Whither the iPad in the gentlemen's clubs of Pall Mall and St James's in London? Electronic devices are still banned in most of these venerable institutions even though some of the bastions have fallen in recent years.
In particular, many of them are now gentleperson's clubs and no longer gentlemen's since we had to let in the memsahibs a few years ago. Even "denim trousers" (non-faded, non patched, non-low crotched, of course) are now permissible on high days and holidays. And no neckties on Saturdays and Sundays any more. Can you believe it? What is the world coming to?
But any form of "doing business" or the use of electronic devices is still strictly beyond the pale. My club, the Royal Automobile, is a little more easy going than most but all bags, cases, laptops and suchlike must be checked into the cloakroom. Phones can be carried as long as they don't create too much of a bulge in Savile Row, but must be switched off at all times. Just one tiny room, no doubt lead-lined, is permitted for mobile phone use and for access to computers.
Yet I see resolve is weakening a little in the face of progress. Today I was spotted illegally reading a Kindle book on my iPhone in the Brooklands restaurant. The waiter showed interest and said that only last week he'd seen a lady member reading on one of those electronic reader thingies. Whatever next? I am at least grateful he didn't call in the Beagle or whatever the rule enforcer is called.
Where's the offence in it, I ask? I can understand the enduring moratorium on the use of mobile phones and can appreciate the offence caused by a clacking laptop keyboard, but where is the problem in reading a book or even checking the web on an iPhone or iPad? It's far less intrusive that the traditional club pursuit of reading The Times (or The Sun hidden inside a copy of The Times). All that rustling of paper. Even the chess players cause a bit of a racket occasionally.
Snoring members are an even bigger hazard in the smoking room (oops, I forgot it's now the reading room – more progress) and constitute a far greater threat to decorum and public order than an iPad. Only last month I witnessed old Mainwaring walk three times round the room before thwacking the side of Johnson's leather armchair with his copy of the Daily Telegraph. That woke the bugger up.
Come to think of it, I'm minded to write to the secretary (snailmail, of course, wouldn't want to be too adventurous with electronic communications) to enquire if I might be permitted browse my iPad's book collection in the reading room. For some committee members, probably still not completely happy with the Spinning Jenny and the steam engine, that could be a step too far. I am warned in advance.