It’s never clear how far to draw back the veil of privacy when crafting a blog. On the one hand, relating intimate details of one’s existence, such as my man’s penchant for throwing darts at a portrait of Ian McMillan he has pinned to the board at the Fox and Ferret or describing the Michael Rosen glove puppet I carry with me everywhere in case I need to halt a stampeding horse may endear one to one’s readership, while on the other may simply raise unpleasant questions on the decline of the beautiful game on his part or accusations of animal cruelty on mine. Dash it all, veil or no, you might as well hear it from me; next week I am going on holiday.
I am by habit a light traveller and the two-seater will be hardly encumbered by my small suitcase, leather satchel with my notebooks, fresh pencils and a small hip flask of cough mixture with which to while away the evenings on my Grand Tour of the Cotswolds. However, I am greatly in debt to my man and his faithful Thames Van which will be loaded to the gunwales with all the other tools of a jobbing poet; the full variety of Grecian urns, nightingales, mice, churchyards (in component form), ladies’ portraits, haggises, skylarks, ravens, daffodils, statues, busts, armour and ancient ruins I might desire to include in a poem, elegy or ode as inspiration strikes while we are away. It certainly helps carrying these items with us instead of having to seek them out as poets used to be obliged to do. We can pull to the side of the road in some quiet spot and I can be up and composing in mere moments with a little help from my man and his quarter-tonne sack trolley.
None of the above items figured in tonight’s Workshop, which I felt was somewhat of a missed opportunity. Peter Francis described the process of writing, or not writing, by candle-light (disappointingly with no mention of a sconce). Marilyn Keenan brought depth and grace to her poem about bird song at night (while side-stepping the subject of nightingales altogether). Christine Shirley revised her polychromatic piece on Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia (without recourse to heroic ballad form). Olwyn Grimshaw remembers VE Day and the lack of bananas (but we could hardly call this Ode to a Banana, oh no). Alan Chambers brought us a highly amusing poem of indeterminate age about a fish and the King of Spain (with no mention of his beard, burnt or otherwise). Daphne Gloag has written a short piece about taking a few hours somewhere nice and quiet where they will not be disturbed (ornamental sun dials were regrettably absent). Gillian Spragg remembered her mother’s declining years with amusement and a light touch (but no sestinas). Martin Choules is thinking about our new leader and how he might need a shave with the razor of satire (trying to keep it sharp, but just getting into a strop). Finally Nick Barth wonders how long it is before robots demand equal rights (but with no mention of feet or mills, dark or satanic).
Speaking of holidays, I was fascinated to stumble across mentions of Grand Tours past in the Pitshanger Poets Archive recently. Not to detain you much further, for the pubs must be open by now, It is clear that our poets were in the vanguard of the transformation of Spain into the hugely popular tourist destination it is today. As far back as the nineteen-thirties a number of our alumni journeyed South of the Pyrenees for a well-deserved break on the peninsula, no doubt making the most of an unspoilt coastline and what must have been almost-deserted historical city centres such as Madrid, Barcelona, Seville or Guernica. Still, it is clear that life for these pioneers of the package holiday was not all sangria and skittles. Louis MacNiece seems especially bitter about the Spain he describes in his Autumn Journal, completely omitting to mention that he must have been able to benefit from very favourable rates by booking his stay outside the school holidays. If you have been, thank you for reading.