Workshop, 15th October 2019

As many of my loyal readership are aware, the Pitshanger Poets is not my only social outlet.  There’s the Driver’s Club for the Two-Seater, a form of Vintage Car aggregator for the more obscure marques.  One of the fellows who comes along to the irregular meetings claims to own a car by a pre-war manufacturer so exclusive that none were actually made, a paradox which none of the many club meets we have organised has resolved.

Then there is the Golf Club.  This used to be a regular pastime.  I have been a member for simply decades and for a long time I could not imagine a week without getting together with the fellows at the club – a game, a snifter at the bar, the annual May Ball and the Christmas Party, I really felt like I belonged, and they made it clear they valued my maturity and experience with organisations of this kind.  I got myself a parking space, a regular wing-back armchair in the lounge, a discount on the membership, but then a few years ago I realised I was not as enamoured with the place as I thought.  I decided that much as I enjoyed playing with the other chaps that the rules and regs were a little oppressive.  I quite fancied the idea of playing at other clubs.  There was an American chap making a lot of noise about his Club and that I should go there a few times a week.  I still loved the old place, loved the freedom of just being able to drop in whenever I liked, but you know, even with the discount the dues seemed steep.

This week’s Workshop was anything like the bar at the Golf Club, but I could not say the same for the session in the Grapevine Bar afterwards.  Anne Furneaux enjoys a glass of posh white in the Grapevine Bar, and has been remembering the toys of her childhood.  Today she touched on a not altogether untroubled character from the toy box, the Golliwog, with delicacy.  Doig Simmonds is supreme at the long drive over the water and explored the stone which is removed from the block to reveal the sculpture beneath.  John Hurley’s poetry is famous for clearing the fairway from the tee.  This week he told us about George, a legendary character from Ireland.  Michael Harris played the well-known double-poem ruse, on the subjects of Nearly and Neverland and Nowhere, a very concentrated piece of advice on the desirability of getting a life.  Roger Becket is superlative with the delicate putt, none so delicate as this metaphor of creating to build ones own musical instrument.  Pat Francis tells a fine story which counts for a lot in the bar.  This weeks was about sand, on the beach and in the fire buckets during the Blitz.  Husband Peter also tells a good story in the bar when given a chance.  He’s been thinking about where all that gas comes from to keep out living rooms as warm as the tropics.  Nick Barth’s handicap is lower than you would expect from looking at his clubs, but he is still able to spin a tale out of a clock made for a Soviet Submarine.  Owen Gallagher will tell anyone what a weird lark this is being a poet.  Daphne will engage anyone sporting a pair of tartan trousers with a Socratic argument on the value of black holes.  Finally, Martin offered a somewhat sceptical discussion on the value of some of the weirder elements at the bottom of the Periodic Table, no matter what potential value these metals might offer to the manufacture of golf equipment.

So, I determined to leave the Club.  I wrote the familiar ‘Dear Don’ letter to the chairman, who told me that it was a great shame.  We agreed a departure date so that I could get a few rounds in with the old gang and figure out which clubs was going to play with next.  There was obviously my old mate Leo – I had promised him a few games in advance, and I could not go back on my word.  In March, the President of the Club, Don, generously gave me a few more months’ membership, just to get me to the end of the October.  No one likes to play too far into the Autumn, and last week Leo told it would be fine, we could still play just as well after I left the club, which cheered everyone up.

The final deadline is approaching fast and my feet are colder than the proverbial Siberian herdsman thrown out of the dacha in the middle of winter without his boots and flask of vodka.  Part of me wants to head off into the wild blue yonder and play golf with Norwegians, Canadians, even the Swiss.  Part of me thinks that if I leave now, I will never get a favourable introduction to any other club. Surely, I have already made my choice and must stick to my guns.  I had become convinced that this was not the right club for me.  Obviously, they have done everything to keep me, but somehow this has not helped.  In the words of Groucho, I would not be a member of any club that would have me.

I know this a long and complex story, very anecdotal, and probably has no relevance to poetry or to the life you lead, still it is troubling, and I have no immediate answer.   I know the chaps in the club are desperate for me to make up my mind.  Do you know the answer?

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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