For example: ‘If I were a rainbow ... I would arch my back; I would bring promises to sick children.’
‘If I were a walk ... I would stretch across the South Downs from Midhurst to Beachy Head; I would be a stride, a loping gait, a soft-shoe shuffle.’
‘If you were a particle of dust in the museum ... you would dance in sunbeams, before settling with others in dark, combustible corners; you would move from room to room on a feather duster; you would drift.’
It was a playful way of pinging the elastic of language, and it brought laughs and surprises. Another of the affordances of writing, perhaps?
Kirsty Sullivan, the museum’s education officer, had kindly offered us the use of the Pocohontas room, so that we could gather there, in the basement, to share and discuss.
Our writing reverberated with the language and stories of the museum. The contents of its warehouse were re-purposed, and we even heard echoes of our earlier writing exercise.
- There was a sinister story of potions and poisons, with a magical list of teas – Lapsang Souchong, Orange Pekoe, Formosa Oolong, Assam, Darjeeling, Qilan – drawn from the emporium upstairs.
- There was speculation about excavated remains found during the Crossrail tunnelling (a separate and fascinating exhibition) ‘ 30 skulls found in a ditch, worn by shifting tides’.
- There was a fantasy about a Yoruba king, ‘moulded and cast in bronze – eyes that once saw’.
- There was tragedy preserved in the 1898 footage of the launch of the battleship, HMS Albion when innocent spectators washed off a bridge by the bow-wave. Death on a bridge.
We shuddered at how the past repeats itself like a loop of film. But writing together - really joined-up writing - allows us to process these things symbolically.