Though the evening was dark and damp, the by-ways and highways of Ealing were clogged with increasingly desperate coves, laser-focused in their desire to find the perfect item for sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or pal, yet was I ere able to pilot the two-seater with the sort of calm insouciance that would have had observers considering that it was to a Sunday picnic I was bound, rather than up my own private Congo and into the Heart of Darkness. A quiet smile flickered around lips that normally would have been baring teeth of assertive rage; the two-seater’s long-suffering throttle pedal was barely caressed by the supple shoe-leather, the string-back gloves remained distant from the horn-push. The two-seater’s precocious main beams were not flashed and a more-than reasonable distance was allowed between YT and the heavily laden multi-purpose vehicle in front.
Those of you currently undergoing the stresses and strains of this season of affluenza will be wondering why I am not a querulous wreck, a nervy, pale, drawn shadow of myself, having undertaken pitched battle with the dread hordes of Ealing Broadway. The answer is that I have discovered a new way to shop. I simply decide what it is I want to buy and in the calm and reflective atmosphere of my cosy study sit before the keyboard and enter the crucial details. Once I have done this I then hand the list to my man who takes a trip on the Central Line to to Westfield Shopping Centre and purchases the items. I tell you, this ‘on-line’ shopping as we call it is the wave of the future and I heartily recommend it to you all.
The upshot of this calm progress to Mattock Lane was a more than usually reflective approach to the Workshop and a fine time was had by all (and where were you?) John Hurley captured the events and atmos of The Nativity to a fine level of detail. Gerry Goddin brought us a song which outlined in a series of tableaux the direction Fate would appear to be pointing. Owen Gallagher returned with his piece on the essential permanence of the worker in the transient capitalist world. Ann Furneaux revised her atmospheric piece on winter in Wensleydale. Nick Barth has been remembering the fireflies he saw in the summer. Finally Martin Choules brought us a newly-minted Advent Calendar for a more agnostic age.
This will be the last Blog entry for 2014 and with The Season almost upon us, I thought it would be apposite to delve into the Archive to ascertain the influence Christmas has had on the workshops throughout the Nineteenth Century. Unfortunately, details are sketchy. Whether this was to do with the large intakes of Fine Oak-Aged Laudanum popular at the time can only be guessed, but we can be sure of a number of things. Firstly, the Pitshanger Poets used to meet every Tuesday throughout the period, even on Christmas Day itself. Secondly, it is suggested that a Father Christmas costume would be donned by the most hirsute poet then in attendance. Thirdly, as has been noted, a quantity of Christmas Cheer was consumed by all in attendance.
However, whether Christina Rosetti was ever bounced upon a male poet’s knee, asked whether she had been a good girl and what she would like for Christmas and whether this enquiry ever evoked the forthright response: “For Christmas I would like to write a poem evoking the joyful innocence of a Carol while containing the somewhat doleful and exclusive elements of a solitary attendant to the traditional Nativity scene. I wish to accomplish this in a style which is never mawkish or overly simplistic, offering an authentic and sincere expression of what is essentially the solitary feminine episode in the entire Christian canon. I plan to contrast the joy of the central scene with the bleakness of the mid-winter in which it is set, now please move your hand” would be the purest speculation on my part. Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and if you have been, thank you for reading.