One doesn’t like to complain but the in-car entertainment system on the old two-seater is on the futz again. I am in the habit of cocking an ear to a piece or two read by some of this country’s greatest board-treaders on the regular commute to Questors Theatre for the Tuesday night Workshop but tonight this pleasure was denied me. I believe the sensitive and complex device may be beyond economic repair but my man insists that it’s probably a broken mainspring and that the needle should be sharpened. However the silence, if it can be called that above the machine-gun rattle of the two-seater’s tappets, caused me to meditate on the rare pleasure of hearing poetry live, in the raw, of feeling the breath of the declaimer on one’s face and wiping the odd particle of spittle from one’s lapel. The last live reading I attended by one of this country’s current crop of poets was an impromptu performance by the Barnsley Bard himself, Ian Macmillan, right in the centre of London’s West End in Leicester Square, although thinking back, he could have been submitting some urgent voiceover work via his Bluetooth headset – toilet rolls did seem to figure quite highly in the section I heard.
Which unwarranted cavil allows me to announce the Pitshanger Poets’ involvement in an exciting upcoming event, ‘The Story So Far’, taking place in Ealing Borough over the course of a week later this month. I will direct you to the event’s web site at the foot of this Blog, but in the meantime please make a date to meet and hear from the Pitshanger Poets at Southall Library Dominion Arts Centre on Saturday January the 31st around 2:30 and also at Acton Library on Saturday February the 7th at around the same time.
Speaking of exciting events, tonight’s Workshop was a treat, if a little sparsely attended (and where were you?). Caroline Maldonado, who graciously put us forward for ‘The Story So Far’, by the way, brought us a carefully unresolved piece on setting out on a pilgrimage to meet a Sibiline. Owen Gallagher remembered his mother’s tea breaks. Martin Choules ruminated on the necessity of paying tax in a civilised society. Finally Nick Barth brought back his satire on Burn’s ‘Address to a Haggis’.
I have been conducting my own research into The Bard of Ayrshire in the run-up to the great man’s birthday. It is well known in these circles that Rabbie Burns never managed to attend a workshop at Pitshanger Manor despite repeated invitations. The Ploughman Poet had become the toast of the salons in Edinburgh and his fame had spread, so it was natural for the group to desire to meet the man himself. The PP Archive is fascinating, containing several hastily-scribbled apologies from Burns in his native Scots. On the first invitation Burns claimed he ‘Coods nae fin’ mah bitts’. On the second he ‘Hud tae staun a round fur some auld mukkers in Gala’. On one occasion he was rumoured to have made it as far as Gretna Green but that ‘A cranachan hae jaupsed ma luggies an’ aim no’ fit to roam’. Gradually, I believe it dawned on the poets that Burns’ somewhat faint-hearted responses implied that he would never feature around the table in the Manor, especially in the face of such excuses as, ‘Ah skelped ma pinkie skinnin’ a neep an’ must bide a wee while in mah bed’. If you have been, thank you for reading.
Details of ‘The Story So Far’ can be found at: