book, and went to pieces when his short-lived wife was killed by Blofeld. He had a strange obsession with brands—cars, clothing, etc.—though this may just have been Fleming's writing style, where nothing is ever generic. A car is a specific car, a warship is a specific class with a specific arrangement of guns. And famously in Casino Royale Bond doesn't just order a cocktail, he gives the barman the precise recipe (for a cocktail he later names the Vesper). Many thanks to our Chairman for his observations.

Tunbridge Wells (not Tonbridge) exposed

2nd October 2019 Our speaker was James Rigby, addressing the Dandy History of Tunbridge Wells—his own home town. He looked at the humble origins of the place, up until the point where one Lord North discovered an iron-rich sludge bubbling up from the ground which apparently cured all ills—and thus a fashionable spa town was born. The most famous, ancient quarter of the town is the Pantiles—so called because of the roads made from tiles formed in pans. Apparently a royal visitor turned up and grumbled about the lack of made roads; but even after the problem was rectified she never came back anyway, but the town's fashionability as a resort was established. For some 30 years society dandy Beau Nash proclaimed himself Master of Ceremonies of the Pantiles during its heyday. Many thanks to James for his local knowledge.

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