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Dust and Ashes

TedNield024.jpgIn 1973, much to my surprise and possibly theirs, my old school named me Captain.  Even the future Archbishop of Canterbury had only made Vice-captain, so it was quite an honour for this non-hearty who, like Dr Williams, had never even tried to score a try.  It was my first (and last) taste of power; yet the only thing I truly relished about it was the thought of occupying a grim little basement den known from time immem. as the Head Prefect’s Office. 

But alas! I returned from the long vac only to find it had been converted into a toilet.  For ladies.  Without so much as a by your leave.  We didn’t have any ladies!  Perhaps our geological headmaster (Dr Bernard Norris FGS) had hatched some harebrained scheme to go out and get some.  Who knows?  Anyway, it was a cruel blow that has since become something of a life curse - a final coming into things, and finding them gone.  I had always blamed Our Age, with its misguided enthusiasm for change; but after last night’s meeting of the Society Dining Club I am beginning to wonder.  Maybe it’s me.

The Club was once thought of, at least by those who never went, as the place where all the real business was done, decisions were stitched, and preferment corruptly given - under the low but kindly light cast by the setting suns of science.  A myth grew up that this Club, which gave birth to the Society in 1807, had become a cabal – a myth that, during the glasnost and perestroika post 1997, both Society and Club wished to dispel.  I suggested that this could be achieved simply by advertising what had always been true: namely, that but for two Close meetings, any Fellow of the Society may attend.  This magazine has done so ever since.  And attendance has been going down ever since, too.

All extinctions have multiple causes.  Conventional wisdom suggests that Fellows today haven’t the leisure, or the money; that we as a Society are no longer a cohesive band of ‘orthogeologists’, who have all suffered together in the field. 

But in my mind arises the unworthy thought that perhaps the real draw to the Club in the past was its sulphurous mystique.  My ‘remedy’ may, in other words, be proving fatal.

Yes, all the Dining Club offers is fine dining in convivial geological company (and snuff).  But food and fellowship are no small things, and if you live for them, it is where you will find them.  Come and dine, and bring a friend.

Dr Ted Nield FGS