I don't mind if I do? Sorry, not in our club you don't

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The Independent Online
AS SOON as I heard that Jeremy Paxman had been blackballed from the Garrick Club, I wrote him a letter to ask him to join the club of which I am a member. It's called the Remaindered Club and it caters chiefly, though not entirely, for those who have been blackballed by other clubs.

The club was formed some years ago when a few of us were sitting around in the El Vino Wine Bar in Fleet Street, talking about whether we would or would not be prepared to join a West End club. (Of course, in those days El Vino's itself was a bit like a club for journalists. It was easy to join. All you had to do was put on a jacket and tie, leave the office saying you were going to meet a source, go into El Vino's and buy one drink for yourself and another for Philip Hope-Wallace, and stay till they brought out the vacuum cleaner and asked you to move your feet, as a sort of hint

to go . . .)

Anyway, I remember that all four of us said we would rather die than join a West End club. Then it slowly emerged that all four of us were up for election to the Garrick Club, and had been for years. (Incidentally, you don't actually apply to join the Garrick, any more than you apply for a knighthood; you are asked by a member if you would like your name to go forward for election. If you say no, that is the end of it and you hear no more. If you say yes, the same happens.)

So all four of us had been pressed to agree to have our names put down for the Garrick many years earlier, and presumably they were waiting for enough members to die off to have room to give us coat-pegs, because none of us had had heard anything. It rankled, in a mild sort of way.

'I wouldn't like to belong to any club that refused to tell me whether I was a member or not,' said Geoff.

'I am happy to wear the Garrick Club tie,' said Bill, 'but I am not so sure about becoming a member. No, sorry - it's the other way round.'

'I don't think I'd like to join any club which didn't admit women as members,' said Michael. 'Are they afraid of women at the Garrick?'

'No,' I said. 'They are afraid of women wearing the Garrick Club tie and making it look ridiculous. Or even worse, making it look sexy.'

'Well, sod it,' said Geoff, 'if they don't want us, let's form our own club.'

And so was born the Remaindered Club. Word was put around that anyone who had been on the waiting list for the Garrick, or similar clubs, for five years or more, could join us immediately, as long as they agreed to be removed from the waiting list. We especially wanted people who had been blackballed.

We wrote to Bernard Levin, the most famous blackballee from the Garrick, to ask if he wished to become a life member of the Remaindered, but his reply was so closely argued and tortuous it was far from apparent whether he was saying yes or no, so we let it

slide.

But recruitment went well otherwise. Membership gradually settled down into the kind of people that other clubs wouldn't want to have - defrocked lawyers, journalists who changed their paper more than once a year, newspaper proprietors with no newspapers, bishops who no longer believed in God, Channel 4 presenters, women, MPs who had never spoken in the House (we had one MP for a while who had never voted in the House, but he never turned up at the Club either) and so on. The only member of the Royal Family who would qualify unequivocally, for example, would be Prince Edward.

There was a dramatic moment when one of our original members, Bill, was suddenly informed that he had been elected a member of the Garrick Club. He was highly embarrassed. Apparently, he had forgotten to resign from the application list for the Garrick, and had duly been elected

a member. We told him he had

to choose between them and us. He chose them. We threw him out of the Remaindered Club. He was, however, back in six months, after being buttonholed and hectored by Sir Robin Day one afternoon.

'I couldn't be a member of

a club that had journalists who accepted titles,' he told

us. 'Please let me back in the Remaindered]'

That's one of the conditions of membership, actually. No member may receive a knighthood. Other conditions include not appearing on the Radio 4 Today programme, not using the expression 'somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan', not calling any of your children Libby or Sandy, not attending award ceremonies and never saying 'I don't mind if I do' when offered a drink.

I think Jeremy Paxman will fit in very well.

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