Monday, July 31, 2006

And the eyes in his head see the sun going down

In Vantaa there is a field of sunflowers and on Sunday I went for a walk in this field. Vantaa city has a policy that anybody can go into the field and pick the sunflowers for themselves or to give away as presents.

I think it is a wonderful policy that flowers are grown for the pleasure and joy of the public. When I was there, many families were out for an afternoon walk and were moving through the fields of green. One small boy was almost lost in the jungle of greenery. One small girl was collecting ladybirds and was not interested in the flowers at all.

It has been dry for 6 weeks in Finland, with no rain at all, and even though the flowers are over the little boys head, they barely reach his parents knees. On the radio there has been talk of crop failure. My own crops at my allotment have suffered because I have not been watering them regularly.

I think of famine in Africa. People sowing seed, but nothing growing. I am reminded of a BBC documentary "Global dimming" and a poem by Alan Ginsberg about a sunflower covered by the pollution of cement dust from a factory.

It is a precious thing to be able to enjoy the wonders of nature, and to see the sunflowers turn their heads from the rising of the sun until the setting of the same.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

life in the slow lane

I remember when I was driving to India in a 1954 80" SWB Land Rover. We decided to be economical and drive there at 40 mph so as to get the best fuel consumption.

You do not do this on an autobahn in Germany because truck drivers have schedules to meet, and business-men have to do their business, and they don't want a bunch of long haired hippies sauntering along in the slow lane at 40 mph.

Taking things easy has always been frowned apon if you belong to those germanic or northern countries where the protestant work ethic hold sway.

Taking things easy is ifrowned apon and is often classified as laziness, and you know what they say... the Devil always has work for idle hands. It would seem that there should be no peace for the wicked, yet God himself took a break on the seventh day and rested.

It has been said that the Finns have only recently come out of the forest and at every opportunity they go back into it. I think this is a very wise thing to do. It is what keeps people sane. Living life in the slow lane with no electricity, no running water, no flush toilets, no cooking facilities, tends to slow you down.

You have time to fish, time to swim, time to paint, time to dance in the grass, time to relax.

To fish you have to dig for worms, bait the hook, pick your spot and time of the day, and then wait. Fishing is mostly about waiting. Fishing helps you to be patient. If you catch a big fish it is an incredibley joyous occasion. There is a fight with the fish and then the struggle to land it. The fish has to be taken off the hook, and if you are in a mind to eat it, it has to be cleaned and cooked. All of this takes time.

If you want to really relax then there is no better way than to watch paint dry. This is a very time consuming process. First of all you have to prepare a good wooden surface, let's say the side of a wooden house. Take a steel brush to get rid of all the old blistered paint, and then give the surface a good going over with a course sandpaper. Experts who are serious about watching paint dry can then give the wall a second going over with a finer grade sandpaper.

Now comes the most difficult part, making the decision as to what kind of paint to apply. I ask you where is the fun in using some quick drying paint.? If you are at all serious about watching paint dry then you need to choose an oil based paint. It will take ages to dry, and it will give you hours of pleasure, first of all when you apply it to the wood, and secondly as it slowly changes colour during the drying process.

Best results can be had on days of high humidity, The paint takes so much longer to dry. Painting on a sunny day is a short lived pleasure, and presents no challenge to anyone who is really serious about watching paint dry.

I watching paint dry seems too frenetic for you then a really worthwhile substitute activity is holding the ladder steady while somebody else does the work. That demands lots of patience.

If you do not have gas or electricity then the only way to cook is on an open fire. So the wood has to be sawn and chopped, and kindling made to get the fire started. Fire-lighters are not allowed. That makes starting a fire too easy. The kindling has to be built up in a criss-cross fashion on top of a layer of paper which has been screwed up in a secret way that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Twisting paper to make a fire is an essential skill.
It is imprper to throw a couple of newspapers, untwisted on to the fire. Twisting paper correctly takes time, and the more time it takes to make the fire then the hungrier you will become.

