THIS ISLAND LIFE SECONDS out — round two! Until a couple of weeks ago, the Freemasons were the subject of a distant summertime spat I enjoyed last year with the grand panjandrum of the southern section of the Convocation of Magnanimous Chest-Barers, Michael J Wilks.
Mild insults were exchanged in the columns of this newspaper, before Michael J announced he was removing himself from the fray.
The only time the subject had come up since was when I was asked to step in as a last-minute replacement to give a talk to the IW Round Table, when they staged a dinner on behalf of their former members.
Apparently, Round Tablers are obliged to stand down when they reach the age of 45, so tradition dictates the current youngsters give their former colleagues an annual night out — and a jolly time was had by all.
During the evening one of the guests, a mischievous fellow, asked me to estimate the number of freemasons in the room.
I glanced around as furtively as possible but, with nary a nipple nor a kneecap in sight, it wasn’t easy.
I was fairly certain there were at least two on my table alone but it was of no consequence because more important matters, such as a hugely amusing stunt involving a coffin (don’t ask), had become the main talking point of the evening.
All was then quiet on the fraternal front when, out of the blue two weeks ago, a member of the brotherhood, called Chris, e-mailed me from South Africa —and the whole fandango began again.
I teased the pinny brigade a bit and with Michael J in self-imposed exile, one of his foot soldiers, Alan Bennett, from Cowes, broke cover to take up the cudgels on behalf of the fraternity.
Somewhat disappointingly, it proved to be a different singer but the same dreary song.
In summary, the lyric was: 'Don’t be so beastly to us, after all we raise a lot of money for charity.’
Everyone knows that (largely because the freemasons don’t miss any opportunity to mention it) but it still doesn’t explain why normally sensible men feel they have to submit themselves to embarrassing shenanigans in order to do so.
There are dozens of organisations on the Island who work hard to help the less fortunate, without requiring their members to undergo an initiation ritual which involves being blind-folded, rolling up a trouser leg, baring a breast and being spun round a few times before the blindfold is removed and your new brothers gleefully reveal themselves to you.
Another puzzling aspect is encapsulated by the following quotation from Mr Bennett’s letter last week: 'There is no secret about the freemasons.’
The fraternity appears to have been keeping something from Brother B, because even the most perfunctory scan of Google reveals all new inductees are obliged to abide by the rules of the fraternity and 'keep the secrets of freemasonry.’
You can’t have it both ways, lads.
However, I am grateful to Brother B for admitting that my 'unfunny’ articles on the masons had helped increase the circulation of the County Press. We do our best.
But perhaps I should make it clear I don’t find the freemasons funny, just laughable, and there’s a big difference.
A historical link to star of the billboard
Adam Pacitti in front of his billboard. Picture: Edward Sanchez, courtesy of EmployAdam.com
ARE there no bounds to the talents of my extended family? No sooner had we discovered an old maritime hero in our ancestral ranks, than up pops a more contemporary star.
Adam Pacitti is the young man from Ryde who, having struggled to get employment since graduating from university, spent his last £500 on a billboard in Shoreditch begging employers to give him a job.
Thanks to the contagious qualities of the social media, millions of people around the world became aware of his plight within hours and he was inundated with job offers.
It was a masterpiece of initiative and self-promotion, for which he has rightly received acclaim from all over the place.
Never one to refrain from basking in reflected glory, I must point out that my maternal grandmother was Rose Pacitti, a descendant of some Italian immigrants who, family folklore has it, were dropped off on the IW back in the 19th century by an unscrupulous skipper who told them they had landed in America.
I suspect it was the horse and carts being driven on the wrong side of the road which eventually gave the game away.
Pacitti being a fairly unusual name on the Island, I reckon young Adam can probably trace his lineage back directly to my Great Uncle Salve, which must make him yet another cousin of mine, several times removed.
I hope so, because what he achieved was rather splendid.
Well done, cocker!