There was a time when the entries in this diary were written immediately after the workshop, when the Pitshangerers turned out of the Library at Questors and staggered over to the Grapevine bar, full of aesthetic thirst and lyrical liveliness. These entries were predictably rather brief, somewhat beer-stained, and occasionally incoherent. And if you wish to retain such a romantic view of the bacchanalian bloggist dashing off a notice with one hand while downing his third double with the other, well, feel free. And then perhaps you will be impressed by the prescience of the next paragraph that was obviously jotted down on Tuesday night and not at all on the following weekend:
So, the weatherpersons are predicting a little bit of cold coming up in the next few days. Apparently nothing too severe, though the media will of course have make out that it is all much worse, and give it some silly nickname like ‘The Chiller from Siberia’. It’s just possible there will be a smattering of snow atop the Pennines, but here in London – come on, it’s almost March ! And even if it did, then have no doubt that our excellent railways will cope admirably, and absolutely no-one will use it as an excuse to skive off work.
Not that a slight nip in the air is enough to prevent our Workshop from its regular airing. We may have had less attendees this week, but that just makes for a more relaxed atmosphere where it’s not worth worrying if it should have been fewer attendees. Alan Chambers cast off with his atmospheric seascape showing a heavy mist and an obscured shore so close yet so alien, while Doig Simmonds remembered the passing of a loved one and the paradoxes left in her wake. Martin Choules has been working on the recent production of Animal Farm here at The Questors, but was most taken with one of the minor characters who never get much attention – it seems that for George Orwell, some animals are more equal than others. Finally, Nick Barth has been watching the parakeets pursue their slow yet inevitable invasion of West London, much to the chagrin of the other bird. Well, the older birds anyway – the chicks don’t seem to care.
Bad weather is no stranger to Britain, especially during the tail end of the Little Ice Age. Even in Sir John’s day, and even without the Year Without a Summer, things could get pretty frosty. The Winter of early 1814 was a particularly harsh, and often by the time the final couplet had sounded on a Tuesday night a thick snow had fallen making it impossible for the poets to reach even the Red Lion, let alone home. There was nothing for it but to open up the guest bedrooms and light every fire in the house, and while Mrs Conduitt did that they men broke out Sir John’s brandy reserve and started on the inevitable drinking songs. There was always a real feeling of camaraderie in the face of this unexpected lock-in, and it was always Georgie Byron who drank everyone else up to their beds. But Sir John was usually there till the mild-and-bitter end, scribbling the journal entry for the workshop between quaffs while it was still fresh in his increasingly-fuzzy mind.
Come the morning and anyone with it was snow-angels and snowball fights all round and a quick skate across Sir John’s pond (it was always quick, since the pond was so small), and then back inside for Mrs Conduitt’s slap-up breakfast. Sometimes, an expedition was decided upon to visit the frost fare on the Thames, or alternatively serious thought might be given to departing at once to overwinter in Greece.