Let’s go clubbing!


We leave India tomorrow for Glasgow, and it’s going to be quite a shock! Daytime temperature around 5 degrees with a cold north-easterly wind, which will make it seem a lot colder. Here in Chennai we have finished our morning walk round the Club garden and at 8am it is already quite warm. It should hit the mid-30s by the afternoon, but at the moment the humidity is over 90% so it seems a lot hotter.

We are staying at the Madras Club. It was founded in 1832, and is the second oldest surviving club in India, after the Bengal Club in Calcutta. 50 years ago it moved to occupy a heritage building on the banks of the Adyar River, a building which was constructed in the 1780s as a weekend retreat for George Moubray who was the first accountant at Fort St George and was on the Grain Committee during the terrible famine of 1781. He clearly amassed quite a sizeable personal fortune out of one thing or another! The building has a splendid ballroom with a wooden sprung floor, and (anecdotally) guests could ride over to dance parties from Fort St George, some 6km away, through what were then mostly small villages surrounded with bush, and hunt deer on the way! 

The Madras Club garden rolls down to the Adyar on which this morning the scullers of the nearby Madras Boat Club were out practicing. Huge flocks of egrets were rooting around in the floating mats of water hyacinth, and a woodland park has been opened along the opposite bank for morning and evening walks. Until a year ago this was a fairly scruffy bit of river, although I have seen small groups of spotted deer coming down to the river to drink. Chennai is one of the few cities with a national park inside city limits, at Guindy, which is about 3 km away.

Writers often seem to imply that Club life in India is something peculiar, but from hearing my father talk I think that a member of any golf club in UK would feel quite at home here. Club employees stay on till long after retirement and remember your grandfather; members band together in solidarity about certain issues and have bitter arguments about others; and the committee never get any thanks!

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