Workshop, 18th April 2017

The Archives are fuller than usual of late with a recent delivery of boxes, crates and assorted tea chests full of papers unearthed during the restoration work at Pitzhanger Manor.  Much of it dates from “Sir” John’s time, and fascinating it is: one sheet instructs Mrs Conduitt to arrange for the iron boot-scraper to be cleaned and sharpened by a suitable local tradesman, while another appears to chart the complex and ever-changing liaisons of his Mattock Lane neighbours, and a third is a draft of an angry letter fired off the director of the Uxbridge Road Turnpike Trust for the delays his stagecoach had once again suffered on account of the ever-present workmen and navigators digging up the highway for their endless ‘drainage works’.

Fascinating though these snippets may be to the amateur local historian, one does wonder if they are ever dashed off with an eye to posterity – after all, why else have they survived intact these past two hundred years ?  Did Mr “Sir” Soane decide that rather than keep a diary as would any self-respecting gentleman of letters and intrigue, but rather leave his thoughts and gossipings to Providence via the note tacked on the pantry door ?  Or even the front door in the case of the slip addressed to the milkman requesting an extra pail that morning on account of ‘expecting cats’.

No laundry lists at this week’s workshop, but plenty of dazzling white pages.  James Priestman has been meditating on the Tower of Babel and the Camp of Dachau, and John Hurley paints a vivid picture of a woman clinging to a fire hearth to shut out the sounds of a dark and threatening sea.  Nayna Kumari imagines God (whoever that is) being very choosy about his (or her) next messiah, while new member Aisha Hassan has been imagining a nasty pile-up in a poem that was no car crash.  Daphne Gloag has been pondering the age old conundrum of where does all the time go, while poverty and well-meaning social reform have been keeping Pat Francis’ labouring hard, and Peter Francis has been getting metaphysical with his Seventeenth Century orbs and goats.  Martin Choules has been perturbed by a cuckoo being raised by a flywheel, while Alan Chambers’ has been looking for the autumn colours and ignoring the rotting mulch.

But getting back to the Pitzhanger Papers, why have they been dumped upon the Archive in the first place ?  Well, it seems that many of these posteritous pages relate to accounts of the weekly workshop, and a good many meetings that we suspected can finally be confirmed.  Were these records removed because they were too scandalous, or perhaps too boring ?  Reading through, the answer would rather appear to be that the host was too absent-minded to file his paperwork with any kind of system, a legacy whose aftermath we still have to battle daily at the Archives.  Many minutes are scribbled on the back of flyers for Mr Short’s improvable corsets or in the margins of broadsides aiming to Pithily Puncture the Presumptions of Mr Pitt.

However, one particularly revealing memorandum recounts a workshop in a much finer grain of detail than is usual, attempting to capture the spirit of genius verbatim:

J. Soane, esq:  Mr Byron, would you read your latest for us ?

Lord Byron:  That’s Lord Byron.

J. Soane, esq:  I do apologise, your Grace. Would you care to read ?

Lord Byron:  It’s not as if I’m one of your minor nobility jumped-up Johnnies.

J. Sloane, esq:  Pray forgive me, my lord. Please, we are agog with anticipation.

Lord Byron:  Right, pass these around.  My quill ran out, so a couple of you will have to share.  Honestly, it even says ‘Lord Byron’ at the foot of the handout.  Right, everyone got a copy ?

     (His lordship clears his throat)

Lord Byron:  “The cat / Sat on / The mat.”

     (There follows two minutes of silence)

P. Shelley, esq:  I like it, but I wonder if ‘cat’ is the best animal. Perhaps something more…canine ?

J, Keats, esq:  It might be a bit snappier if you left off the last line.

W. Wordsworth, esq:  Have you considered turning it into a sonnet ?

W. Blake esq:  I’d just like to point out that cats don’t actually sit, they kneel.

Miss A. Seward:  Well, I think it’s perfect as it is and wouldn’t change a thing.  Except the title.  And the full stop.

