It is appropriate that just before Halloween, the gremlins got into the Archive and mixed up the order of the index cards, leading to Yeats and Wordsworth unexpectedly leading the pack while poor Allan Ahlberg was taught a harsh lesson in alphabetical privilege. Indeed, it has instantly given our latest unpaid interns a new cause to champion, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with them mostly being Polish with names featuring a not-disappointing number of zeds.
Anyway, on with this week’s workshop, where I’m glad to say the participants were in a strictly phoneme-neutral order. Daphne Gloag was first among equals as she saw a universe in the canvases of a minimalist painter while Owen Gallagher observed an insult from beyond the cold grave. Michael Harris has been speaking God’s truth about love, in all its forms, while a perfectly cheery Pat Francis has been thinking about where she’d like to be buried, and husband Peter has been watching the sun catching the underside of Autumn leaves. It is fire that has been heating John Hurley’s passion of late, as he wishes Prometheus had been less gung-ho and had considered the pollution, before Martin Choules has been watching the skeletons in a seasonal tale as long as it is tall, and finally Doig Simmonds has been asking the eternal question: war, what is it good for ?
Sir John’s salons were always informal, and there was never a set order of readers, not by name, age, height, or even (much to Gerogie ‘Lord’ Byron’s chagrin) social rank. Sometimes the ‘conch’ of the day (usually the bottle of port) would orbit the room in a clockwise manner, though in late October it was not unknown for their playful host to insist on brandy, thereby forcing the company to be daringly widdershins. This would always upset William Blake, who liked to sit himself on Sir John’s right hand to ensure that he would get to go last, and dreaded the times when the lord of the manor would turn to him with a jovial “Tell me Bill, how does Matthew 20:16 go again ?” to which he would be forced to mumble “So the first shall be last and the last first.”