Because times are tough, we have forgone any swanky fancy clubs this issue and have instead written up the Academy Club, a garret of a club — just one bookish Hogarthian room with a few rickety tables — for literary types that is reached up a dingy old staircase in Soho. The phone number is unlisted.
Since most of its members are poets, journalists, writers and intellectuals who never had any money anyway, the club’s mood is highly unlikely to be affected by the credit crunch. One benefit of the crisis is that it will expose the booming cult of private-members’ clubs for what most of them are: namely clubs people join when they can’t get into any real clubs. Many are simply glorified, overpriced restaurants, no different from places like Cipriani which will cost you £250 for dinner.
The problem for too long now, as Clive Aslet argues in his column, is that we have lost all idea of real value. Just how much is anything worth today? Nobody knows. This is not a problem shared by our parents or grandparents’ generation. What they called being ‘too-clever-by-half’ (selling sub-prime mortgages) has now become the ‘presiding genius of the Age’. Over Christmas it’s worth remembering that the financial meltdown is but a small matter compared to what our grandparents and their parents went through in the last century.
The equities blood bath and the Bonfire of the Bankers does not compare with fighting two world wars, seeing our empire ground to dust, and ending up being taxed to death in the 1970s. They would never think of spending £25,000 jetting off to the Maldives for two weeks at Christmas. But, as Aslet says, they were lucky in having a genuine sense of where they stood in the world. They didn’t pile up debts they couldn’t afford. They grew up with a sense of shared values. They knew what things were worth.