The Club Revisited

The Garrick's rather dour exterior hides a gem of a place
A while ago I commented on my visit to the Reform Club in London and how I couldn't really understand the attraction of such places. I now discover I have to rejig my thinking a little. It's still true that most of the traditional functions of a club are easily provided in other (and cheaper) ways. If I want to have a meeting up in town, a coffee shop is fine (and I get wifi). If I want to stay over, Late Rooms will find me a cheap hotel bed. And there are several of the other benefits of the club, such as a library to work in when I've a few hours to spare, or a convivial bar, provided for me by the RSA's London House, which I have access to as a fellow.

However, I confess I was impressed by the charms of the Garrick Club when attending a publisher's function there last week. Despite all that tradition and yes, a certain fustiness, it seemed a lot more of a fun place than the Reform. People were clearly having a good time. Somehow, despite having to wear the dreaded jacket and tie, there was a sense of informality to the formalness. Not to mention being a place where you are almost bound to have the chance to casually not react to a famous actor sitting across the room, or passing on the staircase.

It was interesting when, with two female members of the publisher's staff, I was shown round the place by a member. Although, not surprisingly, the other guests were not happy about the Garrick's current 'no women members' policy (as was our host), their response was not to say 'I wouldn't want to have anything to do with anywhere that is so sexist' but rather 'I hope it changes, because this is a great place.'

So there we have it. Perhaps not a whole hearted conversion on the road to Damascus, but what was once the club for the unclubbable (actors and literary types, beyond the pale, don't you know) has certainly made me realise that London clubs aren't necessarily all bad.

Image from Wikipedia