Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Time and the passing of it.

After a long absence I've found a way of signing in once again to my old blog. Therefore a quick update seems in order before going into more detail at a later date. 
Apple gathering is over the best of the unblemished neatly placed in the cool of the old Breton food cupboard; a time of year I love when the qualities of colour and light are at their best, and the slower burning sun rises over a riotous frosty autumn. Longer evenings behind shuttered windows give me time to reflect on my labours during 2016 both in Brittany and the Outer Hebrides. It’s been ten years since I started renovating my croft house on the north east shores of the isle of Lewis and this year was a landmark as my long awaited studio took shape. I’ve had an indoor place to work in France for many years but my studio is more often than not wherever I happened to be; back of the car, the kitchen table or en plein air, so the idea of having a designated space for all my artistic efforts meant that shed at the bottom of the garden would be a serious multipurpose building with woodwork workshop space, cosy fireside stitching and a light airy painting area. Last year I had the good fortune to find a builder in the village. Steve proved to be an expert in every area of conservation as well as modern building construction when during the summer of 2015 we ripped out the entire ground floor of the house to damp proof and insulate. With a combined age of 125 years we worked well together and from the end of July when the foundations went in we managed to build my 56 square meters of tin and larch clad studio. Over this winter Steve continues on with insulation and dry lining and next spring I hope to move in.
When in Scotland I talk of selling up in France but as soon as I return to Brittany the idea of selling up from this house that has been home for the past twenty five years seems a mountain that I simply can’t summon the energy to climb. When I see what has befallen the house I sold in Huelgoat and how all that I did has been destroyed and replaced with today’s bland modern look I realise that if my own home here in Lezele was to undergo the same disastrous transformation I could not return, not even to see my friends. So I will retain my foothold in Brittany for the foreseeable future while I try and rationalise its contents moving those things that I require in my northern studio while keeping open the opportunity to profit from the autumnal harvest of walnuts, chestnut, hazelnuts, apples and fungi.
I have since my days as an antique dealer been accused of living in a museum and here in my late seventeenth century Breton farm house I have known people become seriously uncomfortable with its dark interior. Only during the coldest days of winter do I sleep in the old lit clos facing the fire, preferring the more conventional later 19th century carved walnut bed in the room above; all my furniture has seen between 150 and 350 years of use. My day starts with green tea from an early 19th century teapot, the blue and white print depicting an estuary scene, in the foreground a rural farmyard were a woman carries two buckets hanging form a yolk full of slops to feed the pigs, horses stand ready to be hitched up to the old cart and a ladder is propped against the gable end of the thatched farmhouse presumably to recover eggs from the attached wooden dovecot. In the distance two figures look out across the estuary to a strange world (much as I do today) where all the buildings are castellated and an oversized obelisk seems to serve little purpose. You’d be hard pressed to find anything new in my home; I’m constantly bemused by latest must have irrational objects that the outside world thinks essential and in that respect I am much like the people of St Kilda who when given chamber pots for their new 19th century homes used them for their porridge, or the islanders who when a new telephone box was installed started using it immediately even though there was no telephone inside; there was however a very good little mirror and few possessed such a luxury. The new holds little interest for me as it carries with it no history and I prefer to be surrounded by stories of times past rather than be confused by present day events. I find it comforting to have reached an age when it is now my turn to use the family silver, to have object around me that hold memories from generations past as well as from within my own living memory.
There was a time when I posted regularly on face book concerning my latest artistic creations but after seeing some crass comment receiving over seventy likes while my own art work had managed only 27 in three years I decided to halt all contact. Since then I have had not a single enquiry from f.b.friends into my well-being and can only presume they were either not that interested or thought me already dead. Right now I’m going through a period of sublime silence as radio 4 long wave carries mostly cricket coverage from India. The last television I saw in this house was when the world trade centre collapsed and last winter I finally got round to cutting down and burning the disused telephone post that stood tight against the gable end. I often hear people talking heroically of going a full day without consulting their smartphone, and yet they look at me with disbelief when I tell them I don’t have one, not even a land line. They couldn’t tell me straight out I know, but I am surely their fearless hero, just as the winner of the race is cheered across the finishing line so I am admired for still sitting stubbornly on that same line that doubles as the start.
Some may recall that for the past three years I have concentrated my artistic efforts to that of stitching and on February 25th 2017 for those who want to see it for real I will be holding an exhibition of my stump work tapestry at the Victoria Gallery in Bath. It runs until May 10th and I hope to be around for much of that time, although a fine spell of weather in early April could see me dash north to cut peat.
When people see these needlework pieces they are immediately impressed with the amount of time (around three months) each represents, and that I who has been known to do a runner leaving everything at the supermarket checkout queue possessed such patience when it comes to slow process of painting with wool. Today we have machines to remove life’s drudgery and logically should have much more time available to create than in centuries past. However time is money in the modern world when even your own free time becomes something that someone else can profit from. Out on the islands Sunday is still respected, no shops open and therefore more likely to be truly free time.
I see that I have spoken mainly of time and I am happy that I am still here to note the passing of it although increasingly concerned with the speed at which it passes. For those who still take note of Christmas I hope yours is a joyous one and for the few of us who steadfastly refuse to have anything to do with it beyond burning the yuletide log I lift my alcohol free glass……. Cheers and good health.

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