Monday, 30 July 2012

180 degrees

This has been a long summer.

During the summer here the majority of the student body goes off to work or stay with parents or to placements or on holiday. I have become rather attached to my house and wanted to work to gain experience so I decided to spend the summer.

For two months so far, and one yet to come I am working two jobs.

In the first instance, I have been employed as a wandering dogsbody-type in a large mill in Peebles known as Robert Nobles, the RN is actually the name of the apparel fabric brand, and when working for the design team I have been working entirely with the Replin team, who are responsible for high performance upholstery fabric for rail and air. When I'm not working with them, I'm usually in the lab helping out with fabric analysis, counting ends per inch, measuring yarns and so on. It's more interesting than it sounds ;)

In the second instance I have been working for the college repairing the handlooms in the weave shed on the remaining two days of the week. Which is a MASSIVE job. Changes have been afoot in the college for some time, largely due to the current government's ongoing crusade to demolish all public institutions and replace them with fast food chains staffed by unpaid volunteers. Not all changes are bad though, and this summer, thanks largely to the pestering efforts of the previous years 4th year group and ourselves as well, I am now doing the first serious maintenance and repair effort in about 30 years. To say that the place had been neglected would be an understatement. Anyway, that's all in hand.

And it's not what I wish to talk about anyway.

Here's the thing. At some point in the last five years, I stopped singing. Which is at once a metaphor and a simple statement of fact.

It's funny, that sometimes you can be quite contentedly working away. In my case, basically, working, cleaning, cooking and sleeping without end. Then something can come along, just a little thing, that shows you another option or a different way of living and all of a sudden your entire existence is cast in a different light. As if I was walking along with a half-empty stomach and rags on my back, unaware there was a different way, only to wander into the middle of a shopping mall where well fed and well dressed people are drinking and eating. In short, the terrible social and spiritual poverty of my life was laid before me by the universe.

What happened is I visited my brother in Greece. I had already been occasionally assailed by daily bouts of depression in the evening of a nature to which I was unaccustomed. A week or two previously I had a conversation with an associate at the college who raised the possibility that I may continue my study sometime in Orkney, which is a far more attractive place to be than Galashiels. I ascribe these waves of depression to being offered two choices, one of which is more attractive than the other, but when looked at alone is not in any way attractive as a social prospect. Anyway, I spent a week in Greece.

It's a beautiful country. Everything is different. In my whole life I have never been free of the fear of cold. It has been my constant companion, the driving force behind my habitation in a stone box, which I consider to be akin to an expensive prison cell. In greece, certainly in the summer, there is no danger at any point at all, of ever being cold. You can soak yourself while fully clothed and within hours you will be dry. It is simply amazing.

And the most amazing thing is: the heat didn't bother me. I have a stoic attitude to that I can't change, and the thing about the heat is that there's nothing you can do about it. And anyway, it causes no harm, so why would you?

So it was laid before me, by the universe and certain individuals. I have a choice. Between a life where I will be tied like a prisoner to a job and a house and a town I have no feeling for, by the fear of the cold. Or I can go to Greece, to be a free weaver. To make beautiful things, to sell them on the islands, and to weave strip cloth on a portable loom in the shade of a tree.

I won't need a house, or a car. At least for a while, I can tour the islands, doing my thing, with my loom tied in a roll to my pack, with my bag packed with trade goods, yarns and tools. It can be a good life, I can live for beauty and truth and freedom, I can reconnect with my international tribe and live the life of a free nomad. I can rebuild my life on this basis.

And I will sing again.


Valerie said...

wow! good luck!! But so nice of you to be fixing up those old looms in the meantime.

Anonymous said...

My aunt recently went to see an exhibtion of African textiles at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. There was a Kente weaver-in-residence there for a week. He travelled so light that he didn't even bring his loom with him: just turned up at the museum with a couple of tools to build one. They found him some scrap pieces of wood and he was all set. It's an amazing craft that encompasses such a wide range of technology, and we are so lucky to be living in a time and place where we can choose which part of spectrum we want to inhabit. Carpe diem!

Andrew Kieran said...

Valerie: Thanks for the sentiment. I care about the college, and I want to leave it in a better condition than I found it.

Cally: This is the kind of thing I am aspiring to, though I think I will give a little to the western way and travel with at least steel heddles and reed. I don't think they'll take up too much space. The big difference I see is not needing to carry a tent or heavy weather gear. It just so happens that I have about 500 spare steel heddles and a whole mess of small reeds as well. I am a hoarder

Dorothy said...

If it is at all possible, distance yourself from places of spiritual poverty! I love the idea of Orkney, but maybe not long winter nights, and cold.

Anonymous said...

I reckon you're wise to think of taking heddles (an awful fiddle to recreate them every time), but texsolv would be lighter and possibly better in humid conditions... Just a thought!