Every town has one, and just because you don't know where it is your town doesn't mean it doesn't exist; it just means you haven't been invited to be a member yet. The original gentleman's drinking clubs, where smoking is still very much allowed (provided it's a cigar or a pipe), where snifters of brandy are drunk and the world set to rights around a blazing log fire. Whatever the time of year.
If you ever do get invited to one you might notice, nowadays, how shabby it all looks round the edges. How there are so few members - even now, after they've finally let the ladies join - that you wonder how it even stays in business. And you might be tempted to think that there must be more to it than meets the eye, to hold romantic notions about how the place stays open, and the real reasons why so few drink there...
But you'd be wrong. These clubs are an obscurity and already slipping into history.
Unless you've entered the Jeykll And Hyde - for that is the stomping ground of the Abominable Gentlemen.
One of them, called Everington, steps out his door onto a Nottingham street and walks there - it is his local. But strangely it is also the local of Dr. Rowan, who lives many miles to the north in Sunderland. And even more strangely it's the local pub to Ryker and Colonel Polson, who live in Kansas towns which don't even have pubs. All four of them walk to the Jeykll And Hyde, for gentlemen would never drive themselves.
Outside it is recognisably England - cold, damp, clouded over. The old glass windows of the club are warped in places, or frosted over, or made with stained glass. You can see the real world through these windows, but it looks a bit different. Odd.
It was Ryker who asked the others to meet that night, and they all knew where and when (the Gentleman have the old-fashioned skill of being able to meet for a drink without having to endlessly 'message' each other beforehand). Also present was The Man With A Skull For A Head. No one knew where he was from - it wasn't that people didn't dare ask, just that he presumably had no vocal chords with which to reply. No one knew how he drank either, but he stood his round, so no one cared too much either way.
They were sat in a nook of the club, where there were the comfiest leather chairs, and a log fire. Leather bound books lined the walls. The only sounds were the clatter of billiards being played in the room next door, and knots of wood sparking in the fire.
That night, they were bitter drinkers, in both senses of the word. Pints of Blue Monkey were being drunk, but despite that, the mood was morose. Ryker had started a conversation about what passed for genre fiction in the modern world.
"Sparkly vampires..." he said, between gritted teeth.
Everington used some choice words of Anglo Saxon dialect.
Dr. Rowan spat into the fire.
Col. Polson almost swallowed his cigar in righteous anger.
The Man With A Skull For A Head indicated, with some very expressive hand gestures what he thought of sparkly vampires. In the same wordless manner he also made it be known that he was dry, and that it was Col. Polson's round (he couldn't stand laggards when it came to drinking).
"Wouldn't it be great," said Dr. Rowan, "if there was some periodical that published nothing but classy genre fiction?"
"Well written," said Everington. "Creepy."
"Original," said Ryker. "Thought provoking."
"Stylish," said Col. Polson. "Contemporary."
The Man With A Skull For A Head made the international sign language gestures for "erudite" and "literate".
"But who could do such a thing?" said Ryker. There were baffled looks all round; Col. Polson threw the stub his cigar into the fire. Outside, the English rain flung itself against the windows.
The Man With A Skull For A Head made a gesture. They stared at him blankly. He made another.
"We could...." the Abominable Gentlemen said in unison. There was a sudden commotion as the comfy armchairs upon which they'd been reclining were pushed back, watch chains hastily consulted, and coats, hats and canes gathered. The Abominable Gentlemen tipped the man on the door, huddled against the elements, and hailed horse-drawn cabs back to their dwellings in Nottingham, Sunderland, and Kansas. Pencils were sharpened, pens found, dust blown of typewriters. The Gentlemen were writing.
Back in the Jeykll And Hyde, The Man With A Skull For A Head stared blankly at his empty pint glass. He went up to the bar, and placed it on the beer mats near the pumps.
"Pint of Blue Monkey," he said to the barman. "And a packet of pork scratchings."