Poets, we are reminded, are not creatures of heat. They thrive much better with a freezing garret than a baking beach. For sure, they complain about the rain, but oh how they love to complain – whinging is essential to the poet’s soul, is the driver of great rhetoric, from The Seven Ages Of Man to The Coming of the Magi to This Be The Verse. And yes, moaning about heat is possible, but it’s hard to do when it’s just so darned hot !
And that is why air conditioning is so important in the Archive. Of course, being underground helps, but this summer’s oppressive mercury gets everywhere. So steps have been taken, starting with five oar blades being attached to the circumference an old tyre hanging horizontally from the ceiling, kept in perpetual motion by one of the unpaid interns who has been designated as honorary ceiling-wallah. Alas, the caverns of the Archive tend to be rather low, and the whole rig has proved rather dangerous in the neck-injury department, and we can only be thankful that the original plan to sharpen the blades to better ‘slice’ though the air was not pursued on account of the fibreglass of the blades not taking a good edge when worked with a grindstone.
The bright sparks at this week’s workshop did nothing to lower the temperature of the Questor’s library this week, but such is the price of genius. Daphne Gloag put a flame under the pot with a pondering on the possible, which Peter Francis fanned with his ‘tri-incidence’ of unlike wartime events. Anne Furneaux gave the coals a good stoking with her exasperation on the weather, while Doig Simmonds refused to open the windows as he waxed on a newborn.
The broth was boiling by the time Pat Francis sent us dispatches from the Battle of Brentford, which was kept on the simmer by Owen Gallagher’s poignant family drama of death on the doorstep, and steeped all afternoon while Alan Chambers went bric-a-brac rummaging. The sweat was steaming when John Hurley turned his crystal ball to our distant future, and Michael Harris’ meditation on health could do nothing to cool the atmosphere as he turned up the oven, so it was left to Martin Choules to pour cold water on matters – alas in the sauna of the hothouse, he only managed to make matters worse.
The poets were just as wilted in Sir John’s time. Perce ‘Bysshie’ Shelley came in one muggy Tuesday after a month’s absense with a new verse he call What I Did On My Holidays. In it, he proceeded to tell of his vacation in the Egyptian desert, and porceeded to bore everyone with his miniatures of him stood infront of the sphynx, him sitting on a camel, him hilariously appearing to prop up a pyramid, etc. But judging by his glowing forehead and peeling nose, he had come back with unintended souvenirs.
But worse was that the only poem he had bothered to write all hols was a sneering jibe at the simplicity of the locals – apparently they still had a pair of giant masonry legs standing upon the lone and level sands that they hadn’t bothered to tear down and make to place look more picturesque (they blocked his sea view from his villa). It fell to Horace Smith to point out that this statue had never had a trunk to begin with, and was just supposed to be the legs – it was, infact, modern art.