Workshop, 3rd April 2018

Anyone reader who might be concerned that the presence of the Archives in our vaults beneath Walpole Park are a obstruction to the well-being of the arcadian beauty above can rest easy.  Let us assure you that our concrete tunnels certainly do not hinder tree routes, as evidenced by their many incursions through our ceilings.  Nor are we an obstruction to the local mycoflora, whose moulds and mushrooms are perfectly at home upon our precious manuscripts.  Over our long dwell in subterrania, we have also faced invasions from woodlice, ants, worms, and one occasion even moles.

But the most common and least invited visitor is always water.  Whenever there are heavy rains, so surely come the drips, the puddles, and eventually the stalactites.  The interns soon learn to arrive for work in wellingtons for their shift on the treadmill that operates the pumps.  So it is a relief to come up into the dry on a Tuesday evening to lurk in the shadowy recesses of the Questors Library and record the latest instalment of literary loqutions.  Michael Harris shook out his umbrella and got down to telling his exciting news to the female side of his psyche, while James Priestman imagined the clouded brow of a dying patriarch.

For Pat Francis, the new year drizzle put a dampener on the new life in her life, and husband Peter was showering us with his thoughts on the ignorance of a dying tree.  It was all rainy days and Mondays for Owen Gallagher’s old man, the raindrops forever falling on his head, but perhaps constant precipitation is just the right tone for Martin Choules’ graveyard.  John Hurley was far more thunderous at the plight of the homeless on a night like this, while Alan Chambers well knew from his mountaineering that with climbers, like evaporation, that what goes up will soon succumb to gravity, which left us Daphne Gloag in a riddling mood to while away the hours stuck indoors.

One artist who always enjoyed a good downpour was Johnny Constable.  “You can’t paint rainbows without the rain” he liked to say, until one Tuesday when Frankie Beaufort pointed out that actually you can.  But the man was obsessed by them, as if every cathedral and windmill were a secret Noah’s Ark.  Leigh Hunt somewhat bitchily wondered if he had just acquired a new paintbox, and was determined to use every colour therein.  Indeed, he even observed what a relief it was to see his new 6-footer Landscape: Noon to be as free of rainbows as was its wain free of hay.

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