PIR’s 1st BlakeFest 2017 meeting, Hayling, Tuesday 11th July 2017

PIR’s 1st BlakeFest 2017 meeting, Hayling, Tuesday 11th July 2017

PIR’s 1st BlakeFest 2017 meeting, Hayling, Tuesday 11th July 2017

‘You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ is a maxim I’m familiar with as a caution against taking – heck – anything for granted if I can help it. (Perhaps it’s meant, unaccountably, as a kind of curse, but I don’t take it that way.) For example, I already knew I appreciated owning my brown leather zip-around ‘Hamilton’ fILOFAX. Despite all the technological advances in the many years since it had become mine; despite such a long opportunity to take my ownership of it for granted; it had remained perceptibly indispensable to me nonetheless. In fact, my ‘knowing what I’ve got’ with respect to my personal fILO might even have tipped over into sinfulness, to put it one way, or, smugness, another.

Tuesday evening, the way I slipped my fountain pen loaded with a fresh blue-black cartridge (flowing, I’d checked) into the little loop inside my fILO’s left inside cover and a (working, I’d checked) biro into the little loop on its right inside cover; the way I then closed the covers and zipped them together; the way I then tucked the shut fILO comfortably under my left arm ready for my first meeting about Blake Fest 2017 as this year’s Poet in Residence; anyone might’ve thought I’d only just acquired this organisational item. Never mind the slight weathering of its leather which had only enhanced its appeal in my eyes.

But when I’d pulled up in my car at the scheduled meeting-place, between Portsmouth, where I live, and Bognor Regis, where those I was meeting live – The Ship, Hayling – and my fILO was nowhere to be found; only then did I know what the possibility of having let it slip from my nestling elbow at the start of my journey onto a street where all unattended unsecured items vanish in moments, might mean to me. I was overwhelmed by the bare reality of its absence, having fully expected its handy presence. Rather like on the morning when having slept, confidently, on Remain, I’d woken to Leave. (Much as others would have been victoriously waving their Union Jacks at the news, I know, including some of those I love. Still, it had been a shock to me.) To recover my ability to function in the imminent meeting, I was forced to muster a HEAVE of will and put it entirely out of my mind. I would need my concentration all the more having lost my customary means of note-taking along with my fILOFAX.

Soon joined by Rachel Searle, BlakeFest Director, and the musician and BlakeFest Organiser, Sedge Seymour, I didn’t so much as mention it. ‘Mention what?’

At a table on The Ship’s Top Deck, overlooking rainy Hayling horizons, I saw, handled, and tried for the first time, an exquisite broken pair of William Blake’s own, authenticated, spectacles, which are to be at the centre of BlakeFest 2017’s Library Exhibition. We laughed, brainstormed, consulted our own and one another’s smart phones, planned. With the approval via message of BlakeFest Exhibition Curator, Mikey Georgeson, not present, we chose ‘Dandelion Visions’ as the Library Exhibition title and as a theme for poetry workshops. Apportioned our next steps. Afterwards, Rachel expressed her relief and gratitude for Mikey having stepped up as Exhibition Curator, thereby taking some of the workload from her:

‘People keep sending me photos of their thing…’ she explained, gesturing emphatically with the whole of her right hand, back first, up and down, at the screen of the phone of hers held in the palm of her left. Vexed.

Brace yourself, Mikey.

“…we’ve got MICHAEL HOROVITZ…”

Brace yourself, Bognor.

Such a convivial and productive meeting it was, with further messages and tasks to set in motion once we were all home; so successful had I been in putting my fILO from my mind; that it wasn’t till the next day, late morning, that I faced up to my loss of it, top priority.

Not in the hall, not in the sitting room, nowhere else downstairs, not upstairs. I’d already checked the car. No point looking outside on the pavement by where my car had been parked when I’d set off, by now. How had I been so careless, what was I to do? I took a half-step this way: mission aborted. A half-step that way: mission aborted. Stumped. What was I to do with myself?

“I have lost things before. People lose things.” I told myself, trying to normalise, socialise, and contextually reduce the experience. To get a grip.

I hoped, as generously as I was able, that the someone who had found that neat, self-contained little package of mine; unzipped its still-immaculate zip; discovered the matt silver (steel) Parker and the blue-cased biro held in its still-immaculate loops (these things can break); discovered the dividers and the fILO maps and the fILO rulers and the fILO hole-punch; would appreciate everything they could use. I thought how, of course, they would discard my own diary, and addresses, and notes, and the message from a former flame I’d always kept folded in a pocket within. What would I do if I saw a person with it one day, though? Or one like it?

‘Where did you get that?’ I’d say, feeling weak and shaky to imagine myself saying it; being in that position. Finding an appallingly scratchy ‘snatch’ within myself.

Would I be able to recognise it, without doubt, as my own? Would I be able to authenticate it, as mine? Would the owner, or ‘owner’, lie to me?

“I’ve been stolen from, before.” I told myself. I’d coped with that, then; I could cope with a ‘theft by finding’, now. It could be replaced, if I saved up, I thought. (The expense of replacement is beneath my home insurance excess, yet currently beyond my reach.)

I wondered what I’d subconsciously been telling myself when I’d unconsciously let it go. It had seemed serendipitous that it had come to me, originally, as a ‘Hamilton’ fILO, that being my adoptive surname. Did I need to move beyond my childlike delight in such coincidences? Take them more in my stride; be less moved by them? Or was this a spur to myself away from the archaic pen and paper and towards 21st Century technologies instead? It felt too soon. Too sudden, too harsh.

I remembered that on Tuesday evening I’d made a last-minute phone call about other work, a call I’d almost forgotten to make, before leaving the house. In a rush. I took myself back to the place where I’d made the business call. The relevant, blue, A4, folder was there. No fILO. But the folder was not, I now noticed, lying quite flat. Was it at such an angle that would scientifically allow one whole, full (though neatly zipped), A5, fILOFAX to be entirely hidden beneath it?

I’ve since been philosophically pondering that it’s not so much that we ‘never know what we’ve got till it’s gone’, but more that experiencing our negative feelings, such as jealousy, covetousness, and fear, sometimes might be able to tell us more about our loving feelings than we might have known otherwise. After I had lifted the folder, picked up my fILO with a gasp, and kissed it.

Stella Bahin