I have been having lunch with two brothers for roughly 35 years on the last Friday before Xmas. They are a convivial pair and conversation is never an issue. Over the years we have generally met in a club, firstly the Arts Club in Dover St where I was a member, and lately the Athenaeum. When one brother gave up his membership we moved to the club of the other.
For someone who is a clubbable sort you may be surprised to learn that I am no fan of the gentleman’s club. I do not like a dress code, arcane rules, anti-woman admission policies, the unctuous steward nor the food. A bit like Daffers I want to be in a dining room with all sorts: the man seeking to seduce his companion; the family with brats out for an outing; ladies who lunch; the slick businessman out to impress his colleague. This is the alchemy that provides atmosphere, not a bunch of males over 55 in suits.
In our case we make our own atmosphere. There was much joshing, largely from himself, of one brother who was to be the High Sheriff of London. The title may be grand and go back to pre-Norman times but the role is so circumscribed now that his powers are limited to awarding compensation to a do-gooder who apprehends some criminal activity, for example robbers, or breaking up a fight. It seems to me one of those peculiar to Britain traditional institutions where you wear flummery, which have existed for centuries, and perversely does some good like the House of Lords, the Church of England or the monarchy. I am not sure whether gentleman clubs fall into this category. The Royal and Ancient in golf and the MCC have been under attack for being discrimnatory of women and it won’t be long before some woman challenges the admission policy of a club that excludes her. The club will probably react pompously by saying they acted within their rules. As happened at the Arts Club, some entrepreneur will be lying in wait to acquire and convert the club, with its exceptional location and facilities, into something more contemporary to our times.