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Fellow feeling

5DittoplusTedPortrResized.JPGDuring President’s Day in June I had the honour to meet a lifelong Fellow who “hadn't been in the building for some time”.  “I was very disappointed by the changes, I'm afraid”, she added.

Thinking she must mean the refurbishments of 2006, I expressed surprise, because nobody who remembers the place in 2005 has EVER found them anything but a great improvement. “No,” she said, “I mean the Meeting Room'”.

Thinking she must mean therefore the refurbishment of 1998/9, I asked: "Ah, did you prefer the demonstration bench?  Some speakers do miss it, because they liked to take cover behind it...'.  “No”, she said.  “I miss the Parliamentary benches.  Now, it just looks like any university lecture theatre!”.  I had to tell her that the Meeting Room lost its historic benches in 1973, birth-year of today’s average-aged Fellow. 

Many of you rarely come to Burlington House.  But part of what you feel you pay for is the knowledge that you can.  You have a club in town.  You can, if you have a moment, pop in and browse the journals in the Library, or relax in the Fellows’ Room with a cup of coffee (sadly, the machine dispensing miniatures went some years ago, even before the still-lamented Fellow’s Bedroom).

Like Gentleman’s Relish, or the Church of England, you don’t have to use something every day to feel comforted that it exists.  Your Fellowship buys you the right.  This right may be insubstantial, but in the loyalty business perception is reality, and this right is not to be discounted just because it is rarely exercised.  So, if for any reason, the Society were to remove such benefits, you might feel that you have been disobliged, betrayed - even cheated.

This Society (though not our posh Council house, which cannot be commercially sublet without great legal difficulty), belongs to you – the Fellows, who are in all things sovereign.  This magazine exists, independently of your elected and appointed Trustees, officers and staff, to provide scrutiny of them, and for you to use, should you feel the need, as a forum in which to criticise the things they may do in your name. 

As we go to press, the President, Malcolm Brown, has written (in the Society’s email newsletter) informing Fellows that Royal Academy staff will occupy the Fellows’ Room for a ‘short term’ from 18 July (see AGM report here), noting that use of the room by Fellows was low, that Library staff will continue to have access and that, against an unfavourable financial background, Council believes this is in ‘best interests of the Society and … the best way to protect the Library’. 

What do you think?


[email protected], @TedNield @geoscientistmag