The residents of Ealing are well advised to take care when going abroad on our shadowy late-autumnal alleyways and byways, for fear of coming across your humble correspondent, dressed to the nines in a cape, tuxedo, starched collar, a haunted expression on my pale visage oddly complemented by a set of vampirical teeth dripping with blood. Perhaps he is taking Halloween a mite too seriously, you would ask yourself as you repaired rapidly to the Red Lion for a medicinal whisky and a bit of a sit down. I had no idea he was of the Gothic persuasion, you might shakily comment to a pal as he gets you another one in a bid to return you to a state of calm.
If that does happen to you, let me apologise strenuously in advance and offer this lengthy tale in defence. However much I might enjoy a little guising on All-Hallows Eve, I have another reason entirely for adopting the tropes of the legendary Count and wandering the Borough in high dudgeon. I am trying my dammnest to keep in with the Ealing Bram Stoker Appreciation Society, a group I have been happy to attend each week for some time now. That is, all was going swimmingly with the BSAS until I let slip that I suspected Bram of having been drawn into the heady world of the Pitshanger Poets at some stage in the past. There being scant news on the Bram Stoker front to fill a weekly meeting, the man not having written a much in recent years due to being, in a word, dead, any straw is greedily clutched to fill the time until the moment when the Port can be broken out and passed. Which, I might admit under duress is the sole reason for being there, the spirit being a particularly fine Taylor’s Vintage drawn from the cellars of the former Greystoke Manor. In any case I found myself promising Miss Eldritch, the BSAS Chair, that I would open the PP Archive and do a little research.
Keeping the Archive up to date is a crucial component of every Pitshanger Poets Workshop and this is how we know that John Hurley has been mildly obsessed with his teeth for the last few months. The record will also show that Daphne Gloag tried out a new and somewhat experimental work on the group, with the theme of Lapis Lazuli figuring large, the kind of treat one only gets in such an eclectic workshop as ours. Ever-youthful Doig Simmons has been writing longer than some of us have been, as in have been, so it was appropriate that he brought us a new piece on the subject of fitting everything in. Nick Barth was not ashamed to bring back a poem which has graced the archives before, on the subject of debating world politics in North London, for there are no rules as to how many times a poet can bring back a revision, though some, naming no names, do stretch the patience somewhat. It was Peter Francis’ turn to bring a true classic from the archive, with an appalled reaction to Domesday in masterful Saxon alliteration written a mere fifty years ago. Records will show that Pat Francis has been down in the West Country thinking about places named after saints. Samir Hazlehurst is new to the group but has been writing at a high standard for a while if his beautiful evocation of a coming of age trip to the beach is anything to go by. Alan Chambers has featured at Pitshanger Poets Workshops more times than the Ferranti Pegasus cares to remember, yet consistently produces great pieces, such as this poem with a twist on the subject of the full moon. And in a packed programme tonight it was Martin Choules who saw us home with a Halloween theme, which becomes this weeks’ featured poem.
I was as good as my word with Miss Eldritch and arrived at the following meeting with some Archive entries detailing a visit of Bram Stoker to the PP in 1890 during a tour of Britain. There was not much to tell. Stoker heard about the Pitshanger Poets through a fellow writer, probably Oscar Wilde. He was not there to read, but to listen. He mentioned being exhausted following a long journey from Whitby, where he had been to see an old school friend who had just opened a Hotel there. The friend wondered whether Stoker could do him the favour of creating a little notoriety for the obscure fishing port, to ‘put it on the map’, so to speak, and Stoker, mysteriously in this man’s debt in some way, had agreed. To this end, Stoker talked about planning a little salacious pot-boiler with a key role in it for the town in order to encourage visitors. He was reasonably sure it would attract an audience, but the poets wondered whether his heart was in it and advised him to stick to the higher arts instead of dabbling with Gothic Horror, surely a mere step away from the Penny Dreadful.
You can probably guess Miss Eldritch’s reaction to this bombshell and the pantone number of the shade her face arrived at a moment later. She poured scorn on the PP and everything we stand for. As a result of this massive faux pas I have been politely requested (read; ‘sentenced’), to help out with her small business; ‘Bram Stoker’s Haunted Walks of London by Miss Andrea Eldritch’. Essentially my role is to hang back and ensure that stragglers do not get left behind in any given cemetery, hostelry or ancient midden. It was either that or forever forego the Taylor’s, a fate I could not bear. I must finish now, as I can hear my man sharpening the fangs ready for tonight’s perilous promenade.
If you have been, thank you for reading.