Alas and Alack! The Pitshanger Poets are without an enclave, a camera, a sanctuary, a niche, vault or lodging to listen to, absorb and digest our declamatory works. Not since the Perceval Sisters threatened to terminate the Tuesday Workshop in favour of an ill-conceived ‘Steam and Nautical Engineering Soiree’ have the Pitshanger Poets been faced with homelessness. On that occasion, the daughters of Britain’s only assassinated Prime Minister, having taken a shine to one Isambard Kingdom Brunel and wishing to build their own ocean-going steamship had requested a weekly step-by-step how-to course for themselves and their companions from the great engineer. Fortunately for the Poets Brunel found Tuesdays inconvenient and the ladies had to settle for Wednesdays. The resulting ‘HMS Pungent’ in eggshell puce with lime green vine-leaf accents and ruched bulwarks saw long and happy service until it was accidentally sunk when the bung was knocked out one summer afternoon in 1871.
The reason for our parlous state is that the Questors Theatre Building which has been our home for many years finds itself in need of urgent remedial work. A wall, which a surveyor alleges was fulfilling the vital role of holding up part of the roof was apparently in danger of imminent collapse. Whether the wall’s fragility was the result of poor construction or its location above the long-rumoured secret tunnel leading from the Town Hall to the undercroft of the building is now the subject of much debate in the Grapevine Bar, which mercifully escaped all danger. The town hall tunnel was supposedly excavated by unemployed sappers in the 1920’s in order to permit a succession of expressive but bored Mayors to escape turgid Council Meetings and attend rehearsals for the annual panto. Mayor Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Robertson Kimmitt’s Widow Twankey was by all accounts a tour-de-force.
We are not entirely homeless, of course. We soldier on and the Workshops continue, albeit in the upstairs Café which is grand, comfortable and spacious, but not entirely without interruptions from other users of the space. Doig Simmonds helped a latecomer into the auditorium while reading his recollection of a child’s first flight. Caroline am Bergris managed to deliver a powerful and vehement description of her time in hospital without succumbing to the desire to buy a choc ice from the trolley. Michael Harris waited until the teas had been served before getting going on his memory of the light from a bright morning window. Nick Barth did a little Front of House before reprising his mini-epic on the subject of the Balkans. Farrah Alebik bravely made her debut with the group, reading a powerful work about an old friend in Syria while the crockery was cleared. John Hurley found a window of peace while the Questor’s Mime Troupe rehearsed and he revealed the hidden depths in the peat of Ireland. Daphne brought us a new revision of a piece from her Time sequence while the rest of the group discouraged an earnest volunteer to whizz around with the Hoover. Finally, Martin read a very short piece wondering at the F1 key’s ability to interrupt proceedings while the rest of the group resisted the urge to put chairs on tables.
It is not the purpose of this sorry correspondent’s contemptible discourse to discourage anyone from attending our Workshops and next week we should find a quieter place to meet, such as a corner of the Grapevine Bar. As always, we will attempt to finish before Nigel calls ‘time’ in his characteristic, urgent manner. Perhaps you, dear reader, can find a way to work it into a poem, though I cannot think how this might be done.
If you have been, thank you for reading.