Laurie Taylor Column

May 5, 2006

Which academic club?

This column regularly receives correspondence from readers who are anxious to join an academic club but feel bewildered by the number of choices. We are, therefore, pleased to offer this brief guide to the relative merits of each establishment:

Club Russell

As you enter these grand premises, only the chatter of mobile phones and the ping of laptops interferes with the sense that you have stepped back into a golden academic age. Large, slightly faded Old Masters are still in evidence, and only a few new chinks in the velvet curtains admit any outside light. There is an excellent wine cellar and well-stocked humidor. Dress is formal, but expect the occasional stethoscope.

Top tip: service is noticeably poorer in the back rooms where northern members tend to congregate.

Club 94

The premises of this slightly pokey club are directly adjacent to Club Russell but lack the latter's grandeur. Repeated attempts to merge with next door have so far been rebuffed on the grounds that the buildings lack the appropriate symmetry. There is more emphasis on recent vintages in the wine list, and the dress, although as formal as in the Russell, is more rural in tone.

Top tip: avoid jokes about size.

Club CMU

This mildly anarchic club occupies a large but slightly bleak room above the Crown and Anchor pub in Uttoxeter. It is at the moment undecorated as members are unable to agree on a colour scheme. Neither is there any agreement on the time when the club should open or close or whether it should have been founded in the first place.

Top tip: don't be put off by the whining background noise. This is the club's favoured soundtrack.

Club Non-Aligned

This strangely named real ale club somewhere in the middle of the country is populated largely by those whose applications to other clubs would almost certainly be rejected. Sixties music is favoured and the blackboard-and-chalk motif, together with the use of a large clanging bell to announce the arrival of last orders, are jolly references to the preponderance of teachers.

Top tip: don't ask anyone how their research is going.

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