I have always been a believer in the care-worn adage that travel broadens the mind. It was only last week that I was driving the two-seater along to Dormer’s Wells to meet up with an old school friend who is hoping to improve his heroic ballads. Now you might not think that Dormer’s Wells is such a great distance, but what with the increasingly eccentric mechanical habits that the old jalopy has adopted recently, it’s quite a trek. These days it’s unwise to go anywhere in it without spare water, oil, petrol and the assistance of a diligent fire crew bringing up the rear.
Now, of course, Dormer’s Wells does not exist, as such – apologies if you happen to think you live there, but your residence is actually positioned in a kind of no-man’s-land between Hanwell and Southall. It was cooked up by a cabal of Estate Agents some years ago in order to end a vicious turf war that had broken out between rival Agents. A Geographers A-Z Map of West London was unfurled on the snooker table at Ealing Golf Club and the various territories were divided up. The diligent land-grabbers swiftly realised that there was an uninhabited area between leafy Hanwell and desirable Southall. Some calculations were performed, some money changed hands and a peace treaty was agreed, with the knuckle-dusters and coshes were put back in the sports equipment chest for another year. With no delay, the bulldozers and cranes rolled in and another community of anthropomorphised furry and feathered creatures were forced to hit the road, belongings tied up in red-spotted handkerchiefs. Bar a few strong estate-agent terms the whole thing was sorted out to the satisfaction of all, and so much more equitable than the Battle of Ealing Broadway which created the gated community of Ealing Village, from whose bourne no traveller returns, as the bard had it.
When all is said and done, I like to think that my little trip to the very edges of Southall has taught me a little more about The Common Man, his ways and his travails. I like to think of myself sitting on a park bench enjoying some chips and a fizzy drink with the suntanned gentlemen you see, quenching their thirsts and talking loudly about the burning issues of the day. I am sure they would welcome a man of the people such as I, and I am confident that a few stanzas from my oeuvre would bring peace to the most troubled brow.
Peace was something we had in reasonable quantities at this week’s workshop. We had but six poets reading, which is a comparatively small quorum. Anne Furneaux led off with the first of a two-parter from her childhood, remembering the work people used to do; delivery and working people. I am sure people still do work, it’s just that there are fewer reasons to get so filthy doing it today. Daphne Gloag has been thinking about Persephone and that fateful picnic of two Pomegranate seeds which committed her to Hades’ less than welcome time share. Roger Beckett continues to surprise us with the dry wit of the poetry he tells us he has been writing for quite a while now. This week he was telling tales of telling tales of sheep. John Hurley returns, week after week, to get things off his chest, this time his view of critics, which is critical. Nick Barth brought back an old one inspired by the silence of a volcano and the noise of tinnitus. Finally, Martin Choules has been puzzling over butterflies, or rather the word ‘butterfly’, whose origins appear lost in the murk of time.
There you have it, a week with very little in the way of travel. It’s coming up to holiday season, however and poets everywhere will be packing their buckets, spades, notebooks and assorted stationery ready for the moment they can luxuriate in a lounger or deploy a deckchair and write how wonderful they would be feeling if it wasn’t for the (…insert theme here…). If you have been, thank you for reading.