Tag Archives: Norse myths

Waterfall

11 Apr

 

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Dad and Mam 1960

Memory is fickle. It is bad enough that we cannot always be sure of our senses (spending time in a psychiatric hospital will profoundly shake one’s faith in reality) and the store of impressions, knowledge and experiences we call memory can be most troubling.

My wife and I cared for and supported my Mam in the last years of her life as her memory gradually unravelled due to vascular dementia. Her condition was compounded by macular degeneration and a bone headed refusal to adapt. When she finally agreed to be cared for professionally, Clare and I uncovered archeological layers of unread sticky labels and notes in her house amidst mountains of hoarded stuff, written to remind Mam of where the other note was to indicate the location of the marmite (12 pots), disinfectant (20 bottles filled with water??) you get the idea. She even hid money in black socks – throughout her wardrobe.

“Look Henk! A Dobby sock!” Clare, my lady of the wicked mirth, referring to the JK Rowling elf character in the Harry Potter books.

Living on her own. Mam must have been slowly becoming more and more lost in her own maze of the Minotaur, walking through a thickening fog without any string.

At the end what was left of her memory were the deepest associations and very revealing. During her last 18 months in care she constantly called me ‘David’ my dad, her ex husband’s name. During this time I realised just how much she adored him despite belittling, criticising and disrespecting his name in all the years prior and since their divorce in 1966. I did not correct her.

This is Grace and I am humbled by it’s Memory.

When my Dad was alive, he and I used to love going on road trips. We would invent a spurious reason, jump in the car with a hold-all each and head for the hills. He used to say “Got some loose change in your pocket? A pair of clean underpants and a vest? Right-ho, we’re good to go!”

Take Dad anywhere and there would always be a tale, a funny association with his own memories and experiences and a riotous adventure.

Take, for example, the time we went to Ireland in his old Ford Sierra, travelling to Waterford to trace his mother, Annie Wilde’s roots, all the way up to Dublin. We found no trace, but a great deal of mirth – in a bar in Dublin we were drinking beer and eating a big meat pie each when onto a crude stage wafted a vision in electric blue taffeta. An aged chanteuse plugged the hammond organ in, switch it on and proceeded to sing.

“It’s Margarita Pracatan!” my dad declared.

The eponymous singer was regular guest on Clive James’ chat show during the 90’s.

I nearly choked on my pie.

Landscape, architecture and movement have always flowed like a waterfall for father and son.

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A rush of pure association, comedy and utter delight.

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This piece is called ‘Waterfall’ and was commissioned by a couple who have that rare gift – they have kept their curiosity alive through mutual love and affection all the way to retirement.

They had discovered this timber – English Yew – in a small local woodyard near Hillsborough in Sheffield (Albion Timber), the mill owner, David Smythe had put them on to me as a someone who might be able to make them something useful from them.

It was the wildness of the waney, or live edges that excited them. They couldn’t know what lay under the rough sawn, blood red surface of the six boards.

Now, the problem with having an ‘unquiet mind’ (manic depression) is that there is never any shortage of ideas. Almost anything can set my brain haring off like a collie after a rabbit.

So I was grateful that my clients were quite specific in their requirements – a set of shelves with a small cabinet.

It was an artist friend, who said “It’s a waterfall” as I was completing it in my studio. Aye, lad.

During a family reunion, on Christmas Day in Devon with my dad and I were paired up for a word association quiz

Dad: “A Lake, ‘like you are not son’.”

“Placid”, I said.

We were unbeaten. My memory was sound.

The ravens had returned, to Odin.

 

 

For the giver of the Dobby Sock.

HL

 

Fólkvangr

24 Sep

Shrine 4

High above the Goyt Valley in the Peak District lies a shrine. A tiny stone round house built as a memorial to a Spanish School Teacher by the owners of the estate where she taught. It lies on the steep slopes of a hill behind Err Wood, the ancestral seat of the the Grimshawe family a walk away from the ruins of their home, Errwood Hall. My friend, Dave and I chose to walk together around the valley in golden autumn sunshine yesterday in deference to our mutual interest in sandwiches, conversation and rambling (both the talking and the walking kind).

Goyt Valley

Shrine Err Wood

Upon entering the shrine we were met by St. Joseph depicted in ceramic tiles holding the infant Jesus and this Spanish inscription:

Munca se le Invoca evano a San Jose prueba de gratitud’ which translates to – No one asks in vain of St Joseph, a token of gratitude.

Shrine 2

Underneath St. Joseph is pictured holding the infant Jesus, and below them on the tiny votive alter are many tokens of gratitude. Candles, coins, a toffee, postcards memorialising deceased grandparent and a beloved husband. All of them asked for our prayers for the deceased.

Joseph, being the patron saint of the working class, meant that neither Dave nor I had any difficulty leaving our tokens of gratitude to the man who, like those of us who work with our hands, had quite literally carried the King.

I am not a religious man in the conventional sense, but I am no atheist either. Agnosticism is the only defensible position for a skeptic, for in the absence of hard evidence, it is just as ludicrous to me to believe that there is no God as it is to believe in a particular version of God.

This tranquil little sanctuary suspended above the flooded Goyt valley fairly hums with sadness and loss and yet, as Dave and I read the the quiet requests for our prayers which had been faithfully left behind, we were uplifted.

In old Norse the ‘House of the Slain’ or Valhalla is ruled over by Odin, half of those slain in battle are chosen to reside here, the other half go to an eternal meadow called Fólkvangr (field of the host) ruled over by Frey- the Norse god of love . Fólkvangr is poorly understood, but since Frey traditionally has the first pick of fallen warriors – men and women who have died a noble death – I am tempted to suggest that it is this hall and meadow where the most effective dead champions are to be found. We are familiar with the concept of Valhalla – beer, more beer, singing, boasting, fighting, getting very drunk and so on, but not the alternative Norse Heaven. I know which I prefer, and I am glad that I discovered it.

Dolores’ sits in Fólkvangr.

Fólkvangr