An Inkling of AuthorMe
By Ken Mulholland
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A SPECIAL REPORT FROM THE ' "REUNION" AND INTRODUCTION OF THE 'INKLINGS' TO THE AUTHOR-ME STAFF', AT THE 'EAGLE AND CHILD', SAINT GILES, OXFORD.
TWENTY NINTH FEBRUARY. 2003.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.
The following is a transcript of tape recordings of that meeting.
Bruce Cook. Helen Cook. Kathy Hartwell. Rena Williams. Adam Smith.
Linda Alexander. Monica Arac de Nyeko. Doreen Richard. Sandy Tritt.
Abbe Willner. Erica mendoza. Kenneth Mulholland. Carl Fannen.
Deepanjali Dwivedi. Rais Neza Boneza.Dr. Karanam Rao. Shaima Hadi.
J.R.R.Tolkien. C.S.Lewis. Charles Williams. Owen Barfield. Hugo Dyson.
Major Warren Lewis. R.E.Havard. Neville Coghill. Dorothy Sayers. Roger Green.
Roy Campbell. Gervase Matthew. J.A.W. Bennet. Lord David Cecil.Commander Jim Dundas-Grant.
Adam Fox. Christopher Tolkien. John Wain.
Colin Hardie. R.B.McCallum. C.E.Stevens. Charles Wrenn.
'Do you think that thing is actually working?'
'I checked it before they began to arrive. You heard it recording.'
'Of course I did. I'm not deaf. Where are those blasted matches?'
'You gave me an extra packet, here. Anyway you've made recordings before.'
'Different thing, big machines, tape recorders in a studio.'
'Well this is the same thing, only very small, hand-held.'
'More modern technology. The price of progress, I suppose.'
'It's for a very special occasion John. This is unlikely to happen again in our lifetime.'
'Drat it, I'm well aware of that. Took me a herculean effort to gather them all here again, on this one evening. Where's the list? Who's not here?'
'Here, I've got it. Just hold it out under the lamp a bit so I can check them off. Helen Cook and Bruce, Sandy Tritt, Abbe Willner, Doreen Richard. They all arrived together. And Kathy Hartwell and Rena Williams, what a fabulous hat she's wearing. They were the last of our crowd.'
'Then Roy Cambell and Charles Wrenn came in that blasted noisy cab and nearly ran down Colin Hardie.'
'Do I detect a slight smirk?'
'Of course not! I'm delighted to see the old crew again. Why the devil do you think I agreed to this in the first place?'
'For reasons best known to yourself?'
'Nonsense! It was you and that Adam...er what's his last name?'
'Smith. Difficult to remem...'
'No, the pipe. I'll keep these. I seem to misplace matches regularly these days.'
'Anyway, I think they're all accounted for and inside at the fire. It's certainly getting pretty cold out here.'
'No, here comes the last. John Wain. John, so pleased that you could attend tonight. What do you think of the idea?'
'Evening Professor Tolkien. I'm appalled by it.'
'Now now. None of that. Save it for your reviews.'
'I trust he was only joking.'
'Never can tell with Wain. Abrupt sort of chap. Only attended a few times. Shall we go in?'
'Yes, I'll switch off the recorder and start a bit later.'
'Back again, all seems going well enough. Everybody introduced and chatting away six to the dozen.'
'Yes, it appears to be working rather…Oh here's Jack!
Lewis! You old scoundrel. Must be your turn for a round of ale?'
'Blessings on you Tollers, and a hundred thousand welcomes. Make use of me any way you please: and let us pray for each other always.'
'I'm rather praying for a pint right now, what about you Kenneth?'
'White wine would be fine, and you can call me Ken. Very, very pleased to met you Clive.'
'Jack will do. I answer to that. Anyway I'll just go the rounds shall I. I believe some of the ladies are sipping that new thing, Chardonnay.'
'And getting over Bruce's speech of welcome.'
'Yes, that Cook fella is certainly imposing. Made everybody feel at home, even though he's never set foot in the place before. Still, I suspect he's like that in general. Come on, let's just make our way…oops, sorry Humphrey, nearly spilled your drink, old man.'
'…hopeless to offer Christianity as a vague, idealistic aspiration: it is a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine steeped in drastic and uncompromising realism.'
