Workshop, 26th July 2016

Summer hits the Pitshanger Archive with all its attendant sweating, fanning, blistering and assorted timewasting.  One would think that being underground would help regulate temperatures, but you never heard such complaining about our need to keep our coal-fires burning year round to dry out the rooms while disposing of our surplus records.  Meanwhile in the swanky new Theophilus Marzials Wing, they are complaining that the marble floors are too cold for the tender barefooted unpaid interns.

But in amongst the whinging, we are making some progress with our Great Microfiche Project.  We have decided to pronounce the middle word as ‘fish’ rather than ‘feesh’, the latter sounding suspiciously Scottish and not giving any possibility of hilarious confusion with diminutive aquaria.  So that’s another job off the to-do list.

Over at the Questors Theatre, they have just concluded their season with a rousing performance by the acting students demonstrating their best Scouse accents in Willie Russell’s Stags & Hens, proving that Brookside was a lot more accurate than we soft Southerners gave it credit for.  They now have a month-and-a-bit to concentrate on summer maintenance to keep the old girl standing for another year.  Surely their army of retired volunteer members will prove every bit as enthusiastic as our work-placement interns in putting their backs into it…

There was nothing end-of-term about this week’s workshop.  Anne Furneaux certainly wasn’t putting it on as she played us a nocturne of hospital beeps and coughs, while Olwyn Grimshaw didn’t hold back in expressing her doubts over the competence of our elected leaders.  John Hurley got stuck in with his memories of being an altar boy, and Martin Choules swung no lead with his song about his lack of singing.  Just to prove the point, Gerry Goddin was next with some singing, but he multitasked splendidly by strumming his guitar as well – no wonder the woman in his song welcomed him into her band.  Peter Francis has been hard at it, and so has his cardio-system, grumbling perhaps but still putting in its shift 24/7, while we were pleased to finally welcome Mrs Pat Francis among us to throw her hat into the ring and bag a brace of peacocks in Syon Park, who was followed by a full-hearted volley on human resource managers from Nick Barth as he put his shoulder to the wheel.  Ari Kazantzi has been hard at work crafting her latest super-hero tale, and Alan Chambers was pulling no punches with his poignant farewell to his life on the water.  Finally, we heard from much-practiced Daphne Gloag, who has been analysing a photograph of footprints on a beach and seeing the world in a grain of sand.

Pitzhanger Manor is currently undergoing a costly renovation, but during Sir John’s tenure the upkeep was more ad-hoc.  At a time when many of the attendees of a Tuesday evening would stay the night, he was keen to get a couple of hours work from them the next morning, possibly weeding or erecting a shelf, before they desperately hailed a passing stagecoach back to town.  Indeed, so unwilling were the poets of the day to earn their keep, that they would often sneak off in the middle of the night rather than face the prospect of helping Mrs Conduitt with the washing up.  So it was that ‘Brian’ Byron responded to Jane Taylor’s many midnight flits in his witty ‘She walks in beauty like the night’.

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