Image copyright: Patrick Prinsloo
Our writing group has always been a mix of covert jealousy and overt distrust. Why the library continues to let us have access to one of their meeting rooms each week, God alone knows. The snarling, the shouting, the vitriol that no doubt pass through the walls into the lending and reading areas must cause no end of distress to the book borrowers of our peace-loving town. It’s not been unknown for the library staff to step in and prevent a concerned public-spirited citizen from phoning the police or the ambulance service. “It’s just a bunch of amateur writers,” they will say, “Nothing to be concerned about. Not as bad as it sounds. Blood rarely drawn. Nothing that we can’t address with our own in-house first aid kit.” Later on the cleaners will gather together the ripped up sheets of paper, broken pencils, sharpened paper clips and clumps of human hair, and sigh. “Ah, must be Thursday, writing group again,” and get on with their honest toil.
It’s not surprising that there are tensions in the group. At a superficial level, members brazenly cheat on the weekly fee, sometimes shortchanging the money bowl as it’s passed around, sometimes actually stealing from the pot. Certain members habitually take more biscuits than the allowance, others will demand a second cup of tea. At a more serious level, charges of plagiarism are thrown about at random with members threatening to call in m’learned friends at the slightest and imaginary whiff of a copied phrase or storyline. Poets disparage prose writers, prose writers sniff at silly rhyming structures and pretentious formats. Computer users sneer at the pen and paper brigade, who in turn question the creativity to be found in a keyboard.
Some of us have taken to wearing stab vests for these sessions.
This week’s meeting was the last until after the summer break. Somebody brought in some cookies. Colourfully iced. Sprinkles and sparkles on top. That was a first. No peace had been declared. As far as we were all concerned the war was ongoing. But some clever clogs mentioned the Christmas Day truce in the World War 1 trenches, there was a brief discussion, nods, knowing looks, and then everyone started munching, making mmmms and hmmmms and all sorts of eating-agreeable sounds. I held back. I’m not that easily taken in. I’ve read about this sort of thing; crikey, even as a child I learnt about poisoned apples, toxic gingerbread houses, and mind-altering eat-me cookies.
I left early. I wonder how many of the original group will turn up for the autumn term. I guess I’ll just have to keep a close watch on the obituaries over the next week or so.
Don’t you just hate poets.