Friday, 29 September 2017

Book Review, September

I found this author via Radio 4, Desert Island Discs. Having spent so many years without the funds for new books, I am unaware of many writers whose work I would otherwise be munching up. Of course the 50p box at the second hand store has delivered me many unusual delights, no need for sympathy - but I heard Ali talk and thought, I like her, I want to read those books. So when I could, I bought a brand new paperback. I had been working long hours and the first page swam in front of me for a while. It seemed too dense, I couldn't get through it. Such disappointment! Luckily this was just tiredness - for which I will accept some sympathy because I am tired again today - this week I have clocked 97 hours! 
Anyway, we should discuss the book, now I’ve told you how honest-poor and hard working and admirable I am (grins, sheepish, impish). Two stories, one of a young girl whose mother has died, and one of a renaissance artist, are told and spliced without it seeming incongruous. It is full of humour, quirky, insightful, touching, thought provoking. Rather than give away too much about the book and how it is structured, because I revelled in discovery with this, I thought I’d pick a bit of prose to share.
Here is an extract from Georgie’s story (she’s the modern teenager) where she is keeping the leak in her bedroom ceiling a secret:

‘Her room will be stained with the grey grease and dregs of the dirt the rain has absorbed and carries, the dirt the air absorbs every day just from the fact of life on earth. Everything is this room will rot.
She will have the pleasure of watching it happen.
The floorboards will curl up at their ends, bend, split open at the nailed places and pull loose from their glue.
She will lie in bed with all the covers thrown off and the stars will be directly above her, nothing between her and their long-ago burnt-out eyes.’

Here are links to a superior review:

And a preview:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Making Charcoal At The Bulworthy Project

Charcoal kiln smokes like a squat old pagan god

Just a structure, at first. A ring of metal that sits, foot-swaddled in tarred sand. 

(It has a big lid, like a witch's cook pot, and here we are in the woods…)

We learn how to stack logs inside, how the layers wheel out, how positioning of sizes is guided by pockets of future heat. It is good work, smelling cut wood, eyeing grain-whirls, hands on bark, the muffled drop of getting each piece in optimal place. 
Even the rain is fun, a challenge. 

Stacked, lidded, sealed with a slick of sand.
Into the middle of our sculpture fire is set. 
An effigy for burning, unseen - well, we may peek with mirrors through out-pipes, witness a glow - but should we crack the lid the fumes would ignite - we should all burn.
Potential annihilation has an awe, a draw, even before the smoke seeps across our feet and the squat ring takes on a life. 
Is it a portal, to a world of steam and light?
It is something new, hypnotic, pluming, turning.
We are smitten with it, the alchemy in there, the happening.

Birds warble.
Trees breathe back the carbon of their brethren.
Autumn nuts weigh and drop.

We walk, brightly over dark mud, eat hearty, swig - all the while the magic chugs - we are drawn back to observe, for hours, spellbound.
Even while we sleep (cramped in the back of our car, Mr and me) it happens.
In the morning we drink coffee, watching thin mist spin.
Spinning what, we must wait to know.

Smoke billows from under a lid - like a cauldron

Certificate for completing the charcoal course

Friday, 8 September 2017

Autumn Weft

Late in August warm air sunk to the ground, cooler air dropped to our shoulders.

We had felt the thermal transfer - thought of skin softly clothed, cinnamon and blackberries bubbling under pastry. 
We felt hot work easing, the loss of hot lazing. 

Rich greens remain, and summer bright blooms.
Nasturtiums flare up, like small fires. 

We smelt tree bark, apple skin, damped wood smoke.

Peripheral autumn.

But no season just becomes. 
It is a weaving.
(Spring in every bud, summer in every petal, autumn in every seed, winter in every root, or however you wish to follow the thread.)

In the hedge two spiders tango on a web - a match, or a meal for one?
Berries drop into our cache: sloe, hip, haw, black: a heap of jewels.

Harvest secured, we snuck through tall maize, to feel the leaves grab, and drop rain down our backs.
We were racing, laughing, till we saw the bird sat: injured, by a jaw-snap.
Too injured for us to mend, and fright would kill as sure as anything.
Here it was perched in green sanctuary, calm and shocked and between worlds.

This too, a weaving.

Back in open field, for the second time I, clumsy human, arms full of fruit, disturb Dog’s befriending of a young fox. Russet-red, sun-sleepy, it delays its stir as long as it dares.
Dog wags her tail at the hole in the hedge, looks to us.
I can only shrug, promise to return.
We will be stocking up, fruit first, then acorns. 

Making our histories of these moments.