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Annual meeting

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We have at last count 292 members, not all of them active. It’s been a very good fiscal year. [Fiscal years run from whenever to whenever.] First order of business: changing to a lunar year.

Alfred Russel Wallace: Point of order, the man is an idiot.

Edmund Hoyle: The point is moot. Continue, Monsignor.

Thank you. On second thought let's table that.

I've been clicked upon

The official timekeeper has been setting the clocks forward a little each day – springing forward with a vengeance – and we now find ourselves in the enviable position of being what can only be hoped is comfortably post-pandemic. To maintain this status is purely a maintenance issue. We've chosen a date at random, the Queen's birthday as it happens, and shall stop there, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. It could've been anybody's birthday.

Abigail Adams: Is there any word yet on how the Queen is doing after the incident with the badger?

Franz Kafka, acting royal liaison: We await word from The Palace, and can only hope the official record here doesn't prove tragically prescient.

Thank you Fonz. Quite. [Shouts of Hear Hear! from the back benches.]

[Opens ledger] Money savings has been accomplished as requested by the Committee of Ways and Means. We're sorry, but there will be no more translations of minutes into Ancient Hittite, pig Latin, or French. [Checks notes.] That's correct. Definitely no more French.

Our previous mission statement, 'To protect and serve', has been overhauled, it being felt by the core committee that new challenges should bring new directions. Do we have a winner, Walt?

Walt Whitman: 'I sing the body electric.'

Very well. The stationery will be changed immediately.

This being our first annual meeting, and if I may say, an uncommonly productive one, I suggest we have them every fortnight.

Dorothy Parker: I move to have one whenever there is a quorum present.

Edith Wharton: Seconded!

So be it. Meeting adjourned.

Michel de Montaigne:
(Mickey de wishes to read the following into the record. I see no reason why not.)

Such as accuse mankind of the folly of gaping after future things, and advise us to make our benefit of those which are present, and to set up our rest upon them, as having no grasp upon that which is to come, even less than that which we have upon what is past, have hit upon the most universal of human errors, if that may be called an error to which nature herself has disposed us, in order to the continuation of her own work, prepossessing us, amongst several others, with this deceiving imagination, as being more jealous of our action than afraid of our knowledge.

We are never present with, but always beyond ourselves: fear, desire, hope, still push us on towards the future, depriving us, in the meantime, of the sense and consideration of that which is to amuse us with the thought of what shall be, even when we shall be no more.

“Calamitosus est animus futuri auxius.”

  [“The mind anxious about the future is unhappy.”
      —Seneca, Epist., 98.]

We find this great precept often repeated in Plato, “Do thine own work, and know thyself.” Of which two parts, both the one and the other generally, comprehend our whole duty, and do each of them in like manner involve the other; for who will do his own work aright will find that his first lesson is to know what he is, and that which is proper to himself; and who rightly understands himself will never mistake another man’s work for his own, but will love and improve himself above all other things, will refuse superfluous employments, and reject all unprofitable thoughts and propositions. As folly, on the one side, though it should enjoy all it desire, would notwithstanding never be content, so, on the other, wisdom, acquiescing in the present, is never dissatisfied with itself. Epicurus dispenses his sages from all foresight and care of the future.

A quorum is present at King Edward VII’s Hospital where Prince Philip is being serviced by a member of staff. We’re told he may be some time.

Message: We care about chairs

We’ve been made comfortable in an anteroom. Charles came and went a little while ago. He may be considered for legacy membership.

Dorothy Parker: Over my dead body. The man is a stiff everywhere but in the bedroom.

Lady Bellaston: Someone has been busy.

Be that as it may, although registration is normally open to all, it is written into our constitution that members of the royal family must first pass trial by combat. Withering commentary in the press or by disappointed paramours doesn't count.

Ivan the Terrible: I recall no such combat.

It was waved for you on account of your generous donation which is funding the Ivan the Terrible wing.

Ivan the Terrible: Yes, I am frequently visited by an interior decorator who wants to show me swatches. When will it end?!

