The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: When size does matter

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The Independent Online
I HAVE been deriving the most extraordinary enjoyment from perusing the homespun pages of Mr Giles Gordon's wry and evocative account of the Literary Life, agreeably titled Aren't We Due a Royalty Statement? Part of my pleasure comes, I freely admit, from the copious references to my own good self, for I'm proud to say that I taught the young Giles everything he knows about the scrivener's trade - and rather more than he knows about writing] (I jest]) I must also add that, as Giles's friend, fellow Garrick Club member, mentor and occasional client, reading the reviews of this engaging work - 'codswallop', the Times; 'utter rubbish', the Guardian; 'the worst book ever written', the Independent; 'sheer drivel', the Sunday Telegraph - gave me no pleasure at all, and I cut them out, framed them and hanged them in my study with the utmost reluctance.

Might I comment herein on one particular passage that seems to have provoked the attention of the reviewers? I refer of course to Giles's mention of his Who's Who entry, which, he boasts, is 'exactly the same length as my male organ'. Those critics who are unfamiliar with the Garrick Club have expressed some measure of disquiet at such a public comparison, deeming it vulgar and attention-seeking. This is unfair. As an old Garrick hand, it behoves me to enlighten them, methinks.

The Garrick - founded in 1734 and named after two highly distinguished East End barrow boys, Gary and Rick - has many traditions dating back into the deepest mists of time, but honoured to the very letter by those of us still living today. For instance, the Panto Season: throughout the first week of September, the Upper Morning Room is cordoned off for those Members - generally 200 or so - who like to dress as Pantomime Dames and to mix freely with others so dressed, without fear of intimidation or assault. On the final day, the 'Dame of Dames' is announced (last year Dame Wilhelmina Rees-Mogg, the year before Dame Robyn Day) and allowed to parade around the club in her finery.

But the highlight of The Garrick Year is undoubtedly the Measurement of the Male Organ, an age-old ceremony dating back to a time when measurement of one's private parts (dread region]) was a prerequisite for admission (hence the expression, still in everyday use, 'I am a Member of the Garrick Club'). On the third Sunday of August - and, coincidentally, today is such a day - all new Members are invited by the Chairman to parade before him, clad only in their Garrick Club ties, their identities obscured by handmade specs-nose-and-moustache Roy Strong novelty masks.

As each Member files past the Chairman, he is formally measured by an accredited doctor with a spring-action metal tape expressly designed for that purpose, his dimensions to be jotted down in the Special Members' Handbook. He is then handed his Who's Who entry form, and required to complete his entry to within half a centimetre of the aforementioned measurement. On completion of the task, he is toasted by all those present, and, after putting his clothes back on, is welcomed to a luncheon of Roast Beef, and no more is said on the matter.

Incidentally, I note Mr Peter Carter-Ruck's entry in Who's Who is brevity itself, even leaving the '071' from his phone number. Meanwhile, I hear that poor old Giles Gordon's will be rather shorter this year, after formal complaints. While we are on the subject, my own entry in Who's Who is, I gather, one of the longest, stretching to a full two pages.

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