Archive | December, 2017

Lego

27 Dec

David and Henk 1960

‘Lego’ is an abbreviation of the words leg godt, which is Danish for ‘play well’. The first brick was released in 1958, the year of my birth by the very clever Ole Kirk Kristiansen and it was developed in his wood workshop.

Ole was, like me, a carpenter and the toy was a development from traditional stackable wooden blocks taking advantage of the new plastics developed then. Lego makes sense to me because it is based upon bricks, like the building bricks of life, of chemistry, of physics, of poetry, of great literature – it has profound symmetry.

Henk with Lego bag

When I was a boy I never went anywhere without my bag of Lego. Most of it, my father bought for me, a carpenter himself. He knew about the importance of archetypes in architecture, and he knew about the importance of ‘playing well’ with building blocks. He was my geometer.

I was born in Nigeria and raised in various countries along West Africa’s Gold Coast. When, in 1964, we eventually returned for good or Ill, to live in England, I was 6 years old, and had barely survived several bouts of cerebral malaria. My Dad had bought a little semi-detached house in Matlock, Derbyshire at the top of Wolds Rise.

I had never seen snow.

At school I was ridiculed for having a weird name – ‘Henk’ – invariably pronounced ‘Hank’. Later, in senior school the ‘W’ substituted the ‘H’ of Hank.

I was a ‘white’ black boy (and I use the term euphemistically for the unacceptable ‘N’ word they used daily). It was the first time I had encountered xenophobia. It was endemic in early 1960’s Britain.

I never encountered such vile racism in Africa.

My mother, a Dutch born naturalised British Citizen, was treated with hostility in the town because the local people thought that ‘Them Dutchies’ were the same as ‘Them Nazis’. And, after all “We won the bloody war, you should be grateful!”.

She always had an answer fot them, but she never knew when to shut up.

Mam was descended from an old, entitled, aristocratic Dutch family. Van de Poll.

Jongkvrouw literally means ‘little princess’. In the Low Countries it denotes the lowest rank of nobility. Like the English ‘hedge knight’ – a glorified mercenary who fights for a Sovereign Lord for the spoils of war.

Plunder.

Being slightly posh but having no property is always a good way to develop an enormous sense of self entitlement. My mother radiated this and, I have to admit, it has its uses.

It is called gold plated bullshit.

My Father, on the other hand was the strong silent type. He went back to West Africa to earn his living and so the marriage did not survive.

My mother believed she could be both mother and father to me.

Bullshit.

Great! So then what happens? You go to school and you get beaten up for being a bit of a pretty mummy’s boy, you get clobbered for being ‘a puff’, basically you ‘get it’ for being different and so on and so very tedious.

My father was a grafter. A working class lad from Huddersfield who knew the cost and, most importantly, the value of Everything. I learned from a Master.

His motto:

“Life is a shit sandwich son, the more bread you have the better it tastes”.

Thus I could chose between a coat of arms or an undercoat of many colours.

He was the only man who was brave enough to help my dear wife Clare to reach in and drag me from my pit of self induced hell, by uttering these immortal words:

“Steady on Son”

His hand on my knee.

So I choose to live the life of a working man. To earn my daily bread and the rewards are fantastic.

The Chinese Characters on the screen say:

Tree

Woman

Art

and this is my escutcheon.

Thank you Father. I learn from thee.

img_1795

David Stuart Littlewood

Carpenter, Father, Comedian.

Born in the Vernal Equinox 1930, returned to our Lord, the Big Carpenter, on his Birthday 2017.

“Nice, nice, nice!”

Meaning

21 Dec

In the Norse Myth of the poetic Edda, Huginn and Muninn are the Ravens who accompany Odin, the All Father .

Huginn is supposed to represent thought and Muninn to represent memory. The birds fly around the World collecting intelligence for Odin, before breakfast.

It is not surprising that he is always worried about them not returning, without them he would have lost his marbles.

Archetypes represented in allegory are not easy to penetrate. But, I believe experience is necessary to polish learning – to combine the qualities of the two birds in balance to yield the wisdom of the Father.

I have been making a pair of dining chairs for a respected and valued client of late and I have been thinking about the Ravens. I’m a bit under the cosh as my father has taken to his bed and is waiting quietly for his own passing with dignity. My dear wife, Clare, has also been very unwell of late.

I would prefer to be at my Dad’s side right now, yet I know he would say to me:

“If a jobs worth doing lad, it is worth doing well”.

So I will just get on with the job in hand.

I have always admired his “sand” as Rooster Cogburn would have said.

For many years I put all my faith in Thought. I was a research fellow then a teacher until I was 40. A professional ‘ideas man’, a smarty pants. I was pretty impressed with myself to be honest. Now? Not so much, because I really know how little I truly know.

In the old stories Muninn was Odin’s favourite for she gave him Insight.

Muninn has been my teacher for the last twenty years and taught me the importance of ‘Meaning’. I love her very bones.

Clarenka

As my father would say; “Play for a Gentleman’s draw son, there are no winners in the Game of Life”

God Jul x

IMG_1760

Hugin and Munin….or is it Munin and Hugin? Spalted Ash Thrones for a Queen and her King x

Pandora

16 Dec

It is almost three years since my mother passed away and grieving process attenuates. Just as well because my father has decided to sail his long ship over the rainbow bridge to Folksvangr. The place for the best of folk.

