Workshop, 5th February 2019

Some people, although ostensibly regarded as employed in a clerical nature, are rarely to be found at their desks.  Some work extensively from ‘home’, although this appears to cover everywhere from the sofa to the neighbourhood coffee shop, but others it seems are always on the go – conferences, trade fairs, client presentations, big lunches, racking up the air-miles while their cats and houseplants are left to fend for themselves.

However, here at the Archive we prefer to let the world come to us.  Despite the keen requests of the unpaid interns that they might be let out of their monkish cells for have a few days of sunlight, there is really no need.  Newspapers, journals and slim volumes all make their way down our post chute to be catalogued, bound and filed on the miles of waiting shelves lining our caverns measureless to man, so who has time for jaunting around airport hotels and brutalist convention centres ?

Well…actually, next week we do, as we prepare to exhibit our latest indexing methods at the All-Anglia Amalgamated Archivist and Allied Almanac Association Annual Assembly.  It may surprise you to learn, dear reader, that even we can feel down sometimes when we have to spend all day counting syllables or censoring Limericks, and it will do us good to meet fellow-librarians and to be reminded that we are not alone in our lonely profession of word-herding, and that our work means more than simply curating commas and fattening bookworms.

Of course, documenting the weekly workshop also gives us a chance to poke our heads above ground, and this week’s was certainly worth the seven-storey climb.  Doig Simmonds has been seeing a vision of loves past, while Michael Harris has been watching the watchful eyes.  However, the unexpected sighting that haunts Niall Cassidy is the ghost left behind by dementia, and who knows what uncanny apparitions Alan Chambers saw in Fingal’s Cave – certainly not him, who has no memory of it, just like Owen Gallagher cannot recall what befell him one time in the cinema of his youth.  Pat Francis has found out the life doesn’t deal in denouements, while husband Peter has been weaving a tale of Latin American weavers, soldiers, and inevitability.  Next came a requiem by John Hurley for a moonshiner who was rather fond of his own wares, and finally Martin Choules has been wistfully remembering his student days as he fills in his tax return.

The life of a poet has always been one of constant conferences, networking and sales pitches, and they would often not appear for many Tuesdays in a row as they were yet again taking the packet boat to the continent (business class, of course) or were wiling away the wee hours in a coaching inn between connections.  One of the grumpiest gadabouts was Tommy Eliot, who having crossed the Atlantic once saw no reason to do so again.  When he did finally reappear from some sonnet symposium or unconventional-forms convention, it was with a litany of lamentations: “A cold coming we had of it !  There wasn’t even the funny little basin we’re supposed to wash your in face in !  Alas, we shall not cease from exploration…”

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