Wanna be in my club? No, me neither. It would all be very enthusiastic to start with. There'd be badges, and uniforms like this, and cigars, and mead, and trifle. Then we'd all get bored, and someone would forget to cancel the order of twenty-five dancing eunuchs, and we'd all get a bit tired and red and cross and go and read in the corner. There are two sorts of people who run clubs. Ruthless rural women with hard eyes, hard hands and tight smiles who are experts in the subtle workings of patronage, competition and cakes; and ruthless urban women with hard eyes, cold hands and tight dresses who are experts in the subtle workings of patronage, competition and not eating cakes.
London's a difficult place for clubs. The Groucho's just a bit dirty and snooty; Bungalow 8's just a bit small and slick; Soho House's just a bit over; and the Frontline Club is pretty wonderful, but makes you feel like a waste of space on this earth unless you spend your life getting blown up in the cause of truth. Shoreditch House is really quite nice, but the whole Tsar Nick Jones empire thing is just so... unclub.
The best club in London at the moment is the poker circle operating out of Trafalgar Studios in Sam West's production of Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice. The great club of the theatre press (all bi-focals, beautifully cut coats, and bile) have vociferously got there before me, but humbly I concur: it's ace. It's a wonderful study of the male club: a tooth-and-claw shed-cum-cave microcosm of addiction and obsession where everyone knows the rules, and is therefore free (women never understand about rules). It's a little theatre where they can act out their roles with their props: cards (for choices) and chips (for love).
It's a near-perfect show, with a stand-out performance by Malcolm Sinclair as the patriarchal restauranteur and club leader Stephen. The gesture at the end of the play where he half-embraces, half-sniffs his prodigal son's chair is one of those theatre moments which stay with you forever.
I still have my Brownies housekeeping badge. To get it, I had to light a candle without burning everything around me. There's some symbolism in there, somewhere.