Scattering her ashes helped a lot, but I have been unable to part with her urn. I made the box from spalted Sycamore – the figuring resembling a running river on the sides, Italian Sweet Chestnut for the lid and base. Only the best for Pandora.

Everyone knows that ‘to open Pandora’s box’ is to invite a whole parcel of trouble and strife.

With my daft brain, I like to imagine the characters of Hellenic Myth in dialogue.

Scene 1, Act 1

Pandora  is born to Athena – a wise warrior woman (Hartje de Boer) and to a Smith, Hephaestus (Jr CA Van de Poll). This turned out to be a very potent brew. Lots of screaming and Bolshevism from the kid until 8 years of age.

Act 2, Scene 3

Entrance exam for a poncy Gel’s School aced. Full scholarship.

Pandora means literally ‘all gifted’. All nine Muses had taken up lodgings in her frontal lobes:

Epic Poetry (Calliope – endless rhyming couplets, like The Inferno of Dante, only less cheerful)

Lyric Poetry (Euterpe -making up stupid ditties like The Goons Song)

Love Poetry (Erato – romantic drivel, soaps)

Hymns (Polyhymnia – for God’s sake, literally)

History (Clio – dull as ditch water, like the car)

Comedy (Thalia – a laugh a minute)

Drama (Melpomene, drama, drama)

Dance (Terpsichore – jive baby)

Astronomy (Urania – staring at the heavens – Oh look the Moon is in Aquarius)

Imagine these nine bitches pecking at your head every waking hour. Added to that she had Athena telling her over and over again how stupid she was compared to her.

Her father Hephaestus was mean and magnificent, the strong loud type.

And……she always wanted to know “WHY?” She was bored, bored, bored.

In the end Pandora smashed a pithos (vase) – or ‘box’ in modern parlance, belonging to Prometheus, the Titan and in so doing released the Furies.

Pandora would have heard  her parents rowing.

Hephaestus yelling: “Its no good bringing her up as bloody servant, she needs to find a Prince! She needs to learn how to get things done, how to be a like me!”

Athena “Oh, you bloody oaf, you overbearing fool look at you, you have no appreciation of the finer things, look at my precious child, so beautiful yet not so clever. She will make a good Air Stewardess.

Pandora would have certainly hated the plate throwing, the chair smashing, the VIOLENCE all around her. The Furies. And the fact that no-one was listening.

The vessel Pandora broke was her self, her core.

The bits left over after the Furies had been unleashed could not be easily mended. Yet there was Hope.

Love, kindness and compassion are what we call Grace.

Grace can be used to repair the pith, the core of a person.

Fortunately my father has given me his gold to mend my pith. The hands of a working class Hephaestus. A joiner.

Japanese practitioners of Kintsugi now how to redeem the pithos.

For my Siblings:

Father, “Something you’re not”

All his love, those words:

I answered ‘Placid’

HL

Nemesis

8 Dec

Way back in the 1990’s I taught at Prudhoe High School in the Tyne Valley. Part of my duties were the pastoral care of Year 10. A young man was sent to me by his form tutor who was very concerned for his safety.

He was in distress and had attempted to self harm.

I suggested we have a chat in the school Greenhouse – somewhere one could have a cup of tea or a smoke, get away from the infernal hustle and bustle of a busy High School.

He proceeded to tell me that he found school so unbearable it had driven him to the brink of suicide. I now know what he meant.

I gave him £5 and said “Why don’t you naff off home with this and don’t come back”

“Are you serious?”

Me, ‘Perfectly, I will speak to the Head and tell him it is a matter of Life and Death. I will of course have to inform your parents as this is a Child Protection Matter. But, from the point of view of your health and safety I’d say getting as far away from school as possible is a priority.’

His parents were mightily relieved when I rang, they had been expecting a crisis.

I managed to persuade a few of his teachers to tutor him to his GCES, outside normal school time, which he coped with. He got A’s and an A* in Art – his best subject as you can see from his portrait of me above.

I had given my entire collection of 2000 AD to him (I had read it from the very first issue). When he eventually left to go to college he portrayed me as the alter ego of Nemesis The Warlock. The alien, fire breathing defender of alien life on planet earth against the tyranny of the Establishment.

The irony of the graphic novel is that Nemesis is male in the magazine, battling with the his arch enemy Torquemada. In fact, according to Greek mythology Nemesis is female – the goddess of indignation against and punishment for hubris.

The irony of the portrait above is that in my role as a pastoral teacher, and young dad, I was very in touch with my feminine, protective side. I think the portrait is very perceptive. It illustrates a divine alchemical principle – that of duality.

We all have a bit of yin in us if we are biologically male, and those of us who are biologically female will have some yang. Some of us have more of the opposite polarity at times than the one we were assigned to by genetics. This does not matter as long as the polar opposites balance. This is the key to happy relations regardless of sexuality, age, creed, or skin tone.

I believe that in my first marriage, my Yin was stronger than my Yang. During my childhood I had been well trained by a very strong woman, my mother, to appease, protect and be biddable. I still have to fight this urge when confronted with a harpy.

In my second marriage I have found someone who is my absolute polar opposite, she is the Yin to my Yang. Thanks to the artist, I understand myself a little better and what i need – this is what good artists do.

yinyang duality