Ian McMillan: Why I am eminently clubbable

Here I am, sitting at the kitchen table, writing my column.

Here I am, sitting at the kitchen table, writing my column. In one sense, my working routine has been unaffected by the pandemic and the lockdowns; of course the gigs all disappeared but the writing bit stayed just the same. The chair. The table. The seated gentleman. The laptop. The swigs of tea. The words appearing on the page like insects or leaves in autumn.

I enjoy this solitary bit of the writer’s life but in one sense it goes against the grain because I’m a gregarious kind of chap; to use that old-fashioned word, I’m clubbable. I’m eminently clubbable. I looked up the word ‘‘clubbable’’ to find its etymology: it means ‘‘suitable for membership of a club because of one’s sociability or popularity’’ which is kind of obvious but I was interested to note that it was first used in 1783. I imagined a group of bewigged scribes sitting down in a coffee house to talk about their latest broadsides and pamphlets and sonnets and that’s the kind of writer’s life I can imagine myself enjoying.

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Perhaps when I was younger I joined a lot of clubs

Ian McMillan

because I wanted to be a writer and I knew that I was destined to spend a lot of time sitting at a table trying to make words do as they’re told. I joined the Tufty Club and The Man From Uncle Club and they were both fulfilling ( a word I probably didn’t know at the time) in different ways. Tufty was a red squirrel who was very keen on road safety,

as I guess squirrels have to be, and being in the club

involved, as far as I can recall, learning the ‘Look Right, Look Left, Look Right Again’ mantra whilst wearing the Tufty Club Badge.

The Man From Uncle Club was more exciting, mainly because you got to wear a triangular badge and you could decide whether you wanted to be Napoleon Solo or Illya Kuryakin. I was Solo, obvs. Mind you, because these clubs were all postal (we’re talking decades before the internet here) they didn’t involve any meetings so they were still solitary. I was clubbable but I was still on my own.

Maybe that’s why me and mates started the James Bond Appreciation Club. We were Bond fans but we were all also in possession of that Corgi car model of his Aston Martin. Now this really was a club where we met in the same room, usually our front room. One of us had a guitar and at various points he would strum a chord and we’d all hold our toy Aston Martins in the air and intone as best we could with our breaking voices ‘Hail Bond!’ And then we’d sit down and wonder what to do next. It’s not that easy being clubbable, you see. You’ve always got to think of something new to do. Now where’s my guitar? Hail Bond!