Letterpress involves long hours alone. Every part of this ancient craft is unique. And it’s only the compositor who can sort the problems that crop. There are no help- lines, software or replacement parts. However, once the problems have been sorted, a lot of the work can be repetitive. Like lone yachtsmen and desert hermits it is work that has an effect on the psyche. It’s easy to get lost in day-dreams. I rely a lot on music for company. I discovered years ago the magic and the complexity of opera. I can sometimes plan an act of an opera to coincide with a particular printing task.
Extended repetitive movements continue to cause damage to a variety of my bodily joints. Music helps in the physical breaks. At particular points in the opera I can begin vigorously conducting along to a heartily sung aria. As far as I know no one sees me doing this and share it with you under conditions of confidentiality.
But the music is not always classical. Taste and mood change with the work. I always say that if you don’t like rock n’ roll then you haven’t got a soul. My sound system dates from yesteryear and I occasionally visit charity shops where it’s possible to pick up cassettes for 10p a go. Once when printing I was pondering over a storyline about a church whose tea urn had been laced with something special. In my head I had the vicar chasing the lady on flower rota; the choir adopting the lotus position; and then, on a cassette playing rock from the 50’s, I heard “Happy Organ” by Dave Baby Cortez (try it on youtube!). Wow. I was immediately into Miss Timpson doing an imaginative striptease down the church aisle.
Life can be pretty exciting in the garage.
—The Good Doctor
The R. Supward Press Spring 2012