I must apologise for the lateness of the delivery of this blog. If I am disciplined enough to leave the Questor’s Bar at booting-out time I can have it composed, written out in longhand, translated into Italian, translated back into English by my friend Mario the wine waiter, spoken out loud onto a wax cylinder by a retired news reader, transcribed by my Man onto my classic Apple MacIntosh 128k from 1985, woven into a fine fabric by my collection of sentient silk worms and finally injected directly into the internet using a 56kb Modem I bought from Tim Berners-Lee, and all before bedtime in the wee hours. In this way I aim to have all trace of triviality, unintended humour or irony squeezed from the text before it is entrusted to bits and bytes. And people accuse me of being a man of leisure! This evening, I regrettably got involved in a violent debate over the use of the semi-colon and this delayed my departure from the bar until until eleven o-five. Quel dommage.
I know how important the Pitshanger Blog is to the future stability of Western Culture because of the concern so many of you have for my well-being. Several times a week I am asked by correspondents to take a break, to hand the reins of responsibility over to a younger, less circumlocutious (whatever that means) cove but I decline their entreaties to dress more warmly, or ‘wrap up’ as certain individuals will have it, and am committed to ploughing on.
It is for evenings such as this that I am so committed. To my left, Caroline Am Bergris clearly believes that happiness can be found in unexpected places. Owen Gallagher tried out a new one describing the post-clearance Highlands. To my right, Gerry Goddin slipped in a song about not having sex. In the corner, Alan Chambers remembered in a few spare lines an artist, trapped by sound. Marilyn Keenan wrote about a love unfinished. Louise Nichols has realised she’s just about had it with sleep and wishes he would go and bother someone else. Daphne Gloag read her entry to the Ealing Autumn Poetry Festival to the theme ‘Constellations’ (and where were you?), followed by Nick Barth who insisted on reading out his own contribution to this contest. Finally Martin Choules wrote about God and what he cannot possibly know.
All of this was achieved with perfect, crisp clarity, all our poets arriving with neatly typed, printed or photo-copied imprints of their verses, ready for perusal and discussion. However, as creatures of the Spoken Word we metropolitans are accustomed to deciphering English as spoken in a bewilderingly wide array of accents and vernaculars. Contrast this with the late 1930’s when poets of the calibre of Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf and TS Eliot were regularly to be seen around the Dining Table of Pitshanger Manor. Should a ‘provincial’ poet be expected, such as, for example, the young Scots poet Norman McCaig in 1938, the archivist would be sent to the local hostelries in search of an ‘ex-pat’ to translate. In this way the peculiar terms used by McCaig such as ‘wee’, ‘bairn’, ‘ken’ or ‘awa ye havering neeps an bile yer heids!’ were made transparent to the group. Thank goodness Scots-English relations have come so far in the last seventy years. I cannot imagine the powerful or influential leadership figures of London having any trouble understanding the feelings of the Scots today, can you? If you have been, thank you for reading.