Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sun rising and shed raising.

An orange summer Sunday sun rises over a soft blue silk sea the two young buzzards on fence posts silhouetted at the far end of the croft perch surveying the sweet scented meadow ready to pounce should any rodent or rabbit happen by. Rock doves tumble in the still air and the sound of waves folding onto the beach below so clear it could be at my door. The fescues drooping heavy headed full with damp seed and midges. If there is no breeze then in the mid morning heat we will suffer the unholy trinity of house flies, horse flies and midges but its Sunday and there will be no labouring for Father, Son or Holy Ghost. Men will seek out a quiet pastime, find sanctuary in their shed and the latest project, and retire for a second more thorough sober reading of the bible or local paper. The peat freshly dry from the moor heaped high must be stacked for the winter but not today, the sow thistles and sorrel need pulling from the rows of swedes but not now and down at the far end of the croft the few remaining unclipped sheep will have to wait for another day before they feel their freedom fleece.

My own old shed is nearing completion the random rough granite boulder walls an almost child like construction contrast with the newly bitumen blackened corrugated tin roof. It takes time, study, observation, discussion, hard graft as well as balls to rebuild an old stone barn. It’s been five years since I started to place back stones that had fallen, dig out the soil and rediscover its form, dating the pile of grass covered rubble was not easy but there were neighbours who remembered when these old walls supported a roof and that one was used for the lambs. During the uncovering I discovered the remains of timber, rusty tin and old tar lagged roofing felt plus the usual contents of a mid 20th  century midden. 

 The last stone to be heaved into place was the large recycled door lintel retrieved from a local demolition. The wheel barrow groaned as I teetered unsteadily alone the back of the house. I have discovered when dealing with heavy objects it is often safer on ones own to know exactly where that centre of gravity lies at any moment. Although it took many to raise the Calannish stone circles this stone lintel raising would be a one man job. So from barrow to window sill then wall top and from there on wooden rollers across a temporary wooden lintel and sideways into place, the one and only golden rule make sure your always above the stone for if it falls on you it will surely squash break maim or kill. Now with the walls more or less flat and with a gentle slope to the east I searched through a recently collapsed roof on the other side of the village for suitable timber, three A-frames should do it and nothing more than two meters long. Within a day the frame was up and the next day the new close boarding went on. This was followed by roofing felt and very bright and shiny corrugated tin which in order not to be a distraction to aeroplanes making their descent into Stornoway airport I painted bitumen black. And so there you have it a shed that once again is visible to our nosy parker satellite inspection and how long will it take before I get a planning contravention notice on this one, meanwhile the interior is already being put to use as it houses burning timber, bags of crumbled peat and garden tools, all it perhaps needs now before the winter is a door, a blue door?                  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The blue door

I am constantly being told that I’m not like other people I believe they call it eccentric. I am suppose to feel good about this, being different is something to be proud of to revel in the fact that while other people are sat in front of their televisions watching the men’s tennis finals I’m off tramping across the moor in search of and finding the blue door. I have grown to enjoy the way people discriminate between me and the rest of the crowd; the me who picks up litter rather than chucks it, who rises when its light even if the clock says ten to five, who tends the vegetable garden that I know I won’t be there to eat, who paints pictures knowing full well nobody will buy them.

So my latest venture of setting up a bunkhouse for people who wished to trek up the heritage coastal walk from New Tolsta to Ness; they could make an early start straight onto the moor and not have to begin the day waiting for a bus out of Stornoway, that was just Tom being different. Most of the time being a round peg that doesn’t fit into the convenient square hole that society has prepared for us creates no great difficulty and I can even find it quite rewarding, but there are days when however hard I try I just can’t find that blue door, it seems the entire world has gone mad and when I feel completely alone with this the isolation is terrifying. Well perhaps I’m not completely alone when it comes to being baffled by the thinking and logic around discrimination. I have come to accept that my thinking on life and the way I conduct myself is not like others, well he’s an artist they’re all a bit odd. To be discriminating is totally logical and rational, a good thing. One discriminates between and not against the ripe and the rotten fruit; the supper market and the corner shop, the flat packed and the finely crafted, and yes between the star rated hotel and the dorm style bunkhouse; one accepts the difference and makes a choice according to ones preference knowing best what will suit your needs.  Well no, not if your handicapped because then the boot would be on the other foot for although they might have accepted their handicap it would seem we have not, they also must fit in that square hole just the same as the rest of us and all it needs is a ramp and a disabled toilet.  It was I who was being discriminating in not providing a disabled toilet in the bunkhouse; I hadn’t understood that I would be required to provide handicapped facilities even though my market was aimed towards the physically fit. Well I wasn’t expecting my 95 year old mother to arrive with her zimmer frame to do the heritage walk she at least knows her limitations. So why do the authorities not have that same intelligence to see that the service I was providing was a niche market not intended or suitable for everyone. It would seem that there is no longer room in this non discriminatory world for anyone to be different, one must conform to the norm or go under. Well now my bunkhouse is to close even before it truly got started. I received an important planning contravention notice with printed in red the maximum penalties and fines I risked if I didn’t comply within 21 days. I had also been drawing up plans to build onto the back of the house here in New Tolsta to create an upstairs toilet and a studio for my artwork, however having obviously upset the authorities I thought perhaps now was not the time to be launching into another project that would in the end be beyond my means. Then in the middle of dismantling the bunk beds it struck me, the barn is a perfectly good space for my studio and as for an upstairs toilet I already have a fine 18th century chamber pot that requires no planning permission or building warrant. I do believe I’ve just found that blue door.