The completion of the restoration of Pitshanger Manor is almost upon us. As with all building projects, the closing stages have dragged themselves out. It’s not for me to impugn any contractors’ diligence or sense of urgency but it does seem to have taken the fellows working here an enormously long time to address the final details. As you know, I am in the fortunate position to be able to walk the hallowed halls of the manor to keep an eye on progress, (as long as I scrupulously avoid bumping into the Project Manager again) and occasionally engage the skilled artisans in friendly conversation. I asked them, in a deliberately non-hectoring tone, why things were taking quite so long. They told me that many of the materials required for a restoration of this kind were hard to come by, which sounds only reasonable. They told me work was held up while they located supplies of Georgian striped paint, Cyrillic pencils, left handed screwdrivers, glass hammers and bubbles for the spirit levels. Indeed, on my last visit to the Manor the Foreman suggested that it might save them some time if I nipped out to collect an item from the local hardware store, and of course I readily agreed. He gave me a piece of paper and told me to show it to the chap in brown overalls at the counter. And so I did; the man at the shop looked at my piece of paper and immediately scuttled off, disappearing for quite a while. When he eventually returned, I asked him whether he had located my item and he retorted that I had already received it and I should now leave with alacrity, although he did not use those words exactly. Quite flummoxed, I asked to look at the piece of paper. On it was written a long weight. I returned empty handed to the clearly disappointed foreman who told me that the best way to get a long weight was to order it by carrier pigeon from Timbuctoo and would I like to oblige? I took this as my cue to exit stage left and see if my man could make sense of the episode but when I told him what had happened, he suffered an uncontrollable snorting fit of some kind and had to be excused. I will never understand working people.
Something I will always understand is a Pitshanger Poets Workshop. It is perennially a charming of melange of verse and verbiage, and a Tuesday evening is incomplete without it. John Hurley got things started in traditional John Hurley style, with a darkly amusing take on Halloween. Owen Gallagher must have been aware of my plight with the contractors of the Manor bringing a poem calling for solidarity among working people. Christine Shirley took us to a simpler time with her traditional prayer for good luck. Alan Chambers writes about grace and the perfection of love. Daphne Gloag seemed to pick up on the traditional vibe with her song-like poem exploring time. Michael Harris has been self-examining his own self-examinations and noting his own lack of enthusiasm for underlying details. Niall Cassidy used his poem to admit to having visited a poetry reading, quite at his own risk, and there were knowing nods at the tropes he revealed. Martin Choules used an opportunity to write a war poem to point out how much better things are than they used to be, despite what we think we think. Pat Francis also brought us a war poem, a poignant piece concerning the war dead who never make it to the casualty lists. Peter Francis read us something we could only describe as an ant-love poem, a counter-weight to Alan’s we mused. Finally, Nick Barth brought us a mildly-revised piece concerning the covenant between a mainframe computer and its programmers.
As you will have guessed, my man is not the most loquacious of fellows, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it’s nice to spend time with people who do not butt in all the time, on the other sometimes he can be inscrutable to the point of irritation. He never did explain to me what he found so amusing about my last trip Pitshanger Manor and the Hardware Counter, instead the following day I found a copy of ‘A Fool’s Errand’, Dermot Healy’s last slim volume, mysteriously left on my bedside table. Wheels within wheels, eh?
If you have been, thank you for reading.