Ariel’s Organ 

27 March 2004

Well, Madame Arcati still has some work to do on her apparatus for receiving voice messages from The World Unseen, if last night’s efforts are anything to go by.

Attempting, as we are wont to do, to contact the departed spirit of that redoubtable nautical broadcasting helmsman, Captain B, we sat in the darkened seance room as usual, but no sooner had Madame Arcati gone into trance than the ectoplasmic speaking-tube she had fashioned gave an extraordinarily loud whistle and we heard a distant, distorted voice shouting, “Captain on deck!”. It then exploded with a loud bang, which sore affrighted the sitters and covered us in etheric residue. Oh, well, perhaps she will have an improved version ready for next time.

Thus it was that we were obliged to fall back on the well-worn mahogany Ouija board to communicate with the aforementioned Captain, and he seemingly had little to report. Except for one thing…

They evidently have plenty of time on their hands in the World Beyond, which I suppose is hardly surprising, and it seems that the Captain has obtained a perpetual subscription to some kind of etheric edition of Ariel, the BBC’s ah, internal organ – which is a good deal more than I have been able to do. Though it hardly seems likely that the Captain would have a lot to say about the contents of the Letters pages, even if he might have the odd comment about Digitally-Originated Graphics and other canines. We shall attempt to find out in future missives.

Instead, The Captain decided to regale us with tales of Ariel’s Organ. Ariel, the magazine, of course, is named after Ariel, the invisible spirit of the air, who appears, with his master Prospero, in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Both were immortalised in a sculpture above the entrance of Broadcasting House created by Eric Gill, as Ariel was thought to be an excellent personification for broadcasting.

When it was first erected, however, the statue caused some consternation, according to The Captain (who, of course, has always been extremely taken by the nautical aspects of Broadcasting House, likening it to a vast seagoing vessel). Apparently it was noted that “maidens are said to blush and youths to pass disparaging remarks regarding the statues of Prospero and Ariel”.

This was all apparently because it was felt that the naked Ariel’s ah, personal attributes had been a little too enthusiastically carved by Mr Gill. Sir John Reith complained that Ariel’s organ was simply too large, and should be trimmed – though thankfully in those days there was no talk of an internal market.

Captain B then motioned the Ouija to point out that, as Gill refused to make any modifications to the size of Ariel’s appendage, the matter was sent to arbitration in the form of a bevy of Shakespearian experts, including Sir Israel Gollancz and novelist Israel Zangwill.

The experts concluded that Ariel should be about thirteen years of age, and called in a doctor to decide whether Ariel’s apparatus was of the appropriate dimensions for a boy of such years. The doctor said, no, it was too large, and as a result the statue’s attributes were surgically altered to a more acceptable size. As remains to this day.

We thanked the redoubtable Captain for his inestimable wisdom, and Madame Arcati duly ended the session for another week.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Richard G Elen Contact More by me

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Liverpool, Thursday 19 May 2022