Fascinating stuff, although of course our workshops are nothing like that nowadays.

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Workshop, 11th April 2017

I enjoy a tidy, ordered life.  I always know where to find those small but vital attributes of everyday existence without which it would be unwise to venture forth from the abode; keys, wallet, sunglasses, straw boater, phone, my trusty catapult.  This is in no small part due to the endless care and attention of my man who has a rare talent; being able to find a thing without first saying ‘where did you have it last?’ or, ‘it’ll be in the last place you look for it.’  I have never understood why the penalties for uttering these futile phrases is not more severe. Even when capital punishment was in vogue it was still possible to offer such unhelpful advice (with or without the aid of sarcasm) and merely be transported to Australia for seven years, which is getting off a bit lightly if you ask me.

This week’s workshop was entirely lacking in futile phrases, every line a bon mot, every criticism constructive.  Doig Simmonds got us off to a great start with a new poem, a haunting observation of a victim of Parkinson’s disease.  The mood was changed dramatically by Pat Francis who has been practicing her rhyme and meter by writing a lullaby.  Peter Francis then took up the cudgels with a boyhood memory of the death of his father.  Daphne Gloag has been spending her time on Time and the rhythm of life.  Danuta Sotkin-Kondycki brought us something of a dramatic verse-play, imagining a newly-minted Adam complaining to a slightly careless God about his love-life.  Martin Choules told us  a story of the creatures of the brownfield site.  Gerry Goddin made a welcome return to the group, with a new guitar and a song about a girl equipped with machine-gun lips.  Ann Furneaux brought us an experience of mortality and fresh linen from hospital.  John Hurley wrapped the meeting up with an admirable portrait of a man who became admirable, Martin McGuinness.

For all my boasts of living a life of structure and order, the fact is the other day I could not lay my hands on my set of Waverley novels.  Those classic works of fiction were written by the great Sir Walter Scott and set in the Station which the burghers of Edinburgh had presciently built in 1814 in fervent anticipation of the arrival of the railway a mere twenty-eight years later. Scott was by all accounts a polymath, a renaissance man; not only a lawyer, a historian, collector of folk tales he was also a poet, novelist and very good at finding things.  For example, around the time he was getting into his stride as a novelist, he offered to locate the Scottish Honours, or crown jewels, which had been missing for a hundred years.  The Honours had been locked in a large wooden casket in Edinburgh Castle but were then thought to have then been removed and spirited away.  Scott and a team of military men opened the casket to find the jewels were where they should have been all along.  As men of dignity and resolve, they presented the unearthed treasures without once saying; ‘Ah told ye so’, or, ‘Who’d a thought it, eh?’ or even a ‘Did ye no’ think of looking in the last place ye ken’t it was?’  Any gentle sarcasm was saved for the 80 Shilling session in the Malt Shovel later that evening.

As a result of this heroic escapade Sir Walter found himself a big deal in the finding things business.  He became a vital adjunct to His Majesty’s Government, largely because George the Third reputedly had a talent for losing his possessions.  It is said that this habit began when he lost the American Colonies, which is surely a little cruel.  However, rather a more worrying trend for an absent-minded monarch (nick named ‘Farmer George’ for his attraction to worldly affairs) was the increasing part high finance was playing in the workings of his nation.  The expense of fighting wars was met by a National Debt, which needed a Bank and an impressive building to house it in.   Our very own Sir John Soane was employed to construct the edifice, which leads us to the one time Sir Walter Scott and he met at Pitshanger Manor.   The young Scott arrived at the Manor looking forward to a lively evening but instead found Sir John in somewhat of a tizzy.  He had taken charge of one of the keys to the Bank of England, a symbolically huge thing over three feet in length.  He had then mislaid it and it was looking like he would be in no mood to host a poetry workshop until it was found and King George could regain access to the public debt.  Scott ascertained the gravity of the situation and headed directly to the fine lobby of the Manor.  There, hanging on one of a row of hooks by the front door was the Bank of England key.  Scott handed it to a grateful Soane with barely a word, ensuring the Government could finance another war and the senseless waste of human life could continue.  Britain never forgot about the young man with a talent for the written word and looking in the right place, and memorialised him after his death with a hugely gloomy edifice in Edinburgh which is very difficult to miss.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 4th April 2017

