Getting Organized in Britain

Clubs are a big thing in Britain. Introduce two people with an obsession in common and they’ll form a club. Introduce two people who find no meeting ground and they’ll form a Random Interests Club.

In our village, we have a camera club, a surf/lifesaving club, a table tennis (that’s ping pong) club, a tennis club, a crafts group, an allotment society, a fair-weather walking group (motto: “We’re not too proud to cancel”), a club of people over fifty who rent a bus once a month and go on day trips, the Women’s Institute (a branch of a national group), a very local women’s discussion group, an allotment society, and I’m not sure how many other clubs. Someone will let me know as soon as this goes online. Plus a proposed biking club that may or may not have taken off, and yoga and art classes. In a village of some 600 people.

Wild Thing and I were at a party last month and the talk turned to wild swimming, which is swimming outdoors, regardless of whether there’s a lifeguard or a beach or anything other than clean(ish) water.  J. said she enjoyed it. T. asked if she was going to form a club.

“Right,” J. said. “Like I need officers and a constitution to throw myself in the water.”

Semi-Relevant Photo, by Rufus Nunus

Semi-Relevant Photo, by Rufus Nunus

She had a point. Clubs get formal very quickly here. Officers get elected. Minutes get taken and are read at the start of the next meeting. Dues are set and collected. Bank accounts are set up and need signatures and countersignatures and approval and disapproval and gossip.

I’m part of a countywide group that just organized to defend the National Health Service against privatization, and we immediately elected officers, adopted a constitution, and wrote a manifesto setting out our goals. All of which are good things to do and will help keep us on track, although I tend toward more chaotic approaches myself. What tipped me over the edge was when R. suggested we might want to adopt standing orders.

Standing what? I thought that was what the regulars had at the pub. You know: You come in the door and the bartender sets your drink on the bar before you ask. But no, it’s a set of procedures: The chair will consult with the secretary about the agenda; every meeting will open with the members singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Things like that, which everyone can agree are a good idea.

We decided against standing orders, but after two meetings we are well constitutioned and manifestoed. Now all we have to do is defeat privatization and get enough funding for the NHS to do its job. It should be a cinch.