Not that I originally had any idea how annoying it would be.
One batch of beach clay was a rich, dark, intense orange-red, slightly gritty, and I soaked it for a long time to get the smoothest consistency possible. Turns out that it is a pig of a clay – staining everything it touches, sticky and lumpy at the same time, and almost impossible to wedge up, as it goes from a glutinous unhandleable mess to a dense resistant lump with no apparent intermediate stage. Of course, it absolutely did not want to be thrown; and after one attempt I damped it down (making it glutinously unhandleable again) and added some fine sand in an attempt to open the body a little. This had no practical effect when the clay firmed up again (perhaps not enough sand) and it reverted to being a heavy, dense, entirely un-plastic clod.
Naturally I am far too obstinate just to chuck it out – having carried it three-quarters of a mile off the beach – so the intransigent clay and I sat to the wheel and beat one another into submission. The throwing slurry is an even brighter colour than the clay, so I ended up red in tooth and claw, and the conservatory looked as if a massacre had taken place.
I can scarcely bear to think of the turning and drying and firing processes still to come; surely these pots won’t survive.
My forearms hurt. Time for a nice little lie down.
I’ve trained them too well: every time I walk out into the garden they rush under my feet, looking for breadcrumbs. So far I have managed not to stand on them (much).
You would think I had stamped on them all when they are lying in their favourite dirt bath, squashed down, spread out, heads extended at bizarre angles, feathers cocked inside out, feet projecting improbably, squirming their wings as if dismembered. In fact, of course, they are just superbly relaxed.
I was not as relaxed as they were, having undertaken a maddening hunt for a pin. I’m careful with pottery tools, but I’m always losing pins. After half an hour looking in every drawer and receptacle, likely or unlikely, I found a brand new one. Where the others have gone, who can tell?
Today was the start of one final collection of beach clay pots, from six or seven different small batches of clay, hoping for some good colour variations after firing. Then I’m going to call a halt – at least until I have grown some new skin on my fingers and the palms of my hands. Exfoliation? Ow!
Lots of technical vocabulary in this one. Some of the authors translate or define the Greek terms they use; some just transliterate; and some don’t bother at all. Which leaves me, with my primitive half-familiarity with the Greek alphabet, painfully sounding out words, and hoping they will come out as something vaguely familiar and guessable.
A few are fairly easy given a context – I could cope with θεολογια; and γνωσις was doable. But προσαρμοσας? Urg.
As for the English language parts: some of these sentences and paragraphs will remain mysterious to me for ever. But that’s another story.
At the first end: ugly lumps, and wet newspaper everywhere, but it’s invigorating to work up the beach clay from slop to gloop to squodge.
At the other end: fragments of apricot light coruscating through trees, becoming a broken arc, a distorted rectangle, finally a golden disc. Full moon.
lxix : Listen to clay singing
When very dry clay is soaked down, it ticks, murmurs, chirps and even whistles. It’s quite companionable.
The weather has taken a turn: sea rolling grey and white, sky heavy. Avoiding the wind we walked under the trees, past the reeds and brackish pools and a few reposing gulls.
The second batch of beach clay pots went in for a v e r y s l o w f i r i n g, and I only lost one, cracked at the rim. I’m surprised how pale some of them came out – one of the grey clays must have had scarcely any iron in. Also rather oddly, the blue-green clay fired to a quite strong terracotta, and not surprisingly at all, the dark orangey brown fired to dark orange-red. I think they will look better when dirtied and algaed up a bit. Going in raw:
The third batch are drying out ( v e r y s l o w l y, of course). Meantime I have had an outbreak of porcelain bud vases, which is about as different a throwing challenge from the big rough beach clay pots as you could possibly get. I do make the little vases quite chunky though – my excuse, so that they will be stable if heavy-headed flowers are put in them.
It was difficult to achieve the zen-like concentration needed for good throwing, as the wretched guest poultry, which are allowed to forage on a large patch of grass, a partly-dug vegetable bed, the wild-bit-at-the-back, a neglected border, and a long gravel path, have found the one bit of garden I don’t want them in. Naturally.
They waited until I was well settled at the wheel, and then tip-toed down the grass, carefully not making eye contact with me, to the forbidden territory. I added a new game called broomfrighteners to my sporting repertoire, sweeping the invaders up the garden with gratifying flutters and flaps and squawks. The chooks then stood about ten yards off, doing chicken things with their necks and complaining, waited for me to sit down to the next bud vase, and immediately started doing grandmother’s footsteps back down the garden for the next round. So far, I reckon they are winning on points.
On the other hand: egg and lettuce sandwiches; swiss roll; baked custard; omelette; quiche …
There’s no getting away from it. Chickens make some of the most ludicrously dismal noises in the world, only to be compared to small children learning to play the violin.
This morning I let the guest chooks out to stravage about the garden for a few hours, watching in case they explored into next door or ate my young plants. It was fairly easy to keep an eye on four of them as they scratched deep in the vegetables and weeds, but the fifth was more difficult to see.
Indeed, occasionally I put shoes on and went out to find the highly camouflaged Dotty, as I don’t want to have to Explain Myself to a tearful owner, but luckily she always turned up.
She was more visible when on a green background; an odd-looking creature, her booffy britches fluffed up and twirled by the wind.
The main task for the morning was to lead them up and down the garden a few times with trails of brown bread crumbs, of which they are inordinately fond, in the hope that they will associate me with treats and thus come when called. The evenings are reserved for Fluffers, who has her own indoor space (she is too small to associate readily with the outdoor flock, and thinks she is a person anyway). Occasionally she condescends to use me as a heated mattress.
Chicken selfies. Sigh.
Starting a new subject with a reader is more difficult than picking up an introductory text written with novices in mind. It does, however, have the advantage of offering a full technical vocabulary, and introducing significant writers in the discipline through their own words.
Sadly, the ‘own words’ of cultural theorists (up to Part 3) seem to be quite remarkably dreary – an uglification of English which is hard to forgive, and there are 450 pages still to go. Some of the content is moderately interesting, but Oh! if only we could have it better said! One honourable but momentary exception: Laclau and Mouffe describing their critics as ‘fading epigones’. I had to look ‘epigone’ up in Chambers, and joyed in it, a word at once compendious and splendidly disdainful. Then it was back to uglification for fifteen pages.
This is going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long read.