When it comes down to it there’s no more worthwhile thing to do on a winter’s evening in January than to cram the corporeal form round a wobbly folding table in a draughty meeting room in Britain’s foremost amateur theatre and discuss a spot of poetry, or at least this is what is insisted to my Uncle Archie when he sat me down for an ‘and how are you my dear boy’ conversation at his club a few days back. It was delightful to be able to spend time with Uncle Archie, an experience made even more piquant by the failure of extradition procedures by the United States Justice Department against him. Archie was recently accused of maple syrup running, the Americans becoming aware of large quantities of the stuff seeping out of Canada and sloshing into backstreet bottling plants. There is huge concern in the US about the addictive properties of maple syrup, particularly at breakfast time, and Canada is being blamed for the interminable expansion of the American waistline. Archie tells me (while pleading his innocence), that if the redoubtable Trump gets a second term, he will propose a wall along the Canadian border to stop the flood of the sweet accompaniment, though even now, smugglers are digging trenches and laying sophisticated maple syrup pipelines using garden hoses with Hoselok connectors.
Given the Canucks’ reputation for niceness and general fair play, Trump’s new wall will likely only need to be a simple low picket fence with the occasional notice with a neatly-lettered ‘just stay out now, eh’ notice in neat red lettering. Given America’s northerly neighbour’s growing irritation with the wavy-haired wonder, the likelihood is that they will happily nail that fence together themselves one Sunday afternoon between smashing each other in the face with ice hockey pucks.
Of course I told Uncle Archie that I am not the only person in Ealing who feels that joining fellow poets on the trail of discovery is a worthwhile thing to be doing on a Tuesday evening. For example, there is Martin Choules, whose inventive rhyming and rhythmical verse regularly stretches its fingers to a wide range of subjects. This week he presented a plot against Brussels Sprouts on a vegetable patch, a Brexit metaphor if ever there was one. Caroline Am Bergris is an enthusiastic Pitshanger Poet even in this grim season, describing her perspective of a flat she lived in and lost- rather like the other lost wonders of the ancient world. Pat and Peter Francis braved the cold to bring their own individual oeuvres to the group. Pat described the effect the lengthening day has on the dawn chorus as it rolls up the country. Peter drew a metaphor from a finger dipped in a pond for the effect our own lives have on the universe. Michael Harris’ work is characterised by enigmatic short forms – though perhaps this weeks’ piece was as short as he can comfortably get while staying away from the dreaded haiku. The presentation of the self-affirmative, skinny twelve-line poem on the merest skinny strip of paper was not lost in the other poets. John Hurley braved icy pavements to return to a recurring theme, remembering old flames. Clearly John took to poetry late in life as he must have had little time for writing in his youth. Doig Simmons appears to have been writing a lot longer than John, but this week chose to bring us something both new and reflective on taking time while there is still time to take. Owen Gallagher is no stranger to the cold and the flurry of snow which splattered on to Ealing must have seemed trivial compared to his childhood in Glasgow. This week Owen took us back to the era of the public baths and the tradition of a regular Friday night scrub up, whether he needed it or not. Daphne Gloag could be forgiven for wanting to stay at home on a rough night in late Jan, but she has been working on her own bath time piece, charming the group with an odyssey by tub, visiting constellations and galaxies before the water got cold. Nick Barth gets to PP by bike and claims not to need snow chains just yet, but we think he will. Nick tells us he has been working an epic poem, but because it is about Britain’s most talked-about subject, it may never be finished. In the meantime he brought us a pithy descrIption of a mysterious, unwelcome observer.
Uncle Archie asserts that there are a great many other valuable activities to occupy one on a sleety evening in January. He tells me his current passion is boats, and that in the last few months he has acquired quite a collection of small craft capable of crossing the English Channel. He spends his evenings exploring the Kent coastline, looking for obscure coves and inlets accompanied by his crew of contract maritime experts. I of course began to wax all lyrical about the broiling, wine-dark sea, lonely unspoilt beaches and romantic seascapes, but Archie was at pains to emphasise that his was no leisure pursuit. Although he kept his cards close to his chest, I strongly suspect that he is looking for investment in a new venture, something to do with freight services. Archie is clear that come the end of March there will be no end of people wanting things to be sent over the channel, things that have suddenly become much more difficult to obtain here in Britain. I did ask Uncle Archie what would possibly cause this huge change in normal trading conditions, but he just sighed at me and shook his head. What do you think he has in mind, trusted reader?
If you have been, thank you for reading.