I’m a member of The Pickwick Club, the world’s oldest extant bicycle club, founded in 1870. It’s also the world’s oldest extant Dickensian association. As a member, I can invite guests to the club’s functions. There are two main ones each year: posh and ribald ‘luncheons’ in the 200-year old New Connaught Rooms, near Covent Garden. The great and good of the bicycle world go to these functions, from industry bigwigs to pro riders (I sat next to David Millar at a previous function). And I’d like to invite you to be my guest at the 2009 President’s Luncheon, taking place on Thursday, May 7th.
I have a number of guests already booked in – including some famous names – but I’ve reserved another space for you. That is if you’re a man. Sorry, but this Pickwick Club is male-only, unlike this Pickwick Club which allows members to, ahem, hang free. And you have to tell me why you’d like to be my guest. Be witty, be smart, get into the flavour of the event by drinking a glass or three of red wine before you pen your prose.
Your Pickwickian request needs to be short; must be an @ reply to me – @carltonreid; and must include the hashtag #BeMyGuest. This will then appear on this search page for all to see. This isn’t a competition, there’s no ‘prize’, I want to invite somebody who’s never had a chance to go to one of these wonderful functions.
So, what should you expect to see at the Pickwick Club? Hundreds of men in club ties and straw boaters, the uniform of the club since 1870, the year Charles Dickens died. His first novel was The Pickwick Papers. Club members are given sobriquets, all taken from characters in this book. I’m Mr. Grundy. There are only a finite number of characters in the book so to become a member you go on what is now a ten-year waiting list and, when an unfortunate member shuffles off this mortal coil, in you jump.
The Pickwick Papers, serialised in 20 monthly instalments in 1836 and 1837, follows the adventures of Samuel Pickwick Esq., his sidekick Sam Weller, and their fellow members of the eponymous, all-male club. It’s a very funny, laddish sort of a book, full of vim and vigour.
And intoxicating liqueur.
The modern-day luncheon starts at midday and finishes about three-ish: but members have been known to arrive home in the wee hours of the morning. As my guest you’ll sit with me and my other Pickwickian guests. You’ll also rub shoulders with lots of big-names from the world of cycling and be entertained by an after-dinner speaker.
You’ll need to make your own way to London, and must have the ability to get on a tube train (or collapse into a taxi) after an afternoon, and very possibly early evening, of wine, no-women and song.