'I say, Dorothy, you are at full throttle tonight.'
'I have a captive audience, Jack.
Erica and Doreen are perfect listeners, and of course Linda. And she's not been letting me have it all my own way. I'm signing a copy of her book, "Until Next Time".
'It's not every day that one can have Dorothy Sayers' signature as a memento of a night like tonight. And I do promise to sign a copy for you in return.'
'I should very much like that: my own volume of Linda Alexander's work. How lovely.'
'Overheard you spouting about Christianity, Dorothy. Don't you think it's a bit thick when an old heathen like me is about?'
'Nonsense, old man. You have Tollers to thank for your salvation. Oh, and I think I may have been one of the immediate causes of Jack's conversion. We haven't met, Hugo Dyson's the name.'
'Look out. We're in for it. Here are Barfield and Williams converging on us.'
'I heard the bit about "heathen", Jack. Now Mister Mulholland…'
'Call me Ken…'
'Right you are Kenny. As I was about to say of Lewis here, he developed to a considerable extent after his conversion; whereas I have never changed at all. There's no earlier Barfield and later Barfield. He always remains the same thing."
'Must you constantly talk about yourself in the third person Owen?
May I quote Jack here? "The enemy will not see you vanish into God's company without an effort to reclaim you." '
'But that's not what he says, Hugo. He'll never be reclaimed by the enemy.'
'Bless you Charles, you're still as ugly as a chimpanzee, and I love you all the more for that and your stout defence of me. Now let us pass. We have a mission to the bar.'
'I'm switching off again, while we travel.'
'Okay. I'm just roaming for the moment. Just going between a few little groups talking quietly while we have a rest from the piano and singing….'
'…true artist is almost invariably a very lonely person.'
'Come off it Stevens. You're positively swamped, and you know it. Don't be shy. You’re a paragon amongst scribes….'
'If you don't get it, then do the whole thing all over again until you finally get it right. Anything else is just so much waste of time'.
'Look, we hear a great deal these days about bringing art to the masses. We have brought the masses liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, and now we are going to bring them art. It seems very simple, but I doubt whether it can be done….'
'No Gervase, I cannot, I'm sorry to say, take much stock in these aesthetic theories about art being in any way connected with the masses. I don't think that many of the really good artists and writers have ever seriously bothered about them. Of course, the average artist, being an average human being, likes to spend an occasional evening drinking beer and swapping yarns. However, he may drink with the crowd and trade jokes with his neighbours, and he may even affect a certain slovenliness of attire and a carelessness of language that makes people think he is one of them. But don't make the mistake of looking too eagerly for the so-called soul of the writer. He may have one, but you won't find it very different from the souls of the rest of us. The psychology of the artist is always a very fruitful subject of discussion among people who could not write a line or invent a tune if they tried unto the end of their days. The really good artist is likely to be a very simple fellow who is much too occupied with the work he is doing to worry about the psychological substructure of his immortal soul.'
'…and most of my of my books will go to Ruth Parker in County Down.'
'Oh do come on Warnie, this is no time for talking about Last Will and Testaments.'
'The devil you say, Havard. And you a medical man too. You of all people should know something of mortality…'
'Pipe down you two, I can't hear Mister Cook speaking!'
'Sorry, McCallum, old boy.'
'…and so, in conclusion, I should like to say how happy we at Author-Me are to have had this singular chance to meet with such an august and Christian assembly as The Inklings.
It is an honour, a pleasure, that I feel sure all of us will treasure for the rest of our lives.
I should now like to propose a toast, and to quote from a beloved country man of mine, Norman Rockwell.
To freedom of speech and expression everywhere.
Freedom to worship everywhere.
Freedom from want.
Freedom from fear, everywhere in the world.
And here's to The Inklings!'
'Sorry, I'll have to turn down the volume because of the racket going on….'
'Back again. Everybody's settled down a bit now. And here's Lewis and Tolkien.'
'Nineteen sixty two was the last meeting of The Inklings at The Bird and Baby. That's our pet name for The Eagle and Child, and may I say that through all the previous meetings, going back to a time well before the Second World War, we have never had such a wonderful evening as tonight.