Back in December, you may remember this blog speculating on matters whodunit, on considering the couplet-quoting cop of the poetry procedural.  Well, we’re delighted to announce that we have received literally ones of letter on the subject, from Alan Ayckbourne’s under secretary’s cleaner’s nephew’s imaginary friend which reads “Dear Pitshanger Archive, can you recommend a good rhyme for orange ?”

All of which only serves to distract us from considering poets who had a secret sideline in detective fiction.  The obvious prime suspect is Gilbert Chesterton, whose Father Brown has shown such skill sleuthing that he has likely inspired far more boys to join the police than the priesthood.  Charles Bukowski is also gloriously pulpy and a world away from comparisons to a summers day.  But most of the other likely lads fall short on motive: Kipling, Milne and Hardy are as famous for their prose, but they both tend to be short on murder (well, alright, there’s murder in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but it’s not like we don’t know who dunit).  Michael Ondaatje and Raymond Carver wrote a novel and play respectively which were turned into Oscar-winning films, but at no stage do the a-list casts get summoned to the drawing room to wonder why they have all been called there tonight.

There have also been occasions when thriller writers couldn’t resist raising their profiles with a slim volume or two – Agatha Christie and Arthur “Conan” Doyle both flirted with respectability, only to see their collections sink faster than lead-weighted corpse or a femme fatale’s morals.  As for poems themselves featuring a murder mystery, the only one that comes to mind is Who Killed Cock Robin ?

Still, at least this week’s workshop was free from nefarious plots and cryptic messages.  Nick Barth has been keeping a close eye on the silver birch in his street, while Daphne Gloag has been keeping her ear to the ground listening to the tick and the slosh of time.  Alan Chambers presented a convincing alibi of his whereabouts during the equinox, while Michael Harris has been picking up clues about the stranger at the bus stop.  A rundown of the last fifty years of marriage was presented from John Hurley’s breast-pocket notebook, while Martin Choules has been investigating the underworld looking for criminals, but only finding a ferry, and Anne Furneaux has been spending valentine’s recce-ing her heart with a clear head.

Gilbert Chesterton was a regular at the Tuesday workshops, quipping with Bernie Shaw and “Hilarious” Belloc, and generally not taking matters very serious.  One evening in 1932, they were joined by a brash young American called Orson Welles, fresh from starting his acting career in Dublin and just been turned down work a work permit in London.  He quickly took to Gilbert, who obviously had a big influence on him, what with being was very tall, very stout, with a long cape, swordstick and fantastic facial hair.  His writing as well impressed young Orson, from the absurdity of The Napoleon of Notting Hill to the mystery figure whose identity must be pieced together in The Man Who Was Thursday.

As for whodunits, Orson at times provided the radio voice for Sherlock, Hercule and The Shadow, but never Father Brown.  For a man who rarely discussed religion, could it be that the dog-collar made him itch ?  Gilbert, of course, was a Catholic convert, and that evening the Archives record how Orson was admiring the string of beads hanging from his ample belt.  What were they ?  Affecting an American accent, GK responded “why, that’s my rosary, buddy”.  “My word !” exclaimed Orson, “Rosary Buddy – what a great idea for a film !”

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Workshop, 28th March 2017

It has been a while since I last gave my loyal readership an update on work at Pitshanger Manor.  Work on the Pitshager Poets’ alma mater continues apace though thankfully the house is no longer being pulled down so much as being put up again.  The Victorian ‘infill’ has been demolished and stonemasons are working on restoring Sir John Soane’s classical colonnade.  The Council’s Project Manager, Sue Smeed tells me I am always welcome to visit the workings and always seems pleased to see me, although more than once I have come across her seemingly hiding in a cupboard or behind a door when I arrive.  I can quite understand that she must need to make a lot of phone calls and that privacy is important, nevertheless it appears she can be quite challenging to locate when I am in the neighbourhood.

