Office life does not seem conducive to literary endeavours, but never underestimate monotony. Franzie Kafka toiled the years as an insurance clerk to pay the bills and numb the conscious sufficiently for his imagination to run riot, while Tommy Eliot beaver away on the bowels of the Bank of England, dreaming of a better life in a vast wasteland.
And this week, the Pitshanger Poets have likewise taken up the bucolic bureaucracy of the penpusher and keyboard puncher as we found ourselves exiled from our comfortable Library to the manager’s office as the entire theatre has once again been taken over by terpsichorean children and their ever-doting parents. But that’s the beauty of words – they’re highly portable.
Michael Harris started proceedings while changing the toner in the photocopier with an eschewance of the almost for an acceptance of the is. Owen Gallagher peeped out over the sign declaring that we didn’t need to be mad to work here to recount a pop-up market in weaponry and violence among the more pro-active residents of his estate, handing over to Pat Francis as she gave up trying to turn on the coffee-maker and instead took an interest in blackbirds and cocoons. Anne Furneaux then looked up from unjamming the stapler to recall gossiping mugs and galloping chairs from her childhood, setting up a thorough decrying of the impersonal world of mammon by John Hurley as he totted-up the VAT receipts.
Daphne Gloag then gathered us round the water cooler to tell about a puppet show she witnessed on her holidays in Italy, complete with fast drivers and shipwrecked children, and Peter Francis sat making a paperclip daisychain as he recalled an away-day to Tolpuddle on the theme of how little we can do to help sometimes. William Morton chuckled over the eccentricities of English spelling in two poems he has recently discovered as he defragmented his hard drive, while Martin Choules left his emails unread to cogitate instead on the nameless wind that made us the island nation we are today.
Sir John kept an small office in a backroom at the Manor, should he be struck by a fine capital or amusing cartouche during his stay. Mrs Conduitt was under strict instructions not to enter, even to dust, lest her ministration of motes should disturb his precise system of chaos-filing, whereby seemingly random sprawl had a holistic relationship with all other knots of clutter in complex, unfathomable ways. Sometimes, though, he would be disturbed by a guest looking for the water closet or wine cellar (or more likely both), whereupon a sudden breeze would scatter his entire filigree network of interconnections to oblivion, or as Bysshy Shelley liked to put it “look on my paperwork, ye numpty, and despair !”