But more importantly, as the result of a foolish bet with Dave Gorman in the White Horse, I was searching for the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. Dave was very unhappy. He wished me well on the book deal with, I thought, very clenched teeth.
Now, naturally, I presumed this society was set up in praise of Wilf Self and the lady out of Hinge and Bracket. I used to love Hilda Bracket. In many ways, my perfect woman. I used to write letters, offering marriage - I do not think she was married - or, at least, suggesting she could adopt me - but she never replied.
However, Charlii kindly pointed out to me that the society was actually named after two old English saints, and so nothing like as exciting as I had imagined. Also, that Wilf Self is actually called Will Self, which is not the same thing at all.
Still, a challenge is a challenge. And so, after shouting "Oi, Hipsters" at the people in Fitzrovia Cycles, snapping the "pregnant man" in Charlotte Street, and pulling into Gordon Square on the Birdy folder, I set out to find the Society of St Hilda and St Wilfrid. Or is it Wilfrid and Hilda? It must be the man first, I suspect. Just a hunch.
The Society is based in Gordon Square. But when I say "based", there is an issue. You see, although it has a website, and some bishops, and a home base, it does not exist. There is no membership, no application form, no members, and, like the Kingdom of God, it is always upon us, and yet never quite there.
So I went into the church there. I was sure there must be some clues. Walking past the door marked "SSWSH - Strictly Members Only", I wandered into the main part of the church. Surely I had missed a clue?
There were no clues in the church. Or, at least, no visible ones. I did not play Dungeons and Dragons for 30 years, Dear Readers, without learning to look for hidden doors. And so I walked around the building, tapping the walls and listening out for the hollow spaces behind them.
Eventually, I was ejected from the building. But I remembered an old friend from the Accountancy Club telling me that there is a secret tunnel running from the centre of Gordon Square to the secret old crypt. Not the one where the bar was - the one underneath that, where Edward Irving used to keep his Sherlock Holmes novels.
Sure enough, it was just as he said. Under a bench in the square there is a trap door. To uncover the door, you tap three times with a pheasant feather. And then you are dropped into a corridor.
The first thing I found, in a little office roughly under the bike lane, was a notepad marked "The Rules of the Society". It contained just one page, as follows:
"The Rules of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda".
1. You never mention the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda.
2. Refer to Rule (1).
It was enough. I had stumbled onto the Society-that-does-not-Exist's secret hideout. I hastened along the corridor, past a pile of water wings and a guide to the rivers of Italy, to the door at the end. It had a sign - "Secret Room of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda." I opened the door. And there he was.
|Somewhere in Gordon Square (from Wikipedia)|
He is out there now, still looking for the Doctor to return. And the Society - that is out there somewhere too, eternally forming, memberless, looking for the time to come when it knows what the point is. You cannot join it, at least not yet. You cannot touch it, or see it. There are no membership forms. You can give it no money, though you can support it, though it does not exist. But still, it is out there. Waiting. Waiting.