That's out of my hands, Ivan.

[A nurse enters the room, looking disheveled] Who's next?

click for medical attention which may not be safe for work

"Private insurance doesn't cover my tip."[close]
[Carson McCullers raises her hand, then lowers it when she realises the quorum will be lost]

Is he feeling quite better?

Nurse: Quite.

Florence Nightingale: I'll be the judge of that.

[Prince Philip's generously proportioned room accommadates us with a chair to spare]

Ozymandias: It is fitting. That is where death shall wait.

Prince Philip: Steady on!

Ozymandias: Anubis comes for us all.

Oz is right. Fortunately that's no bar to membership. In fact it's a tick in the plus column. How was your visit with Charles?

Prince Philip: The boy has been such a disappointment. Wet noodle material since Gordonstoun.

Dorothy Parker: Tell me about it. [Eyes suddenly widen - wait for it]

What are you in for? The press just says observation and rest.

Prince Philip: Priapism. Blasted thing won't go down.

[The elephant in the room is noted for the record]

Ozymandias: This can happen at the moment of death, too.

Lady Bellaston: Don't tell Dorothy that or she'll be headed down to the morgue next.

Dorothy Parker: Here's fine.

Let's have a look at your chart. [Looks at chart] I see medicinal release has been attempted thrice a day with no success. At 99, there are worse problems to have.

Prince Philip: Gets in the way after a while. I even tried a trick I heard about on 'Peep Show', of course hoping it would have the opposite effect.

This clip will have to do, I can't find the scene you're referring to. [Refines search] Sorry, here it is.

Prince Philip: That's the one. Ever since the "pearls before swine" remark she made back in the 60s, we've been estranged in that department.

I didn't realise you were so sensitive.

Ivan the Terrible: That's what she said.

Seriously, this is a new side of you we're seeing.

Prince Philip: In fact I've rather gone off British women altogether, except when needs must. Give me slitty-eyed any day of the week.

And we're back.

Nina Simone: How did this honky ever make it through the membership committee?

Did I mention we're open to all?

Groucho Marx: That's me out. I refuse to remain in a club that would have this man's member as a member. [Makes no move to leave]

Actually, we do have standards. I gave Paul Tibbets a pass for dropping Little Boy. Just following orders doesn't cut it.

Abraham Lincoln: Maybe if he'd had a funny name like Tibbets the Terrible...?

Duly noted. Philip, we're going to give you some rest. Stay well.

Groucho Marx: Yes, keep your pecker up.

[Quorum files out except for Dorothy. The rest of us head for The Slaughtered Lamb.]

The question before us is an historical one: against all odds, should Harry & Meghan be admitted? A straw poll has shown that only Ivan the Terrible is keen, while most of you are undecided, either out of politeness or disinterest.

Ivan the Terrible: In the spirt of full disclosure I feel compelled to state for the record that they bought out the entire stock of my autobiography and have therefore significantly added to my bottom line.

Your honesty is to be commended. Anyone else?

Ignatius J. Reilly: I took money too, but I spent it on favours by Carol Vorderman, yet to be delivered. So I really am wavering.

Very well. There is some dispute that the traditional trial by combat is a required, given their unique situation as half breeds. I refer of course to their royal finger to the House of Windsor whilst being more than happy to retain their titles. I personally applaud their impertinence, even as I find them both tedious beyond belief. But that didn't stop Randolph Churchill from getting in.

Randolph Churchill: I have no quibble with that.

Has the Rules Committee come to a decision?

Seven of Nine: Yes.

Yes you've come to a decision, or yes such a trial is required?

Seven of Nine: Yes Sir. This is in answer to the question you asked me last week in camera, which I have now fully researched. You indicated you prefer to be called Sir by officers, especially the female ones, and wondered if there was anything in the by-laws which prohibits underfamiliarity to bolster your case. While your logic is questionable, I "got the gist". It has taken me this long to scan the databanks because they are quite voluminous with frankly an appalling amount of minutia, including fabricated minutes which for some reason are still allowed, quote "for the fun of it" unquote. Therefore I, as head of the rules committee, am now setting a good example by properly addressing you. Sir.

