11 August 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Fraternal societies and other “talk groups” – how are they affected by the pandemic?
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Fraternal societies and other “talk groups” – how are they affected by the pandemic?

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A short look at a huge group which has had little or no mention so far.

We have talked a great deal about damage to business, the economy, charities, the arts, the church and many others. But there is a sector of our society about which little has been said and which deserves a mention. Fraternal societies and groups such as Round Table, Rotary, Women’s Institute and so many others have all been incredibly badly hit in terms of their activities but since they are not “commercial”, they have tended not to hit the papers.

Knowing a little as I do of some of these organisations, they do tend to have memberships of older people, in some cases really very old people. Many of these groups have members predominantly in their sixties, often in their seventies and, believe it or not, frequently in their eighties, and, amazingly, who still attend on a regular basis!

I know that many of my readers will also know something of this stratum of society. These organisations consist of individuals who get together to engage in discussions and meetings on subjects of mutual interest, whether they be of a fraternal nature, such as the freemasons, or of a business nature such as the Rotary clubs, but all in some way beneficial to our society. Their membership extends over many years and it is not uncommon to find that sometimes people have belonged to their particular club for 50 or 60 years. Many have multiple memberships.

What do these organisations achieve? They are there to promote a variety of matters which bring “value” to our society in different forms. The problem which the pandemic has brought for these organisations is that they have essentially been more or less completely prevented from operating. The reason is simple – the lockdown. They do not constitute work as such; membership does not normally bring any form of remuneration. The benefits consist of transfer of knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom amongst their members and, of course, the pleasure of spending time with like-minded individuals. Very often, the discussion meetings of the members are followed by or in some cases simply consist in dining. In that respect of course, they do bring employment to the hotels and other places of meeting which are able to provide for them.

Because of the ages of many of the members of these clubs, they find themselves in or approaching the high risk category of people who could find a dose of coronavirus fatal. That is not say that all old people will die of it – some 90 year olds have come through – but the truth is that the statistics published by the government say that the aged will be the ones most likely to succumb. Of course those with secondary medical conditions, even under the age of 70, are also at risk and as we all get older, we find an increase in the aches and pains and other ailments which afflict us. No wonder these folk would prefer not to catch it.

These people, then, have had to sit it out. Their club houses have gone dark and they do not know when they are going to be able to get together again. One of the major organisations in this category in fact closed its operations down at the beginning of the pandemic before the government did, recognising the growing concerns of its members and the reality of the risks faced. That organisation has now said that their club houses will continue to remain dark until the government permits groups of 10 or more to meet indoors again. Who can possibly speculate at the moment when that will be?

The problems these groups face are pretty straightforward. When they are having their meetings, they tend to get together in a way which social-distancing would completely prevent. They sit in rows of chairs, rather like at the theatre or, even more difficult, they dine at dining tables where inevitably they are close together. One wonders how they are going to overcome these particular problems and many feel that they will not be going out to their clubs again until the virus is gone, and for most of them that means the introduction of an inoculation to prevent it. Some even wonder whether they will ever be able to go again – a heart-wrenching thought for older people who no longer work and find this form of social contact a vital part of their lives.

However, many of these people are inventive and as time goes by, they are working out how they can have some of their get-togethers using electronic means, such as Skype and Zoom. This they can do from the comfort and safety of their own homes. It must be a great relief for such contact to be available to them. These people tend to form a silent majority – they do not complain, they merely accept with resignation that they must wait for that day to dawn when someone will say “it’s okay now – you can get back to normal”.

Whether “normal” will ever be quite the same is another topic high in people’s minds. Just looking again at the international table of numbers of cases as published by the Johns Hopkins University shows that whilst Britain is number 5 in the list of confirmed cases, relegated just today from number 4 by India which is romping ahead, new cases are rising in other parts of the world at an alarming rate. Here again is the link so you can just check it out for yourself. South America is in a really bad way and getting worse and it will probably not be long before the UK starts to drop down in the list. This is not going to be over any time soon.

So for members of clubs and societies all over the world, stay home, stay well and continue to be patient and we look forward to the day when we shall all be happy to meet again.

Adrian Leopard 12-06-20

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