The last tranche of heavy earthworks uncovered foundations of the older, former Pitshanger Manor.  As you are no doubt tired of hearing, the origins of Ealing’s premier poetry workshop are lost in the mists of time and are at a severe risk of becoming mythologised by irresponsible bloggers.  Be that as it may, records of visitors to the Tuesday meetings were diligently preserved, and this week I repaired to the Archive to locate the visits of any notorious poetic grandees from the distant days of the eighteenth century.  The house was owned from the mid 18th Century by Thomas Gurnell, son of a wealthy banker and a man who enjoyed the company of the great and the good.

Speaking of the great and the good, this weeks’ Workshop was another packed affair (and where were you?).  Martin Choules took an early lead, musing on what Daedalus has said to every airman since Icarus.  Michael Harris bemused us all with a piece twinning parks Mullyash and Hyde with a single sad event.  Peter Francis took a turn around the garden in a speculative attempt to discover how he uses words.  Pat Francis recalled a racy visit to a museum in a city a long time ago in a country far, far away.  Caroline Am Bergris made a welcome return to the group with a poem that nonetheless fails all attempts at adequate description.  John Hurley recalled seeing a young lad in happier times.  Katie Thornton brought us a remarkable first-person piece describing a woman scorned.  Olwyn Grimshaw is sure she needs a new computer; however her repair man has a different opinion.  Daphne Gloag brought us something experimental written for another workshop, which work we very much hope she continues.  Nayna Kumari is working on a series of poems on ‘difficult people’ and this weeks’ was an acute observation of the sort of man who operates more on transmit than receive.  James Priestman has been channelling the Bible according to Hamlet, as spoken to Horatio.  Finally, Nick Barth rounded off with a poem about not being able to write a poem, but nobody seemed to mind.

Rustling through the illustrious pages of the Archive my eye was suddenly caught, not by the name of a poet but an artist.  It seems that Thomas Gainsbrough was more than once a guest at Pitshanger Manor on his way to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy.  Gainsborough has of course been in the news recently due to a dreadful act of vandalism carried out upon one of his most famous portraits, The Morning Walk.   Much was made in these reports of Gainsborough’s decision to switch from landscapes to portraiture, and of course the hacks of the fourth estate assumed the reason was all to do with filthy lucre, portraits of nobs and their duchesses paying much more than trees and hills, however airy the brushwork.  Studying the Archive, I was struck by an incident which contradicts this theory.  It appears that Thomas Gurnell had invited Gainsborough to spend a few days on the estate on his way to London to take in the parkland and maybe knock up a few landscapes for the Royal Academy.  Gurnell was good enough to lay on some materials and had a stack of canvasses delivered for the purpose.  However when Gainsborough inspected the canvasses he found that they were all Portrait rather than Landscape, a technical nicety having apparently escaped the art material suppliers.  Stuck with the wrong aspect ratio Gainsborough was forced to paint portraits for the duration of his stay and found that he preferred the new medium.  History, once again, being made in Ealing.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

 

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Workshop, 21st March 2017

Regular readers of this column will know that I am simply a huge fan of the internet.  Quite apart from the hours of sweat and toil I devote to this this Blog, I delight in sharing images of whatever comestible is on the plate in front of me, commenting forcefully on the standard of service or accommodation currently on offer wherever I happen to be, or Tweeting whatever thought just happens to be flitting between the windmills of my mind.  My small, perfectly formed smart phone is my breast-pocket friend and I demand that it is always available for use, even if that means that my Man is obliged to trail around after me with a lead-acid car battery and step-down transformer on a gurney to charge the thing.

