Workshop, 2nd January 2018

Well, time has done what it always does – it came to pass.  2017 is over and 2018 must take its place as predictably as a doggerel couplet.  Here in the Pitshanger Archives, the interns have been busy replacing all thirty-seven calendars we have hanging about the place with ones we saved from 2001 (having already been reused in 2007) – all three years began on a Monday, you see, and well, waste not.  A bottle of correction fluid and they’re good to go, except for the full moons, but who cares about those when we work in a windlowless basement ?  Oh, and the date of Easter…

There was a freshness about this week’s workshop, with Michael Harris opening the year with dreams of the old country, from the worries of the new, while James Priestman was walking with Jonah in the desert, a long way from the sea.  Pat Francis has been digging for diamonds in high society, and Martin Choules has already been writing up the old year, either as history or obituary, we’re not sure.  The Magi were re-imagined by Peter Francis, who never did hand over the gold et al.  Alan Chambers is warming up the depths of Winter with a stewing Basque Summer where only the silent men remain in the scorching plaza, while John Hurley’s youthful Summer culminated in his first kiss, but no invitation back the following year.

For a long detailed view of the passing years, one can do well to turn to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.  And though there is no evidence that he ever visited the Tuesdays (or indeed often left the environs of Paris), he was a keen Anglophile, if a little rusty on the language.  But with the help and proficiency of his maman Jeanne, he would send over rough drafts of his domestic epic to be read aloud to the assembled, starting in 1909.  Indeed, these would turn up most weeks, and the council librarian, who was running the workshops at the time, would diligently respond the thoughts of the group, if a little more politely than they were offered.

There is a suggestion that he so enjoyed this feedback that he felt he had to maintain writing more and more chapters just to keep receiving the replies.  Finally, in 1920, in the librarian’s absence due to a cataloguing conference, Tommy Eliot stood in as chair, and promptly sat down in disgust – “Oh, not old procrastinating Proust again.  I’m going to tell him straight that we’ve all long forgotten how this bloody book started !  And I thought my Waste Land was dragging on a bit.”  Robbie Graves agreed, muttering how he had only picked up the recitals late in the series and couldn’t keep track of the two thousand-odd characters.  What affect this letter had on Marcy Proust is unknown, but the pages stopped coming and a couple of years later he died, with three volumes not yet published.


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