The side of the old Masonic Hall in Bradford on Avon - how secretive can you get?
I am on the end of a long line of London Freemasons, but I am almost the only male member on my father's side not to have actually been one. I decided to become a real one instead.
My father stopped attending the meetings years before he kicked the bucket, but I remember him and my mum getting dressed up to attend the annual ball in the Main Lodge in London's Great Queen Street (no relation to me, John, before you say it). I still have his black tie AND white tie outfits with kid gloves, but haven't as yet worn them. Maybe I'll wear the white tie when I pick up my knighthood from Buckingham Palace, or maybe at the gala evening for my 'Lifetime's Achievement' award.
Before they actually left me in the house alone with my murderous sisters for the evening, there would be a sense of anticipation and excitement, and the kitchen would be filled with the scent of 'Mitsouko' perfume emanating from my mother on one of her rare evenings out. In the morning, there would be fresh, crystalised fruits in the fridge which my father had snitched for me before he left the banquet.
He stopped being an active mason because - he said - it had turned from a charity into an old boy's network which existed purely to line the pockets of a handful of corrupt policemen and business men, and he refused to go cap in hand to them when he hit a bit of financial trouble in the early 60s.
You can take a little tour of the Grand Lodge in London these days, and right next to the young, black woman on the front desk, there is a wooden mason's mallet dating back to early Egypt, sitting in a glass cabinet - still usable after several thousand years. Another part of the exhibition features a lot of medals and regalia made from old tin cans. All this stuff was made by British prisoners of war so that they could continue their secretive practices whilst incarcerated by the Germans and Japanese. Boys always like to play at something - in my boyhood, we used to pretend to be prisoners of war.
I (unlike my brother) was never interested in becoming a freemason - I just couldn't see the point. I can see how they started though.
A lot of secrets are locked up in the massive stone edifices which are scattered around the world, and have been since the days of King Solomon the Wise. The Great Pyramid is a calendar, for instance. Anyone who could measure time accurately could rule the world. The race to invent an accurate clock was started by seamen - there is no good navigation without accurate time-keeping, and no treasures to be looted without good navigation.
I am still benefitting from the ancient secrecy. An old friend of mine once looked at a complicated piece of stone I was working on, and said, "I wouldn't know where to start."
I replied, "Yes you would. You just wouldn't know where to finish."