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 for 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 a rank of nobility. Like the English ‘hedge knight’ – a glorified mercenary who fights for a Sovereign Lord for the spoils of war.

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. Gold plated bullshit.

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 carpenter. To earn my daily bread by making wooden artefacts – the rewards are fantastic.

The Chinese Characters on the screen say:

Tree

Woman

Art

 

Thank you Father.

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David Stuart Littlewood

Carpenter, Father, Comedian.

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

Meaning

21 Dec

15th November 2019

In the Norse Myths of the poetic Edda, Huginn and Muninn were the mythical Ravens who accompany Odin, the All Father.

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This is my Muninn,. I carved her into a Hawthorne walking stick for an art exhibition. I couldn’t help it, this winter Raven just came out of the stick.

Huginn represents thought and Muninn represents memory and tradition. The birds fly around the World from Odin’s shoulder to collect his intelligence before breakfast.

The All Father was always worried about them not returning, without them he had lost his marbles.

Archetypes represented in allegory are not easy to penetrate at first reading and they are not meant to be ‘easy’ to understand.

Experience is necessary to polish learning, but sacrifice is necessary to establish meaning.

I in early December 2017 I was making a pair of dining chairs for a client and my father had taken to his bed and was waiting quietly to die, having chosen his own path with great dignitas.

My wife, Clare was also been very unwell at the time. As a result of a vital operation, her voice had been stolen, a vocal cord permanently paralysed.

Despite these pressure, I delivered the chairs on Christmas eve 2017 to happy customers.

Huginn and Muninn are their names.

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My all father died the next day, Dark Comedian that he was, yet I could not be at his side, as I had been at my mother’s.

I wish I had simply asked my clients to wait, because my father gave me everything.

For many years I put all my faith in the power of reason – as a researcher in zoology, and then a teacher of biology – I had to think a lot. You could say I favoured Huginn over Muninn.

In the old stories Odin’s favourite was Muninn for she gave meaning to his thoughts and a powerful memory for people, places and sources of power.

I am Muninn to Clare’s Huginn. Together we create the best tradition of Yang and Yin and the imagined pairing called a ‘karass’ (Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle).

Clarenka

Don’t ever read a book by its cover.

The raven stick has been given to someone who understand her the magic of tradition. She also carries the secret of attracting wealth, I wonder if he will discover it?

He may have to visit Huginn to discover how to have his cake and eat it.

Hanukkah Sameach!

x

H

 

 

 

 

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