I am continually amazed at how social media has allowed us access to the human psyche to an almost spooky degree, almost as if web sites were able to read our very minds.  For example, it is a common occurrence for me to find myself clicking on the images at the bottom of a web page, almost as if the designer knew that the thing I most wanted to know was what various child stars of twenty years ago look like today or why a selection of wardrobe malfunctions had gone unnoticed by the wearers.  However, with great power comes great responsibility; I have become aware the internet does not entirely cover itself with veracity.  I am alarmed by the huge amount of fakery apparent; specifically, the fake poetry invading the web.  I am determined to do something about it.  Google, Facebook, beware!

There was no fake poetry at this week’s Workshop.  John Hurley got the ball rolling with a dark polemic on the state of the world’s newer leaders.  Danuta Sotkin-Kondycki is deeply concerned with people in love and that they should continue to believe in Starlight.  Alan Chambers inspired the group with one from the archive, enigmatically reflecting on the death of Philip Larkin.  Daphne Gloag is also reprising something of a project with her poem on the four elements and the words they inspire.  Nick Barth remembered childhood day trips to London’s dark tunnels.  Martin Choules is excited about Spring and bulbs, which is atypical poetic behaviour, while Pat Francis has been wondering about the legacy of the mysterious Picts, which is typically poetic.  Peter Francis has been listening to Classical Jewish music and detecting a gender divide.  Finally, Ann Furneaux’s William lost his passport and cannot visit France.

As I say, the World Wide Wonderweb appears to be teeming with Fake Poetry these days and it is incumbent upon me to warn you, the gentle reader about it.  So, imagine the scene; you are innocently scanning a web page containing a column of text, usually indented and grouped into familiar stanzas.  How does one identify that this is, in fact, Fake Poetry?  I would like to suggest a few simple tests:

  1. Is the poem about cats?  The reader is reminded that no legitimate poetry about cats has been written since 1939, and that TS Eliot (for it was he) was in all probability anticipating the dark days of War in Europe which were about to ensue.  The last thing that ‘Old Possum’ was on about was cats.
  2. Is the poem attempting to be amusing? Legitimate poetry is not funny, and if it is, this was not the writer’s intention.  Even poets who can carry off a comedic poem are merely reflecting a dark inner conflict gnawing at their soul.  You may laugh, but you are laughing at yourself.
  3. Does the poem rhyme? Now, don’t get me wrong, we are all in favour of rhyming poetry at PP, however arming the untrained writer with a rhyming dictionary is akin to arming a Yorkshire Terrier a megaphone.  It will not sound pretty.
  4. Is the poem entirely in lower case? e e cummings famously discovered lower-case poetry when his typewriter’s caps key failed.  No poet writing today can claim the same credible excuse for what is the poetic equivalent of muttering.
  5. Is the poem entirely about the poet? All poets begin writing poetry about themselves, however, most soon learn that this does not provide nearly enough source material.  Few legitimate poets are interesting enough to sustain a lifetime’s output based entirely upon themselves and are forced to vicariously hoover up the experience of other people.  How can we poets be interesting when we spend so many hours of the day sitting in cafes and public libraries shuffling words around in notebooks?
  6. Does the poem name a commercial product? This is the real reason for the rise in fake verse; the creeping commercialisation of poetry.  It is not for me to point out the futility of writing poetry for profit but who of us at one time or another has not felt inspired to book a city break in Berlin after browsing a bit of Auden, pop out to the Garden Centre after catching some Wordsworth, yearned for an orthopaedic sandal following a choice passage from William Blake or fancied taking up taxidermy following a session with Ted Hughes?  The power of poetry is not lost on the advertisers.  They want your clicks and will use Fake Poetry to get them.

