Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Back to the wall

It's a life sentence, really. I don't think it will ever be finished. It has taken me 7 years to complete what you see here. (Mind you, there are other walls elsewhere that I've finished.)

The problem is finding the stones. Local rocks are metamorphic. They're all schists and shales and marbles, twisted and ungrateful lumps, unsociable geological misfits that utterly resist any kind of companionship with their fellows. It's a red letter day when, in driving about, I find a flat or right-angled stone, one that maybe with a little persuasion from 7lb hammer and bolster will fit with another. I shudder to a halt, leap out and whisk it into the boot (trunk, if you're reading this in the USA or Canada, and I hope you are).

Another local wall-builder, Marcel, hailed me the other day as I was trudging along the lane pushing our wheelbarrow with a large stone in it, one the size of a pillow. I'd noticed it lurking, half-buried in the undergrowth a short distance from our house. Marcel gave me secret information, similar in value to the map Columbus returned to Spain with in 1493. He knew where there were some flat stones. Well, flattish.

I drive high up into the mountains, stopping on the way to enjoy the extraordinary views of our valley and village from two or three thousand feet up. I follow Marcel's directions to the letter. There are indeed outcrops and scatters of flattish and very useful sandstone. Does the Liberté of the French motto entitle me to help myself? Does Egalité mean anyone, even humble foreigners like me, has the right to plunder the very substance of France? Am I alone up there on the mountain tops? I am not. It seems there is a Fraternité of stone-gatherers: the first vehicle I see is a builder's truck with a sturdy youth running beside it, loading it at intervals with these beautiful slabs.

I find a rich haul, enough to feel the load on the brakes as I drive back down again. Thank you, Marcel.

I'm not really conscience-stricken. That builder salved it for me. But all the same I'm reminded of the fate of Edward II of England, a man apparently much given to digging holes and building walls. A useful sort of bloke to have as king, you would have thought, but no: his kingship was so appalling that he had to be done away with. According to legend the method of his execution in 1327 was so unspeakably grotesque that delicacy forbids me to do more than refer to it obliquely through the image below. H'm. He should have kept his back to the wall, shouldn't he?


dinahmow said...

At last! A new(ish) language of swear.
The damned schist! I thought I'd got in first but he shaled me!Bloody metamorphic rock!
I expect the folk who say "you rock!" and "rock on, bro!" may have a problem with this.

Rog said...

Very Good. You should celebrate with a roche moutonnée and drumlins. With ice of course.

Vicus Scurra said...

Thank you for your delicacy. I suspect that it made his bannock burn.

Martin said...

I wonder if there's mortar this story, than you're letting on?

Hector said...

Reminds me of a famous Scotsman headline describing the destruction of a large country house in the Borders which read:
Ancient pile destroyed

Z said...

It's a bit startling to find myself wished into the USA or Canada, when I've only just got home from India.

That's a beautiful wall though. Seven years well spent, I'd say.

I feel a strange kinship with your local rocks, by the way.

Christopher said...

MIT: Yes, agreed, a rich vein, but I feel Henry IV Pt2 may be ripe for revival, e.g. 'You scullion, you rampallian, you fustiliarian, I'll tickle your catastrophe...'

Have a gneiss day.

Rog: Drumlins and custard, mmmmm...

Vicus: Thank you for your appreciation. Always happy to share delicacies with you.

Mortin: No more to. It's point of honour. Everything must fit together.

Hector: This would have been the fire of which it was reported 'no water available, so firemen improvised'?

Z: You were smuggled into the UK in a trunk?

mig bardsley said...

That's quite a wall. What happens to the stones that don't fit? Do you have a rockery round the front?

Christopher said...

No rockery, Mig. Mostly the misfits are slung with scorn and exasperation into a nearby ravine, but don't tell Z.

Z said...

What? But a rock has a name, you know. And feelings - have you never heard of a heart of stone? Don't throw Florrie into that ravine, I beg you, Chris!

Christopher said...

All right, all right, no need to go on. I'll put in the garden, by the yew. Anything for a quiet life.

*takes slow train to Leighton Buzzard*