This month, the weekly workshops may suffer a hit in attendance as our members have to choose between airing their latest sonnet to thoughtful critique and cheering on the Solomon Islands in their tough fixture against Pomerania in the World Festival of Cups in the deepest Amazon. It is not the first time our fellows have faced such a choice: back in white hot ’66, the archives note that Tuesday 19th July was a toss-up between feeding the muse of watching Italy take on the inscrutable North Koreans live from Ayresome Park.
With an Italian victory a foregone conclusion, a handful of attendees preferred the word over the chant, including John Betjeman (a long-time Gunners fan), Philip Larkin (Hull City, naturally), and the new wonder-kid graduating into the first team, Seamus Heaney (who despite being a proud Ulsterman supported Manchester United, because, well, everybody else did).
This week’s team managed to avoid distraction to score six beauties before the final whistle. Up front was Clare Chitan, sparing a thought for the many babies denied a place of rest, and Anne Furneaux procrastinated when she should have been writing her will. Martin Choules in midfield pondered on all the music yet to be written, while Alan Chambers rummaged through some bric-a-brac and pulled out a plum. Gerry Goddin, complete with guitar, sang us his new song about people not wanting who they are, (which will surely soon be heard from every terrace,) and keeping the goal safe was Owen Gallagher, sharply dressed in his poetic suit, because these days Guinness black isn’t just for referees.
Back in 1966, the ongoing tournament was clearly affecting each of the readers, who presented football-related works: first up was Johnny Betjeman reading Death in Leamington, his well-known ode to a non-league side being knocked out of the FA Cup. In support was Phil “Larky” Larkin with Whitsun Weddings, influenced by his many train journeys when watching the Tigers play away. Finally, Shammo Heaney pulled on his boots to read Digging, his brutally honest account of the tough life of his background growing up in Ireland, and how it inspired him to dream of Wembley glory. Fortunately for us, his school career’s officer recommended young Heaney junior have a fallback should his footwork ever prove less than fancy, and perhaps he should consider a nice steady reliable trade like poetry instead.