But perhaps I should leave it to dear Tollers to have the final word. Tollers?'
Hmm. Bloomin' pipe's gone out again. Never mind, I'll press on.
I know no more pleasant sound than arriving at the Bird and Baby and hearing a roar, and knowing that one can plunge in. Tonight is no exception. A landlord wreathed in welcoming smiles. He lights a special fire for us. And such a heart-warming band of souls to share bread and cheer!
Please, please! Just let me get this out!
Thankyou, one and all.
Jack and I, and our group, should like to honour our guests, yes you, the good people of
Author-Me, with a song that we sang together in the long ago when all the spirits of England were at their lowest ebb.
Through those dark days of Hitler's war, we kept ourselves braced and our spirits uplifted with the little we had at our disposal: a sense of humour and a Christian belief that rain would pass, and the sky would clear.
'I'm still recording.'
'We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.'
'Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind.'
'Keep smiling through, just like you used to do, til the dark clouds overhead are far away.'
'Should auld acquaintance be forgot, for the sake of auld lang syne.'
'And will you please say hello to the folks that we know. Tell them, we won't be long.'
'For old long since, my dear, for auld lang syne.'
'They'll be happy to know that when you saw us go, we were singing this song.'
'We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for the sake of auld lang syne.'
'We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. But I know we'll meet again some sunny day!'
'Wow! I'm drowned out! Switching off…'
'Those aren't tears, surely?'
'Of course not John. Just a bit of something in my eye. Must be the fire….'
'Yes, I see. Plays havoc. Smoke and such. Have a sip of wine, there's a good fellow.'
'Thanks for the tissues.'
'Not at all. A payback for the matches.'
'What a wonderful night. All the singing!'
'Always so, when you get a few people around a piano. Green and Dundas-Grant can both hold a tune, as can my son Christopher.'
'And the conga line, Deepanjali and Monica with Adam Fox. And look at Rena! You look great Rena.'
'It's the hat. Reminds me of Carmen Miranda.'
'There are some John, who wouldn't remember Carmen Miranda.'
'True. But they'ed remember those exotic fruit-basket hats.'
'Then all delight, he, lifting up his bow, aiming at my immortal heart, let fly his arrow, and was gone, and all the glow-passed, and the moon rode in a sober sky.'
'Charles Williams, you are a villain. Go preach your poetry elsewhere.'
'Very well Tollers. Uncouth person that you are. I think I'll join the conga line.'
'Sober sky indeed! Not too much sobriety around here, what with all this merriment.'
'Oh come on John, I'm not as think as you drunk I am: I can hold my balcoholic average.'
'What's that you say? Have you gone blithering mad?'
'Just a joke Professor Tolkien. Alcoholic beverage. You know.'
' "Just" is the operative word. Comic lines are certainly not your forte Kenneth. And perhaps if you removed that wild splash of colour from around your neck….'
'Deepanjali thought I looked stunning with it. Oh very well, I am returning your beautiful scarf Deepanjali. Thank you so much for the loan.'
'You're most welcome kind sir, but do call me Deepan. It has been a wonderful evening Professor Tolk….Ohh!'
'And away she goes. I thought Charles was going to join in?'
'A conga line loses its attractions when you have a captive audience to spout your poetry at. Look over there.'
'Good heavens. That's Doreen Richards!'
'Yes, with Williams sitting on her knee. Can't get into too much trouble that way I suppose.'
'I see Carl Fannen pointing to the pub clock John. Time's running out.'
'True, the hour grows late, and everyone has to get back to their various countries by tomorrow: the first day of the new month. A pity, but a fact. Lewis! Can you and Adam…'
'Yes, of course, must remember that, like Smith of Wooten Major. How could I forget a name like that? Could you both call everyone to order? There are a few things left to be said before we all say goodbye.'
'It's only my small opinion, Professor Tolkien, but I think that Smith of Wooten Major is one of your works that is almost always overlooked, and yet, for all its invisibility, it holds a deep significance: deeper than many of your more popular stories.'
'Thankyou. Helen, is it? Helen Cook. Yes. Pleased to meet you at this eleventh hour. And you may very well be correct. However that is not for me to say.
Oh look, what's this?
