Firstly, an item of housekeeping: there will be no workshop next week, as even poets need respite from the demands of the Muse to re-commune with Bacchus. Secondly, an item of housekeeping: The Pitzhanger Manor Bingo Society has decided to continue its activities despite the sad death of its last surviving member. And thirdly, an item of housekeeping: the local council have alas rejected our call for the ongoing refurbishments to include a statue of Sir John Soane’s domestic servant Mrs Conduitt.
So, at the final workshop of 2015, a small and still sober assortment assembled to see out the old year in revelrous ribalditry. Martin Choules opened the party with a celebration of Saturnalia, while John Hurley recalled the market-square philosophers of his boyhood and Daphne Gloag was awed by an Italian conjurer’s metaphorical solar system of coloured balls. James Priestman has been dreaming of a Christmas soirée where the crew of Apollo 11 exchange canapés with the Magi, and John Hurley (again) recounts the gift of computers to the elder generation. Also present this week were U A Fanthorpe, Ogden Nash and Edmund ‘Evoe’ Knox, albeit by proxy as the second half of the meeting was taken over by readings from some of the poetry volumes in the Archives.
Talking of the Archives, it seems that missing-out the meeting between Christmas and New Year is nothing new. Indeed, there is a rumour that way back in the late Seventeenth Century, Isaac Newton arrived in Ealing Green one Tuesday only to find the Manor deserted. Despite having to let himself in through an ajar window, he still expected to find a room full of poets rather than leftovers and drooping paper chains. Undaunted, he took out his latest work (The theory of Gravity in Rhyming Couplets) and proceeded to recite to an empty room.
Well, not quite empty…the Manor at that time had a cat problem. They usually hid in the skirting, detectable only by their scratching and mewing, though sometimes they could be found sleeping in the chandliers or seen skittering across the tiles chasing the beam of light from a prism. Incensed by their constant purring, at one point Sir Isaac grabbed one and made to throw it out the front door. Alas, said door was still locked, leading to a swift demonstration of his laws of motion between his boot and the woodwork, causing the wormy door to crack just enough for a feline to slink through. Had he just invented the cat flap ? There are those who doubt, but surely nothing was impossible for the undisputed creator of calculus.