Workshop, July 18th 2017

The time is rapidly approaching when I will be permitted to down the hammer and chisel, hang up the leather apron, wash the dust from my calloused hands and take a break from the perpetual task of spinning gold from the straw of everyday existence.

I am of course musing on the prospect of taking a holiday.  This year I plan to embark on a simple tour, just myself, the two-seater, my man and the usual caravan of motorised palanquins, utility vehicles and support staff.  This year I plan to visit my despicable Uncle Augustus who was exiled to live in a decrepit Palladian Villa in a disreputable village on the infected outskirts of the dank swamplands of the Lido di Venezia, simply for committing a disgusting act which is now available to all comers on the NHS with nothing more than a consultation with one’s General Practitioner.

Fortunately, the leisurely pace of the two-seater even at full chat, together with its proclivity to break down, coupled with the need to pause at various Logis en route for rest, repose and refreshment means that by the time we arrive at the loathsome abode of Uncle Augustus there will barely be time for a Limoncello before it is time turn the whole lot around and head back home.  Thank goodness for that, I can still recall our last meeting, when he and the Countess both took me to task for leaving a jam jar of newts under the Portico.  Looking back on it I suppose I deserved the beating, for I was a boisterous young pup and very full of myself having just been put in charge of my first Nationalised Industry.

There was no need to take anyone to task at this evening’s Workshop and newts were notable by their absence.  John Hurley took a long weekend with a bit of a tirade against his own family and their criticisms.  Aisha Hassan travelled to India to spin us a tale of a drowned uncle.  Pat Francis has taken a sabbatical to study St Cuthbert.  Owen Gallagher has returned from Goa with an album of images featuring the women who sweep the beaches.  Peter Francis brought a snap from a Box Brownie capturing a memory of following someone into a field of wheat.  Doig Simmonds has been wondering how much of his travels were real and how much experienced on television.  Nick Barth took a trip to the Cosmodrome to survey the curve of the Earth.  Finally, Martin Choules took a look ahead to the journey our country has embarked upon and believes we might as well keep going.

Of course, it is vital when discussing one’s holiday plans with friends and acquaintances, especially those one is not very keen on, to emphasise one’s role as a citizen of the world rather than a chap with a knotted handkerchief simply hankering for a bit of sun.  As I am almost certain, someone quite well-known for these things once said; ‘He is a tourist, you are a holidaymaker, but I am a traveller’.  I suspect it was Cocteau, but my Man tells me it doesn’t sound very much like Cocteau, to which I retorted that that is how you can tell it is Cocteau, QED and so there.  I think he’s in a huff as he’s gone to polish the two-seater’s trumpets.

Which brings me to a postcard I found, leafing through the PP Archive last week.  It appears to be a holiday missive to the Workshop, jotted by the notable spelling confusionist Frances Crofts Cornford, who was a regular in the first decades of the Twentieth Century.  To my astonishment, I believe I have come across an early draft of her iconic woman in gloves poem.  Mrs Cornford must have been highly satisfied with her piece to send it on from her travels to Pitshanger Manor and the Workshop.  Unfortunately, it appears she shot herself in the foot metaphorically, as the celebrated humourist GK Chesterton was also a regular and must have come across the iconic postcard in the iconic Manor’s iconic post basket.  Quick as a flash, the wit wrote, submitted and published his now more-or-less iconic riposte to Cornford’s poem before the original hit the bookshops, if you follow me, please try to keep up.  This turn of events has always confused literary historians, poor dears, so believe it, you read it here first.

Of course, it would have been enlightening to be a fly on the wall as Cornford faced Chesterton following the return from her trip, in the full knowledge that he had yanked the rug from under her feet in publishing terms, were it not for the fact that early twentieth-century poets were renowned for their harsh treatment of flies and a swift death would have been a certainty.

If you have been, thank you for reading.



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