Sunday, 20 August 2006

The Feminist Geological Association

It is well known that we British have established more organisations which enable like-minded people to get together than any other nation. There is no hobby, interest, occupation, speciality, creed, recreation or proclivity, however esoteric, which does not have a club, association, society or group with a membership open (often exclusively) to its followers, adherents, fans, supporters or aficionados.
There are the national bodies, of course, sometimes affiliated to world-wide federations, but below these come the smaller groups, provincial or local, which flourish everywhere; few Dorset villages are without their own Vole-Fanciers Society, no SW3 postcode does not have a 4x4 Owners Club. There must be thousands of these, some with hundreds of members and perhaps some with only a President, Treasurer and two members neither of whom want to be Secretary..
It was only recently that I realised that there are some groups which cater for more than one hobby, creed, etc. I cannot imagine why I had never, until the other day, heard of the Gay Birders Club, for it was formed in 1994 and has 300 members. I will eschew silly jokes about camping in a bird sanctuary, and whether it is the birds or the members who are gay, but it is reasonable to wonder why there is a need for such a club. Fortunately, the club’s website answers this clearly:
With such a friendly all-inclusive atmosphere, the Club attracts—and welcomes—members with all levels of birding expertise. Whether you enjoy seeing rarities, which in the UK have included GBC ticks such as Lanceolated Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Black-headed Bunting, or just want to get the chance to see favourites like Puffin, Golden Eagle and Kingfisher, the Club can provide you with the opportunity.
Some people wonder why there is a need for a Gay Birders Club; indeed it is not obvious until you participate in your first event. Keener birdwatchers have found it suddenly brings together two very important parts of their life. They can go birding with other people and not worry about conversation which strays into non-birding matters. Other members knew they were interested in birds, but did not want to get involved in their local bird club because they felt uncomfortable with the attitudes of straight birdwatchers. They suddenly found their interest could develop in a supportive, non-competitive environment. Events bring together not only people of mixed birding abilities but at different stages of coming out. …..All mailing is done in plain envelopes.

Having absorbed this, my mind, which has the same propensity for divagation as that of a Grasshopper Warbler, immediately leapt into speculation about what other groups catering for two or more disparate interests might exist. Is there, for example, an Insurance Brokers Philatelic Society? A Mormon Clay Pigeon Group? A LibDem Model Railway Club?
These may not actually exist, but no doubt there are others equally intriguing. Sadly, I could not think of a way to get Google to find them for me.
There might even be trebles: perhaps there is an organisation offering scorbutic Trotskyite postmen a chance to get together with others?
No, that would be silly.

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