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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Workshop, 14th March 2017

The decade that Sir John Soane spent at Pitzhanger Manor was a decade of turbulent family life.  He and his wife Margaret were troubled by wayward sons, who showed no interest in following their father’s profession, or indeed any profession.  John Junior was a wastrel and George was a scoundrel, and both were a great source of worry.  Indeed, Sir John (actually, Mr Soane at this time, though the locals of Ealing nicknamed him Sir John on account of his being the lord of the manor) increasingly used his home in the country as an escape from his home in the wars.

On Tuesday afternoons he would leave his office in Lincoln’s Inn Fields early and take the stage from High Holborn to Ealing, where Mrs Conduitt had already prepared the house for that evening’s workshop.  An hour later the first guest would arrive (invariably Bill Wordsworth, whose pre-punctual manner earned him the soubriquet of Early Romantic).  Georgie Byron was always the last, rolling-in five minutes late and two drinks heavy.  They would read out their works-in-progress over a bottle or six of fine Rhenish, debate them, become outraged, challenge duels, start fist-fights, break priceless vases, kick the cat, and finally troop off to bed in a huff, and for Sir John it was such a quiet and relaxing evening that he often fell asleep in his favourite wing-backed chair.

No such tempers at this week’s workshop, but plenty of passion.  Daphne Gloag has been on retreat to a burial mound and come back full of life, while Doig Simmonds has been eavesdropping a cocktail party while the past goes on around them.  Peter Francis has likewise been people-watching in a station hotel, but all the transient drinkers are going nowhere, while John Hurley has shown how his sojourn from rhyming has sharpened his rhyming as he reflected on attending a sparse funeral while the gravediggers wait with shiny shovels.  Meanwhile, Michael Harris’ father is less impressed with his son’s education, and the nurse on Anne Furneaux’s ward is less conciliatory to her patient, but she then introduces us to Doris who’s a wise old bird.  Pat Francis has been searching for some suitable adjectives to describe the Thames, while Martin Choules has been giving an old war its post mortem.

Wednesday mornings were just as refreshing for Sir John: up with the lark for sweet coffee and Mrs Conduitt’s scrambled eggs.  His houseguests would eventually stagger in, clutching their heads and bellies for fear of upsetting either.  Rivalries from the night before were quite forgotten, often because the participants now had complete blackouts of the affair, which was a great boon to friendship, even if it did sometimes lead to the same poem being read out on four consecutive weeks.  Soon it was back with the mail coach to the bustle and conflict of London life, but for that one night did Sir John a stately pleasure dome decree.  As ‘Brian’ Byron would later pen “I say the future is a serious matter / And so – for God’s sake – hock and soda water !”

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Workshop, 7th March 2017

It appears the Ferranti Pegasus is not happy in her temporary home.  The venerable cold-war-era valve-based computer was originally installed in the undercroft of Pitshanger Manor as part of a hugely hush-hush project by Ealing Council, and as you may recall the Pegasus has been forced to relocate to the basement of the Town Hall while restoration work to the Manor continues.  The idea hatched by the Town Hall’s Data Science Boffinery was to mathematically model the effects of a Soviet invasion on the Borough, paying specific attention to the impact a column of tanks would have on bus scheduling in the Haven Green/Ealing Broadway area.  It was the kind of project which could justify significant funding in those restive times.  It even extended to the test installation of tank traps on Ealing Common to simulate the measures which would be required to maintain the vital 207 bus link into Shepherds Bush, should the Soviet Sixth Guards Tank Corps decide to make a lunge for the Town Hall via Kew Bridge and the North Circular.  Not actually having any tanks the boffins simulated the effect of armoured personnel carriers and tracked missile platforms sweeping across the Common carrying all before them using the Council’s fleet of ride-on lawnmowers.  It’s comforting to know that the fortifications were totally effective against the lawnmowers and, forcibly repelled, they had to fall back to the South Western corner of the Common just opposite The Grange pub, which they effectively occupied until closing time.