Lord David Cecil with cherry brandies for everyone. My goodness gracious!'
'Ladies and gentlemen! The hour looms toward midnight. Time for us to prepare to take our leave of The Eagle and Child. Before we do so, Clive Lewis and John Tolkien will read us The Lesson.
I give you Jack and Tollers!'
'Sorry…Too much noi…'
His work: "Brave New World", set a stark landscape of what might come to be. We stand together in the twenty-first century, with the terrible events of the distant past, and the terrible events of the recent past, hovering as spectral reminders of things already come to pass. We cannot go back. We cannot undo history.
Yet we can 'do' history as it occurs. We can make a difference. We must build a 'Brave New World', in which we seek peace and equilibrium and harmony.
We must fight the 'warless' war.
We must win out against the ghostly enemies of inequality, of want, of hopelessness.
We must begin to bring all unto that fold.
Clive Staples 'Jack' Lewis, everybody…'
'And now that you've all clapped and cheered yourselves hoarse, Professor Tolkien will conclude the night. John Ronald Ruel Tolkien.'
'Thankyou Bruce. I should like to commence by thanking all of you for attending this wonderful event tonight. May I say that even some amongst us who doubted the usefulness of such a gathering might now have pause for thought….'
'Point taken Professor. Unmitigated sentimentality aside, I have to declare that even I had a better time of it than I first expected.'
"I believe you were "appalled" by the thought.'
'One can sometimes condemn before one should.'
'Then I trust that a future John Wain headline will not consign tonight's activities to the rubbish bins of history without fair comment.'
'My word upon it.'
"Well said. There's a good fellow.
And speaking of history, as previously referred by Jack, I should care to add that Clive has covered almost all the ground.
The Inklings were founded on the precept of a 'coming together' of writers and would-be writers. The idea being to further their aims and to offer a helping hand and an open ear. In that respect, it is plain that the purpose of Author-Me is similar. As is well articulated in your "mission statement", so ably set out by Kathy Hartwell.
Kathy, take a bow.'
'Alright! Quiet now. Quite down! Let Professor Tolkien continue.'
'Further to that, I believe Author-Me to be in a position of strength far exceeding the situation of 'The Inklings' of the early and middle part of the last century.
Author-Me has, at its disposal, a vast network of worldwide capacity, linked by this new fangled technology: something far and beyond anything we Inklings could ever have perceived. And though I have often said that such 'new age progress' is in many ways a harbinger of modern day destruction, I can see a glimmer of hope: hope that the distant dominions of the world be united, and not diminished, for the betterment of all.
Literature, writing: the simple art of communicating one's thoughts and feelings to others must not, and shall not, be simply allowed to wither and fail.
In the end, we are all a part of the passing parade.
Some of us needs step back into the shadows, whilst others go on to perform upon the vast stage of history as it plays itself out. That is as it should be.
As it always has been and will continue to be.
You, of Author-Me, your writers and your readers, have a part to play in the passing parade.
I should like to end with a small poem that speaks of fellowship and comfort, and the end of a long days' journey: all the way from morning to night.
"They return to the hall, and all are waiting.
Fire sings a song along the wood in the grating.
Outside, glide nightbirds crying, and sighing pines
Whine along the darkened roads.
Yet here inside the homely halls folk dance,
And meet them and greet them with smiling faces.
Perchance a cup of wine they offer,
And food they suffer them to eat.
But their heart's meat is not in food.
It is in them, the hearth friends, the heart's friends.
Let the flames roar. Let the dogs gnaw on their bones.
The traveller's eyes widen with delight.
For the peace of their homecoming is upon them.
And may it be upon us all, since halls are homes wherein are friends."
'God bless us, one and all.
And to all, a goodnight.'
'The bus is here.'
' Thanks Carl.
Well John, time to say goodbye…I wish…I don't know what to say….'
'Then don't say anything at all, Kenneth. Let us all simply part in good fellowship.
The Inklings are as close to you as your bookshelf. That's where we live. That, and here in the dear old Eagle and Child.
I expect that we shall have a last drop of porter after you have gone. Want to bang out the pipe once more on the mantle, you know.
On your way now, there's a good fellow. Don't forget to turn off that contraption.'
'No, Tollers, I won't.