Friday, December 31, 2010

Have you thanked a wall today?

Almost everywhere in the world you can find well built dry stone retaining walls and natural dry-laid stone terraces holding back piles and piles of dirt day after day, effectively preventing all manner of material from coming crashing down on to public and private property causing disastrous results. Walls of stone do this important work without so much as a murmur of protest or any detectable shift in loyalty. Unfortunately for the most part these structural 'stone warriors' are completely ignored.

Last week Maddy and I were pleased to come across this local initiative - an imaginative gesture of gratitude in recognition of the many years of 'support' this hard-working dry-laid wall has been providing along this busy sidewalk in downtown Toronto.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Many hands make night work.

It's just about time to Ring in the New year.

Here's a ten minute look at the ten hour Bell building event that went on in Toronto last October.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hand Shakes

Old section of wall along Mississauga Road

Old section of wall along Balsam Lake Road

A curious feature of a few older dry stone walls built in this part of Canada involves the use of hand split cedar shakes. They have been found inside the walls in two areas particularly, one along Mississauga Road near Bellfountain (using rounder glacial fieldstone granite) and the other around Balsam Lake near Kirkfield (using mostly flatter limestone). Remnants of old wooden shakes are often discovered as these walls are taken apart to be rebuilt.

I have never heard any waller referring to cedar being used nowadays or anytime in the past nor have I read about this sort of thing in any walling books. The actual reason for their being in the wall is not exactly clear. Presumably they were used like through-stones but why? There definitely seems to have been enough throughstones available, particularly up at Balsam Lake, but there is more evidence of through-shakes being used rather than throughstones in any place where cedar shake walls are discovered.

As it is unclear why the shakes were used, it is difficult to know how sympathetically walls like these can be rebuilt.

Below is a photo of a reconstructed section of the Mississauga Road wall where the waller has tried to build the wall using new strips of cedar . Sadly this new wall has many small exterior pin and shim stones in it as well and doesn't adequately address the problem of why or how cedar shakes should be used in dry stone wall construction.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's all in the 'hand' release.

Tanks, but we don't need 'brooms' anymore. However when these new cylindrical curling stones are released they do go 'Barrrroooom' !

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Handy Gift-Wrapping

Festive ribbons of stone 'gift-wrap' the countryside
They tie the landscape into tidy bundles, looping the terrain in holiday cheer
The walls create an ever present, ever distant present
They decorate the grateful fields along their borders and well beyond
Charming lines, flowing strands, set in place long ago by gifted hands
A linear design upon the land
A medley of melodies laid out in stone
A mosaic created to explore the undulations of the earth
A sculptural contour-map
A tidy vista enveloping all in a lyrical tapestry
A hilly motif of borders, hedges, fencerows held in place by time and friction
I see an ordered pattern in these random tracts of stones
Shaped and dressed
Fitted and aligned and stacked
Endless gifts of a smiling-piling benefactor
In preparation for some future celebration of nature.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

StoneMad Men

StoneMadMen takes a gritty look at stoneworkers and their quirky, disputably tight-fitting society as well as many of the building blocks of their culture dating back from neolithic crimes to the advent of various social blogging operations, highlighting blatant photo-self-promotion, practical masonry (and joking), drinking, status seeking, voyeurism (ie. stone-porn) hobnobbing, robo-phobia, luddite-bashing, greenism and 'anti-cementism'. Smoking dusty power tools, far more commonly used in stonework now than they were, are featured throughout the series; many characters talk about their merits (as well as those of the power tools they use ) and can be seen using modern and large equipment in the courses of wall construction.

In the pilot, representatives of the walling community across N A come to well-known stone buff Stirling Clips, looking for him to start a new website in the wake of having enjoyed so many previous symposiums and wanting to have a follow-Op for wallers and masons who couldn't get to every stone-studded event. This will lead to the formation of a web forum where Madmen (and unfortunately very few Madwomen) hangout and discuss what they do and don't like about each other's work. Various health issues are touched on including veneer-eal disease, lung cancer, proper safety wear, tooling techniques, job opportunities, and upcoming stone-related events.

The show presents a subculture in which men who are normally engaged to their own lovely work now frequently enter relationships with other masons over the internet. It also observes the stone masonry subculture as a resource for creativity, socializing, time-wasting and friction. Along with each of these examples there are hints of future structural tensions and website changes. Anxiety about standardization, feather and plug use (specifically in one episode), and talk of granite being harmful to health (because of its natural uranium content and its worrying radioactive level) and other daily news items are usually dismissed briefly and then completely ignored as they scroll off the bottom of the audiences screen.

