Archive | March, 2016

Passion

16 Mar

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they cuddle up. Like a big hand shake – my cuddles tend to be bear-like and slightly asphyxiating. A cuddle is an essential part of the day as far as I’m concerned. My wife likes to add a hard squeeze – which, technically, makes her version of a cuddle a ‘cwtch‘ (fair play, the Welsh do much better cuddles than the insipid English).

Carpenters tend to develop a good grip and strong arms over many years of repetitive cutting, lifting, sanding, sawing and carving – actions which make for a  wiry strength. Because these activities are cyclical and repetitive (like breathing), they are meditative too. One can lose oneself and find a kind of tranquility.

henk carving

Thousands of years ago in China (long before before the birth of Christianity) a thinker distilled his thoughts in the spare and beautiful text we now call the Tao the Ching.  Lao Tzu, the author  老子  means ‘Old Master’ no-one knows his real name. The oldest excavated texts of date back to 4th century BC and are written on ancient bamboo silk. These writings are the font of tranquility.

The act of writing, to me is like carving – repeatedly searching for the right shape of a word or sentence; the right syntax, a pithy word association, a metaphor and a mood – and is, in my view, a craft like woodwork.

Craft requires discipline within tightly constrained boundaries, thus the Japanese Haiku poetry form of 5,7,5 syllables really appeals to me when I try to distil my meaning:

 

Like a breath, the Tao –

prayer beads on silk

joined by air, all of us string

HL 9/3/16

 

Constraint is the ‘grain’ of poetry, and in Haiku the grain is very tight – a bit like the timber from holly. The turned footboard pillars of this four poster bed I made are turned from a very old holly timber, as tough as old boots. The pillars represent the Celtic heroes Cuchullian and Emer – meant as inspiration for the bed’s new owners – who, like all our heroes are young and vital.

The frame of ‘Boudicca’ is made from Yew and spalted Ash and it is, I hope, a chariot fit for royalty.

When I make things in wood, I create from a ‘beast within’, a vital energy closely linked to the state of my mind.

Manic depression can be very exhausting – not least for the sufferer’s friends and family – it is not a tame condition. Like riding a flying chariot on axles of holly (as Boudicca did when she smashed the 9th Legion at Camulodunum in AD 60) rage and despair are separated by a heart beat. This is what fuels the ‘beast within’.

There is, however, an emollient more effective than Lithium – it is the Welsh cwtch. For it is from this cwtch that the boiling inner turmoil abates, the beast can purr and the poetry can flow.

Lao Tzu:

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

Lao Tzu, Dao te Ching

The Romans never subdued the Welsh, and if 4.5 thousand hardened Zulu Impi led by the redoubtable Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande couldn’t manage it at Rorke’s Drift then no-one is going to, ever.

The Welsh anthem – Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – will release the beast within, for the name of the Beast is Passion.

Passion

16 Mar

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they cuddle up. Like a big hand shake – my cuddles tend to be bear-like and slightly asphyxiating. A cuddle is an essential part of the day as far…

Source: Passion

Real

1 Mar

DSC_0184

Spring is just around the corner, the daffodils are in the shops (just in time for Saint David’s day) and the rabbits are getting frisky. The rugged rabbit above, sat in the lap of the Bear is called Bunny. He is 58 years old, as old as me, and has been with me since birth. He is  my familiar, a Puca or ‘nature spirit’ (Pookah), a doughty companion of the imagination.

When he was about 7 his head fell off. Distraught, I went to my mother, unable to look at the gory devastation of his stuffing falling out of his torso. My mum was training to be a textiles teacher at the time, so she was well equipped to perform immediate surgery, the butter coloured scarf was her neat way of hiding the stitches in his neck.

At the age of 9 he lost both his eyes in some escapade or other with his pall Henk, and the Surgeon in Chief, darned on a couple of new peepers – the ones you see. When he was twelve he went into enforced exile because ‘The Surgeon’ felt that little Henk now need to become Big Henk as he was going to Grammar School in Autumn of 1969.

Bunny was by then dressed in full Knight Errant regalia of hand knitted chain mail, cardboard armour (including bassinet covered in silver foil) and lance made from Balsa Wood. He was taken astride his steed (a Steiff Donkey) to a local photographer in Matlock and enobled in Kodachrome. Don Quixote had become  Donkey-Hare’s-tale.

I have lost these photographs, but not the memory of my mother’s brilliant and brave parenting in letting me grow up, by getting me to put away a ‘childish thing’.

I absolutely hated Ernest Bailey Grammar School in Matlock. The Masters banned football – only rugby was to be played (although we secretly played soccer with a tennis ball at break) and misdemeanours were punished with the cane or detention, withering sarcasm and disdain were the main fare in lessons. The staff, with the notable exception of the Art Teacher Mr Geoff Smith, The Physics Master Mr. Gregson, the Biology Teacher Mary Downes and the incomparable Mr. Poulson (my woodwork and technical drawing teacher), were as dull as ditch water and mean spirited with it.

Bunny was recently rediscovered. I realised that he is actually a Hare, or Hair-less in his case and that he still is a good pal of mine despite my neglecting his memory. He is the ‘strong silent type’, a ‘good listener’ – sort of how I would like to be, but am decidedly not, my manic depression rendering me unbearably hyper at times and morose and uncommunicative at others.

In rare moments of stillness he speaks to me of a simple notion, beautifully put by Margery Williams in the Velveteen Rabbit

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

P.S. Thanks to Giles Grover for pointing me in the direction of this real and wonderful book. The Bear is called Orson, and he belongs to my wife, he keeps the old coot in check.