Workshop, 20th August 2019

The Archive is never quieter than when the sun is out and so are the staff.  Being located directly beneath a public park does make for an easy choice as to where to eat one’s sandwiches, and it is noticeable of late how lunch hours are turning into lunch days.  Of course, the interns are routinely reminded that every second’s delay in returning to work will be docked from their wages, but it tends to ring hollow since they’re already unpaid.

Yet it’s true, the Summer is a time for poets to recharge their batteries and catch up on their sleep, with few new works filling the yearning acreage of newsprint desperate for anything to distract from the silly season.  Which is altogether a shame – after all, what would make better beach reading than a lengthy verse dissection of the misery of the human condition ?  And while cinemas may pack in ‘the kids’ with the latest blockbuster, how much better if the latest chiselled hunk paused their shooting frenzy to read aloud a few haikus to bait the Oscars ?

Anyway, on with this week’s workshop. Nick Barth has returned from his fact-finding mission to Rome with a tale of history getting in the way of history, and Pat Francis has been listening to the first words of all, whereas husband Peter has been listening to birds words as they’re sung regardless.  Meanwhile, Roger Beckett has been feeling the wanderlust, possibly passed on from his father who had no further use for it, and Christine Shirley has been lamenting our increasingly plastic-filled world.  Next came a lament for a touching dying friend by John Hurley, and Doig Simmonds has found to his chagrin that as he ages, so does his fantasy.  For Alan Chambers, his sailing has been far from plain as he washes up on emotional wreckage, and Daphne Gloag has been soaking up all the colours of a fine Summers day, while Martin Choules has been contrasting humans with nature and finding no difference.

Sir John often had a similar problem in workshops being delayed while he rounded up his guests from this self-same park (well, Mrs Conduitt had to do the actual up-rounding).  Perhaps they were less than keen to admit that once more they had nothing new to read, or maybe they didn’t fancy hearing Bill Wordsworth dragging out his bloody daffodils yet again.  Johnny Keats in particular was always on the cusp of penning an epic Ode To Summer, as soon as he’d finished naming the clouds.  Even Billy Blake, as he basked in the Lord’s warmth, could barely summon up any brimstone.

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