Thank you Seven, but that was a joke.

Seven of Nine: In the interests of productivity I would appreciate being fully briefed the next time you jest.

You forgot the Sir. Oh look, you've learned how to roll your eyes.

Amerigo Vespucci: Venerable Leader, information has come to light which may have a bearing on the verdict of this august quorum.

And they say Amerigans don't do sarcasm. What is it, old chap?

Amerigo Vespucci: Harry has already attempted to sneak in dressed as a Nazi – one of the good ones who helped the US win the space race – while Meghan tried it on as Wonder Woman. Credit where it's due, Seven uncovered the ruse.

This is shocking, but such stunning audacity is actually in their favour. I think we've now got enough background information to call a vote. Trail by combat is hereby waived, the couple having already proven themselves adept at media manipulation, which is close enough. Ad astra per aspera.

Randolph Churchill: Pardon?

"Through adversity to the stars," if my Latin is not too rusty. Seven?

Seven of Nine: Close enough, Sir.

[A vote is taken with everyone but Ivan the Terrible abstaining]

In by a whisker. We'll have them, but there will be a price. They must at all times be addressed as the Duck and Duckess. Ivan, invite them in at their earliest convenience and we'll throw a little party.

Ivan the Terrible: They're in the boot of my car, along with Oprah.

Excuse me?

Ivan the Terrible: It’s OK. It’s a rental, and I made air holes.

Do you have Piers Morgan in there too?

Ivan the Terrible: Sorry, No.


Oprah actually owns us through a shell corporation, though she may not be aware of it. Seven, think you can plan and execute a party in the time it will take Ivan to unlock the boot and waddle them in here? A mock battle scene would be a nice touch.

Seven of Nine: That's not my job, but Sir yes Sir.

Until then I'll be in my ready room. Et ludos incipere.

Stephen Hawking is co-chairing today's meeting for added gravitas. Thanks for coming, Stephen. I know Seven of Nine is keeping you busy in Astrometrics.

Stephen Hawking: No problem.

Seven of Nine: I would like to lodge a complaint.

Very well. Not about Stephen, surely?

Seven of Nine: Stephen's work is adequate...

Coming from you that's very high praise indeed.

Seven of Nine: I would prefer not to be called Shirley, as that is not my designation. [Waits a beat.] Unfortunately the joke has been rendered less effective by the interruption. Now for the complaint. My work on the Rules Committee was equally vital, yet you have replaced me there with Harry Kim, whose talents in any known capacity don't progress far beyond hapless. I can "wear more than one hat".

I'll talk to HR about it. Any other complaints, people?

Vladimir Lenin: Yes, why have you put me in men's hat check? Men don't wear hats anymore.

We all have our strengths, Vlad. Mine is nurturing hidden talents.

Stephen Hawking: [All but clears throat]

Right. Today's business concerns a formal censure of one of our members. Calamity Jane keeps getting drunk and offering Stephen a lap dance. This is behaviour unbecoming, etc. Stephen himself has indicated to me that he wouldn't mind so much if only she'd stop drooling, which interferes with his electronics. Do I have that about right, Stephen?

Stephen Hawking: Actually I thought we were here to discuss a series of lectures I'd like to offer to the membership about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Was that today? Sorry, I didn't get the memo. All who want to hear Stephen's lectures, say Aye.

All: Aye

All who agree that Calamity Jane should be censured, say Aye.

Calamity Jane: [glaring at everyone to keep quiet] Aye!

Given your obvious contrition, I'm moved to downgrade the formal censure to a stern rebuke if you'll promise to stay away from Astrometrics unless you're sober.

Calamity Jane: I can live with that.

Stephen Hawking: Or at least wear a bib.

Calamity Jane: Done.

All's well that ends well. Stephen, I look forward to your first lecture.

Time begins when you're born and ends when you die. A lot of people don't make the most of it. Make sure you do.


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