Saturday, 19 December 2009

Ancient craft

I drive the kids to their woodcarving lesson with Jeremy, a woodcarver who has pale hands the colour of ash, and a wise, gentle way with children that makes him a thousand years old.

After five minutes working alongside him in the cold, cold woodshed, Shark, Tiger and Squirrel declare the temperature is fine, so there must be something wrong with me.

I tell them, You are working up a sweat, swinging mallets, pounding pine. Your cheeks deserve to be pink flushed. With no wood weapon to wield, I have nothing to do to keep me warm. I stamp up and down on the same square of concrete floor. I might stay alive yet with this technique. But if for one second I stand still then I might become as solid as a beam. Then you woodworkers would have to use your gouges and files to lever me off the concrete and crack me down to a shape that could drive you back home to fireside warmth where I could thaw out.

They ignore me. They have purposes to meet, tools to control, and wood to shape into sheep, peanut bowls, and killer whales.

I slip outside where it is slightly warmer than the still cold air of the workshop. Outside I can walk about and once more feel my toes and catch the moment the sun slips away and daylight slides into dusk. This tipping time of an iced winter day in England, I hate it, and I love it. Darkening minutes like this tell me I am here, rooted in this country. We are thinking of leaving, finding somewhere else to live for a few short months. I would miss this view if we flew away.

I am surrounded by gentle curving land, a calm river, frozen fields, woodpiles. I watch my breath freeze into lumps. Should it stay for a moment longer, I could ask Shark to take a gouge to this too, and fashion an ancient air-borne creature.

On the hill is the manor house, newly built in the seventeenth century, but formed before by William the Conqueror, parcelling up the land and dividing out England amongst new masters.

Close by, the church, worked up in stone by men in 1200 or thereabouts, since built, rebuilt, still used. If we moved, even for a short time, to be away from England and its cold toes, runny noses, damp drizzle, I would remember this afternoon. I would think Brrr, glad to be gone. And I would long for it back again.


Rachel M. said...

woodcarving is awesome, hope to see photos when they are done!

Jax said...

A beautiful post about a beautiful land that I too struggle to love in the dark cold days.

sharon said...

I know exactly how you feel. But, for me and mine, the move has been worth it. And no, everything has not been roses since then and, in the way of life everywhere, it probably never will be but for now, it's very, very good.

Fleecy insoles in your shoes/boots would help to combat the cold of the concrete floor ;-)

Grit said...

thank you, people.

fleecy insoles! an excellent idea, which may stay my itchy feet.