Then when it comes to preparing the food, it is a heresy to buy something ready made from the shop. That is just too quick. If you are living life in the slow lane then everything has to be done from scratch. First you kill a cow and saw its leg off... only joking... you can get away with buying micemeat but the incorporation of herbs and spices has to take place in a large bowl and it all has to be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon made from a 60 year old juniper tree. The frying should be done on a Hackman's cast iron skillet. Cook for lots of people, and eat everything slowly with plenty of talking.

If you succeed in doing this on a regular basis you will have learnt a secret that keeps Finns sane. Namely take a break from the hustle and bustle of the hectic life in the city and for a change live life in the slow lane.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Birds, birds, birds

Birds are a problem since they seem to like strawberries even more than humans. So what can you do to keep them off your berries. Well one enterprising lady painted stones red and then laid them out amongst the strawberry plants. Now that will give their little beaks something to think about.

Some people show no subtlety and they just enclose the strawberries in netting. That is just pain unfair. There is no competition.Birds stupid enough to try and get through the netting just get their legs caught, and they never have the patience to methodically use their beak to get free. It is all a wild flapping of the wings until they die of exhaustion. Birds should learn strawberries are for humans and not for them.

Then you have the dummy owl, the bird of prey that never moves a muscle, just sits on its perch and stares. If I were a bird I would be dead scared of a motionless wooden owl. But perhaps the dummy owl combined with a spining whirlygig is just that combination of ying and yang, stillness and movement, that causes enough confusion that the birds are too perplexed to even think about eating strawberries.

But the top top scary method is to make a video of youself wringing a chickens neck and cooking it in a pot, and all the while the viedo is rolling you make diaboical curses about what you are going to do to any birds caught eating your strawberries. Then once the tape is finnished you string it over your acursed strawberries, and let the magic take its course. But then again it might just be the black tape making strange noises in the wind, or they way it shimmers from coal black to silver that is a little bit disconcerting for the birds.

But I think birds are basically stupid and never learn. If they want strawberries then they will go for them. Birds are like humans when it comes to doing stupid things.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Beauty for ashes... or there abouts

I saw a woman painting her toolbox and I strolled over to her to say that I wanted to paint some flowers on the black toolbox that I had made from some scrap wood I had found at a dump. She said that she already had some acrylic paint and was just waiting for the cream paint she was applying to dry and then she would be doing some flowers as well. Do you ever get that feeling that someone steals your idea and you are left in second place because you are slow off the mark.

Anyway I returned a few days later and indeed she had painted some flowers on her toolbox. I think she did a good job of it. Better than I could ever do since the representation is of actual flowers. I did not want to appear to be a copycat so I had to come up with something diferent. Something simple with only a few colours and I thought that some art deco motif in the style of Alfons Mucha would be easy to do.

So I decided on a poppy mitif for the front and some tulips for the top. I like the sparceness of the lines, and the simplicity of the drawing. They looked good on paper but when it comes to transferring them onto a rough black wooden surface then that is a different matter. Once the paint brush is dipped into the paint and the paint is applied to the wood then there is no going back.

I know from experiance that you get a line or a shade of colour wrong and you see the mistake instantly, and if it were a water colour on a bit of paper you could scrumpple up the paper and start again, but with a toolbox it is a bit heavy to throw in the ditch if you paint something you don't like and it is left there as a legacy to you ineptitude. Or if you are writing, and make a spelling mistake, or construct a sentence that you don't like then there is always the possibility to correct it, so that the words come out to your satisfaction.

Having the will to correct things rather than abandon them is a very powerful quality.

But perhaps the best thing to do is to do some research and prepare. Take things easy and advance slowly. I bought some chalk to do a rough outline of the motif I want and have gotten as far as doing an outline on the top of the toolbox. I bought myself some chineese tubes of acrylic paint and some rubbish paintbrushes.

My way of thinking is that if you cobble together a tool box from some scrap wood from a dump then it is a bit ridiculous to spend lots of money on paints and brushes. My attitude is OK I have some scrap wood, let's build the best box we can from it. That is the best feeling to create something useful from something that has been discarded as worthless. The decorations are just a little bit of frivolity.

Painting a poppy on an old black box is like pinning a medal on the chest of a soldier. It is a way of saying. Yep!!! you'll do for me. Posted by Picasa