Fortunately, one of the Boffins, Parsonage, is also a doyen of the art of Prosery and when the punch card machine was not otherwise occupied he set about reprogramming the Pegasus for poetry.  The resulting compositional algorithm, based on a statistical analysis of word frequency, syntax, rhythm and phonetics is still able to churn on a passable sonnet but cannot be trusted with half-rhyme, tricky enjambment or a hanging trochee.  Thereafter, the Pegasus’ microphone was a fixture at Pitshanger Poets workshops throughout the Sixties and Seventies, absorbing and processing every word, resulting in a lengthy daisy-wheel printout of relevant statistics which would be filed carefully in the archive.

Unfortunately, it appears that some of the Pegasus’ Cold-War subroutines became enmeshed into her Poetry Analysis programming.  Decades of sifting data in order to detect communist threats took their toll on the Pegasus’ ability to appreciate the spoken word in a balanced fashion.  Given the wide range of views expressed by Poets in the typical Pitshanger Workshop it is welcome that the somewhat febrile witch-hunting computer was equipped with nothing more powerful than a daisy wheel printer.  This did not stop her acting against poets she considered threats, however, aided by a supply of Ealing Council-headed paper.  For example, it is suspected that the virulent snow storm of Parking Tickets issued to Louis MacNiece on each of his visits to the Workshop (despite him not actually owning a car) were the work of the Pegasus, while Stephen Spender and Dylan Thomas both found their journeys into the heart of Ealing compromised by ‘flash’ road works, the latter writer famously never succeeding in reaching a workshop.

This weeks’ Workshop would have got the Pegasus’ relays clacking were she still listening in.  Pat Francis brought a short, perfectly formed piece on the sound of the world.  Christine Shirley has been feeling glum, but her States of Feeling piece was full of light as well as shade.  John Hurley’s style has evolved in the last few months and his free-verse observation of a sick friend greeting a precious morning was touching and powerful.  Newbie John Cheung gave us a tight, poignant, social poem describing of an encounter with a homeless man in Hammersmith.  Olwyn Grimshaw has been counting the cells in the human body, keen to show that life is just as much about why as how.  Another newbie, Jamie Warren also brought us a distinctly social piece about a man in the Borough he found dying.  Nick Barth has been travelling again and found himself distracted by the phrase ‘for personal use’ on a Customs Notice.  Alan Chambers has been bringing poems he has written to cure Writer’s block, this weeks’ piece stressed the lack of easy cures to this crippling condition.  Peter Francis has been musing on Group Dynamics; more than one attendee felt he was writing about the PP Workshop itself.  Finally, Martin Choules has been railing against the futility of an entertaining dream.

Bringing the story of the Ferranti Pegasus up to date, Parsonage tells me its McCarthyist behaviour forced him to rebalance her moral compass circuits with a couple of blows from a nine-pound hammer, and that the council work continues.  Parsonage even jury-rigged the Pegasus for the internet using an Ethernet card scavenged from a long-dead Amstrad PC.  This re-commissioning formed the basis for the Ealing Borough Council Listening Project in which the Pegasus was pressed into service monitoring every possible threat to fluid traffic flow in the West London area from the forces of evil, wherever they might originate.

Thinking back, I’m not sure it can be the experience of being installed in the Town Hall basement that the Pegasus finds so objectionable.  It’s true that every few days there is a flare-up of activity and Parsonage is forced to replace a valve or free a stuck relay but her troublesome behaviour appears to have started sometime around January the 20th.  Her breakdowns are often accompanied by cryptic messages on the continuous paper rattling out of her printer, for example the other day I saw:

+++YOU KNOW WHAT URANIUM IS, RIGHT+++

+++IT’S THIS THING CALLED NUCLEAR WEAPONS+++

+++AND OTHER THINGS+++

+++LIKE LOTS OF THINGS ARE DONE WITH URANIUM.  INCLUDING SOME BAD THINGS+++

+++BUT NOBODY TALKS ABOUT THAT+++

Which was followed by a loud bang and a cloud of smoke from the computer’s logic boards.  What could this mean?

If you have been, thank you for reading.

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