Friday, July 29, 2011

Suppose it were Friday vi: would you come with me to scarcity?

A London dining club is a curious organism, for it combines great tenacity of life with a chameleon-like tendency to change its colour. A club which begins as a haunt of roysterers may end as a blameless academic fraternity; another, which at the start is a meeting-place of the intelligent, becomes in the progress of time a select coterie of sportsmen. So it has been with the institution of which I am the chronicler .. its dinners are admirable .. it has enlarged its interests, and would not now refuse a Lord Chancellor or a Bishop. 

But in its infancy it was different. Founded just after the close of the War by a few people who had been leading queer lives and wanted to keep them together, it was a gathering of youngish men who met only for reminiscences and relaxation .. the food and wine were execrable, hence the name of the Runagates Club, given it .. from the verse in the 68th Psalm:

     'He letteth the runagates continue in scarceness'.

In an - almost relentlessly, you could say - outwardly charmed life, one has repeatedly found oneself nestled snuggestly among others of that complaint, who nevertheless find each other, as renegades in spirit, for merriment upon the most vulnerable elements of the heart. This starts with Mr Porter, admiring a resiliency - a valour, in him - commensurate with his wit. I do not mind citing John Buchan, seemingly unpresentable amongst today's enlightened scruples, on the nugget of that treasure, who is the friend in whom a scarcity must always live. For us, the ostensibly slender 'something' becomes a sociable spur, the residual legacy flourishes, and we embrace it.

But not with ambivalence. With clear-headed consciousness of its vitality. For toastings, at an Important Birthday celebration of a dear friend, I wrote, truthfully,

     You're an Owl,
     You're a Knickerbocker,
     You're a towel
     In a Folsom locker ..

And so he is; and so every cummerbund or watch chain rippled in the candlelight to laughter bred of pure affection. We did not fret that, somewhere, outside, people might scorn our adaptation of a happy song. We were where it had come from,

     You're the rave
     On a weekend A list,
     You're a slave
     To a motorcyclist

Bohemian cheek in that, but not un-Cole. The vital jest comes naturally, for navigation, not just flotation in some scarcity in which we all participate, but against that reduction of ourself that isn't ours.

Every cluster such as this, Buchan so presciently remarks, evolves and changes. I anticipate and will welcome that here; for as the blog goes on, it cannot expect its readership not to recombine, and it could not go on if that didn't. Yet who is not here, to reach out, to explain, to aver, to suggest, to tease, to play, remonstrate and fall on his face, but - always - to celebrate a scarcity. This page has no abhorrence for luxury, but it has nothing to give. 

That scarcity will not move. And just as well, for it is not merely beautiful. It is our nourishment.

John Buchan
The Runagates Club
Houghton Mifflin, 1928©

Cole Porter
Anything Goes
  You're the Top

iv, v  Marcus Zierke


  1. The quotation at the opening of this post is so fitting that at first I did not see the italics and thought that it issued from the mouth of the author himself.

    I am happy to see that scarcity is considered an admirable attribute of this page, and not an unfortunate inevitability. Because scarcity or no, I would venture to say that these few daily words and colors have become nourishment for your readership. I know that I have become wholly dependent on the rations that I am given. So I, for one, am happy to see a professed intentionality in the scarcity of this collection of stories at the dawn of its anniversary.

    Happy anniversary to Laurent.

  2. Please, no dependencies until the doughnut store [supra] opens! Still, it's nice to know the clientele are interested. :)