Where would the English Summer be without the English Summer rain ? And where would underground bunkers be without the constant doik-doik into coffee mugs and tin buckets ? Fortunately, here in the Archive we have an emergency plan for surviving being flooded – we wrap everything in clingfilm and supermarket carrier bags and break out the emergency kagools. All interns are on mop duty, superstitions are damned as umbrellas are left up indoors, and we are coming down hard on the slightest hint of a Gene Kelly impression.
But no wet drips at this week’s workshop. Caroline Am Bergris turned on the taps with a poignant piece about tea at the Dorchester and the best kind of fawning, while time and tide and Daphne Gloag cannot remember there ever being an instance without them, and Anne Furneaux had us laughing like drains at her plea for less tragedy and more travesty. Next, Michael Harris remembered his father’s final words and very subtly opened the floodgates, leaving a sou’wester’d Alan Chambers facing a yellow warning on the canal, and John Hurley sense the rising waters around us as we each man become an island.
For Pat Francis, ice belongs in a tall glass as she observes how busy a still life is, while Peter Francis fishes out cliches from the swarming schools and proves he’s certainly not wet behind the ears. Diving undaunted into the Milky Way was Martin Choules, while Owen Gallagher felt in his water the irony of self-immolation coming back as black snow, and finally Doig Simmonds watches his halo flying over the Sahara and can’t quite turn off the dripping tap of doubt.
It’s too damp around here to risk opening up one of the Archive’s tomes, so this one’s being told from memory: in Sir John’s tenure as lord of the Manor, he tried to interest his guests in a few overs of cricket in his grounds during the long summer evenings, which would inevitably leave little time for poeting. The others were less enthused by the sport of gentlemen, with Wordsworth wending off to the edges of the boundary incase a four should roll his way, while Keats’ bowling would take as long to get going as his odes, and Byron would position himself behind the wicket and proceed to ‘sledge’ with his snide remarks about the shortcomings of the batsman’s verse.
So nobody but Sir John was upset on those evenings when rain stopped play, except young Shelley, who fancied himself as quite the all-rounder. For him, the two vast and trunkless legs of stone were two-thirds of a Nephalim’s giant wicket (and yes, he did know that Nephalim was already plural, an no, he didn’t care.) He saw no reason to retire from the crease just because of a few splashes of rain, and insisted the others keep the field until he was out. “Look on my runs, ye mighty, and despair !” he would boast, until Sir John judged his very next ball to be lbw, or language before wicket. After all, no English gentleman should ever be seen to disgrace their whites with a wrinkled lip and sneer.