Workshop 6th January 2015

Well, that was easy. We transitioned from one whole year to the next simply by waiting and letting the Earth spin on its inevitable way. It also means that we need to get the not-necessarily immigrant builders in to the archive and construct a new shelf on which to file the 2015 ledgers. As the sage and thoughtful Julius Marx once meditated, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana”.

It is a shame that, as far as we can make out in the archives, Robert Burns never made it to the Pitshanger Poets. As the composes of Auld Lang Syne, the official New Year’s Poem, it would have been wonderful to think of him performing it at the group in the days before Sir John Soane took over. But then, Bard of Ayrshire never knew that he had such a hit on his hands, and indeed that famous first verse and chorus were in fact lifted (or ‘sampled’, as modern parlance has it) from a traditional folk song, from which he was inspired to write verses two through five – alas these are the verses that nobody even knows are there.

Meanwhile, 2015 got off to a rousing start this week with kindness by the cupfull and not a Magi in sight as John Hurley opening up the new desk diary with some thoughts on a complex, contradictory acquaintance who had written to the Pope to complain about Christmas. Daphne Gloag followed, reflecting on water, sometimes calm, sometimes greedy to drown, and Caroline Am Bergris felt pain wash over her in a tidal wave. The many canines to be found around a certain west London suburb were observed by Martin Choules, and a birthday invitation was decreed to all international brothers on behalf of father of socialism and socialising by Owen Gallagher. Gerry Goddin sang us into the New Year with his whimsical chat-up lines, and finally Alan Chambers set himself the challenge of the triolet which resulted in a visit from a yellow and green ambulance.

These days, the group takes a brief hiatus over the mid-winter revelry, but in times past a Tuesday evening would be conducted irregardless of the season. (Or inregardless, as linguistic purists would have it.) On previous New Years Eves that happened to fall on a Tuesday, there would be a regular meeting with members reading particularly slowly and raising many points of debate in the subsequent discussion, all because they considered it lucky to be the one who was talking as St Mary’s church at the other end of Ealing Green announced the change of calendar. One year, it was a youthful Thomas Hardy who held the metaphorical conch as he moped and gloomed his way through turgid lines, when on the very stroke of midnight he was unexpectedly upstaged by a thrush kept in a cage by Frederica Percival. Robert Browning, also in attendance, was so relieved that he later celebrated the bird for singing its song “twice over”.

Meanwhile, Alfred Tennyson was heard to grumble that since he had been caught in a heavy downpour on his way to the manor that evening, and since etiquette prevented him from taking a seat by the fireplace when there were ladies present, his heavy Victorian attire was still decidedly damp. Perhaps this is why he was overheard to comment that for him, the New Year was a time to “wring out the old, wring in the new”.

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