THIS ISLAND LIFE FREEMASONS are always anxious to insist they are not a secret society but a society with secrets. It’s a glib but preposterous phrase; a little like saying the County Press is not a newspaper but a paper with news in it.
I have returned to the subject of the brotherhood only because one of their number e-mailed me from South Africa.
I would like to tell you where, in the vastness of the sub-Sahara, this gentleman actually resides but this is a Freemason we’re talking about, so he prefers to shelter behind a PO box number in a place called 'Gordons Gay’.
I carried out the obligatory Google search, during which I discovered more than I wished to about a certain Scottish dance and the sexual predilections of gentlemen with that particular first name.
So all I can tell you is the chap is called Chris, he admits to being a member of the Brotherhood and claims to have been a police officer in a county force for more than 15 years.
It is at this point the narrative departs from the usual huffy denunciations one has come to expect from the lads on the square and actually contains a startling allegation.
It is generally believed membership of the Supreme Conglomeration of Altruistic Trouser Rollers is a wise career move for members of the constabulary but Chris reckons his police career actually suffered because he was a mason.
He said: "When I wore the blue, and it became known I belonged to the fraternity, several senior officers made it clear life would change for me — and it did.
"When one looks at the promotional lists for the past 15 to 20 years for that particular force, it is noticeable the majority attended Roman Catholic churches."
This immediately opened up the fascinating possibility of a police force somewhere in the land riven by an internal power struggle between Bible-bashers and wearers of embroidered pinnies.
Chris then suggested I try doing some research on Opus Dei, Knights of Columbus and what he termed 'the really scary one’, the Society for the Protection for Truth and Property.
He urges me to 'try sourcing the orchestrated anti-masonic happening every five years in the UK and where it emanates from’.
He then says such an outrage does not happen in the United States and suggests I ask myself why.
In return for this foray into Dan Brown and David Icke territory, Chris promises he will explain what the rolled-up trouser leg, natty little pinny and the ritual baring of breasts all mean.
But I’m not sure I want him to. It’s like somebody explaining a joke after you’ve already laughed your head off.
Not one to give up easily, he also pledges to reveal (with the sort of logic one has come to expect of your average mason) 'where exactly the majority of craft lodge secret signs come from — but not what they are.’
This is a bit like greengrocer advertising an exotic new fruit he has imported from the Far East but refusing to tell customers what it is.
To be honest, I’m far more interested in discovering why men (many of them quite intelligent) should feel the need to indulge in such absurd practices in the first place, to obtain membership of an organisation about which they will never know the full story.
Meanwhile, I’ll carry on waiting for an invitation to witness at first hand the non-secret shenanigans of this non-secret society.
What’s a few more years in IW history?
There appears to be a slight coming together of opposing forces in the battle to provide a meaningful repository for the council’s vast collection of Island artefacts.
Enthusiasts (including my old mate Grumpy Greening) have been agitating for years about the future of the Guildhall, Newport, claiming it would be the perfect venue for such a museum.
But such a project, in which valuable treasures have to be safely stored and displayed, requires a lot more than a lick of paint and a few posh signs.
So the IW Council recently announced its intention to commit £3.5m over two years towards a longer-term funding of up to £6m to £7m to bring the building, and others on the Island, up to the necessary standard.
This produced a grudging nod of approval from Mr Greening and his chums — but Grumpy is a naturally suspicious cove.
He spends much of his time buried in fusty old manuscripts and sent me this cutting from the Hampshire Advertiser of December 6, 1851.
It states: "It is to be regretted Newport possesses no public museum, though the Island, as far as geology at least is concerned, shows us one of the richest spots within a small compass to be found in the United Kingdom.
"We will not enlarge upon the utility of such a museum, as all agree upon it being a desireratum in any town, but we hope to see a foundation laid for such a museum."
As Grumpy observed: "It’s already taken more than 160 years, so another couple won’t make much difference."