The following extract is taken from Vernon Coleman’s book Too Many Clubs and not enough Balls.
'The first meeting of the Catering Committee Sub Committee (Billiards room) which I attended was a good introduction to the strange world which I had entered. The club had applied for a grant from the council two weeks before I was appointed. One of the club management committees had thought it might be a good idea to persuade the council to help pay for a new flag pole so that we could dignify any future Royal visits by flying the appropriate standard.
Before deciding whether or not to make a contribution to our flagpole fund the council announced that it would be necessary to send one of its representative to all committee meetings held by the club to make sure that everything we did was politically correct.
As a result my first experience of committee life was both entertaining and illuminating.
'Our first task this evening is to choose the biscuits for future billiard room committee meetings,' announced our chairman for the evening. 'I'm afraid that the last time we tried to decide which biscuits to buy we simply couldn't agree,' he explained.
'Does that mean that we don't have any biscuits for this meeting?' asked a woman in a yellow trouser suit.
'I'm afraid it probably does,' admitted the chairman.
The woman in the yellow trouser suit proposed a vote condemning the committee for failing to organise appropriate refreshments for itself. This vote was narrowly carried. As a newcomer, who hadn't attended the previous meeting, I abstained.
Once this unpleasant task had been completed the chairman suggested that we try harder to make a decision about which biscuits to select.
'What about ginger nuts?' suggested a man in a checked sports coat. The coat was made from something that looked like tweed but wasn't. It had orange and yellow checks and a brown leather piping down the lapels. 'Everyone likes ginger nuts.'
'I think some members of the council would find that term rather offensive,' said the council's representative, a thin, grey faced woman in a dark grey suit.
'I don't quite understand,' said the man in the sports coat.
The council's representative sighed, as though tired of having to explain the obvious. 'The term 'ginger nut' is often used to describe a person with red hair,' she replied. 'People with red hair find that sort of label quite offensive.'
'But we don't have any red headed members that I can think of,' said the man in the sports coat.
'Most of our members haven't got much hair of any colour,' said a jolly, red faced fellow in a blazer, grey flannels, white shirt and regimental tie.
'That isn't relevant,' snapped the grey faced woman in the dark grey suit.
'What about Garibaldis?' suggested the woman in the yellow trouser suit.
'Those curious little biscuits full of dead flies?' said a fat man who wore an angora jumper and a full beard. He shivered. 'I hate them.'
'We would be unable to countenance the purchase of Garibaldi biscuits,' said the grey faced woman. 'The name would almost certainly give offence to Italians or to follicularly challenged males called Gary. The council has a policy of doing everything it can to improve relations with other European countries. We are at the moment negotiating to twin the town with an industrial centre in Northern Italy.'
'What did she say?' demanded the fat man.
'I think she said that Garibaldi biscuits might upset bald Italians,' explained the chairman.
'Do you know any bald Italians?' asked the fat man.
The chairman said he couldn't think of any off hand. The woman in the yellow trouser suit said she'd once stayed in a hotel in Venice where the night porter was going a bit thin on top but added that she rather thought that he might have been Polish.
'Rich tea can't offend anyone, surely?' said a skinny woman in huge spectacles.
'Oh dear me no, we couldn't support the purchase of rich tea biscuits,' said the council's representative. 'The word 'rich' would give serious offence to many of our electors. We are very mindful of our responsibilities to the less privileged sections of the community.'
'I rather like jammy dodgers,' I said. 'Do you have any objection to jammy dodgers?'
'People on social security or sickness benefit would find that term totally unacceptable,' said the woman with the grey face. She shivered and looked at me as though she would like to see me strung up.
'Lemon puffs?' suggested the man in the sports coat. 'I like a lemon puff.'
The woman with the grey face glowered at him and shook her head so violently that one of her ethnic earrings fell out. 'Lemon puffs would certainly not be acceptable,' she said. 'The term would give grave offence to our growing gay and lesbian community.'
There was some embarrassment at this. The man in the sports coat opened his mouth as though about to say something and then shut it again. He looked around, thought for a moment and then lowered his head. 'I'd never thought of a lemon puff as an offensive biscuit,' he said. 'I feel really bad now.' He looked bad too.
'Are bourbons OK?' asked the woman in the yellow trouser suit. She was a game woman who clearly didn't give up easily.
'Oh dear me no,' said the woman from the council. 'The link to the continental Bourbon family is most offensive and would cause considerable distress among many of our European friends.'
'Chocolate fingers?' suggested the fat man.
'Racist,' said the fat man firmly. He held out a hand, wiggled his fingers and hummed the first line of 'Ole Man River'.
The grey faced woman shot him a look that would have turned a lesser being to stone. 'Exactly,' she said. 'We like to avoid the word 'chocolate' whenever possible.'
'Offensive to short people.'
'The vegetarians wouldn't like that.'
'What about custard creams?'
There was a long silence.
All of us thought hard. None of us could think of a reason to disqualify custard creams. We all looked at the woman from the council. She too was thinking hard. She nodded. 'Custard creams would be acceptable,' she admitted. She seemed unhappy that we had found a solution. 'As long as they are purchased from a council approved supplier and don't come from Burma.'
'Why can't they come from Burma?' asked the fat man.
'The council has instituted a unilateral ban on imports from Burma.'
'Do they actually make custard creams in Burma?' asked the fat man.
'Do they still call it Burma?’ I asked. 'I thought they’d changed the name.’
No one knew the answers to these questions.
'Does anyone actually like custard creams?' asked the woman in the yellow trouser suit.
It seemed that no one did.
'They're all we're going to get,' said the chairman. 'Can we take a vote on custard creams?'
We voted and decided that custard creams would be the authorised biscuits for the committee. The chairman then announced that at our next meeting, in four weeks’ time, we would discuss the type of tea we would choose to accompany the custard creams.
'I would like to propose a vote congratulating the committee on its hard work and on its success in choosing a suitable biscuit,' said the woman in the yellow trouser suit.
We voted to applaud ourselves. The chairman then banged a wooden gavel on the table and announced that the meeting was over.
'At least we'll get custard creams next time,' I said to the fat man as we left.
He looked at me as if I were mad. 'No chance,' he said. 'We've got to decide how many to buy, where to buy them from, what brand to choose and what sort of plate to put them on.'
'Oh,' I said.
'It could be years before we see a custard cream,' he said sadly.
Extract taken from Too Many Clubs and not enough Balls by Vernon Coleman
Vernon Coleman’s book Too Many Clubs and not enough Balls is available as a paperback and an eBook.