Characters in the show see the stirrings of change in the stone industry itself, with the advent of computerized stone construction (videos are posted) and fret about different ad campaigns creeping in advocating various Non-Madman-made structures and products. The lead character (and Madminister) a well-loved stone diplomat and a chisel-toting Man's-man is the main Madbassador for true masonry, lauding the nostalgic value of older stonework and the market potential for keeping the show going and the need to keep everyone from fighting with each other.

Themes of alienation, social immobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show. Several of the characters walk narrow scaffolding planks as they contemplate their rather humble unorthadox beginnings and the critical bureaucratic stance they have taken amidst the newly formed group of impressionable young masons. Others are often in danger of being asked to clean up their act, pay their dues and stay on topic, or risk being removed from the foundation's next season. At times,the StoneMad Men who work with stones seem quite oblivious to their faults and quirky inconsistencies, which interestingly enough the audience picks up on as they sign in to catch each new episode of Stone-Mad Mania.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

They're called Earthgates on the moon!

A 'Moongate' we built two summers ago.

They're called Eathgates on the moon........

I wonder what an eclipse would look like through a dry stone 'earthgate' on the moon?

Monday, December 20, 2010

iMovie eClips

Inspired by the exciting news that tomorrow's winter solstice will coincide with the full eclipse of the moon, (something that apparently hasn't happened in nearly 500 years) I thought I would commemorate the event by trying my 'hand' at visualizing what a synchronization of the words 'Solstice' and 'Eclipse' might look like. After all, it seemed like they had enough of the same letters in them to attempt 'merging' the two words in a short animation.

These e-clips were created on Sketchup 7 and edited in iMovie.

As this seems a bit of a departure from 'thinking with my hands' and 'building with stones', I decided it would be appropriate to try to have the letters in both words be represented as monumental three-dimensional dry stone structures. The second half of the clip morphs back into the simpler black and white megaliths.

What do you think - crazy?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stones are like words.

click > Language

In the same way we use words as building blocks to create our rich and textured language, we can use stones to create wonderful beautiful dry stone walls without necessarily being pedantic about it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I know it's stone, but it's a DRY stone.

People tend to think that all stones are pretty much all the same.
Cold, lifeless and hard, right?
There are as many different kinds of stone as there are weather conditions.

Stonework too is different.
In a similar way that our experience of the same temperature can be quite varied depending on other factors such as wind and humidity. Certain stonework can seem more 'extreme' than it is
depending on whether it is 'veneer freezing', too damp impervious or just merely glorified breeze-block.

The fact is stonework comes in a variety of concrete forms. The more ce-mented they are the more orna-mented stones are likely to be. And then stonework becomes more of a matter of fashion than friction.

To a waller or a skilled stonemason, bed-faced stones (layed at right angles to their bedding plane) will almost always look funny. But it's no laughing matter.

As with different types of humour for instance, you can have a 'slap-stick' style of construction
where 'wide cracks' can form and are about as appreciated as dumb 'wise cracks'

Or, you can have a much more attractive type where, like 'dry' humour,
the material is thoughtfully arranged without any gimmicky sticky set-up time
and where structurally, you just 'get it' and smile with the look of satisfaction.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I know I have stopped 'thinking with my hands' when ...

I stop trusting that the problem solver stones are really just that.
They become problems not solutions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I know I have stopped 'thinking with my hands' when...

Design, build and photo – John S-R , Jan 2009

I slack off and do things or copy things that don't involve much risk.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I know I have stopped 'thinking with my hands' when...

I'm not sharing all the good stones in the pile with those working on the wall either side of me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sweeping Curve

Jason Hoffman kindly picked me up at the Edinburgh airport two days ago after my flight back to Canada was cancelled. Jason is a very good waller who, because of this fortuitous delay, I was finally able to meet in person, through we had already started to get to know each other via facebook. He runs an impressive walling company and an equally impressive website both called Stone Inspired

The walls he drove me to look at in and around Edinburgh on Thursday were numerous and varied though a bit difficult to actually see. Over a foot of snow covered many of the dry stone features and terraces we visited. One recently completed project Jason showed me was a lovely sweeping-curved wall he and his helper Andy had built at Easter Briech ( a popular Scotish vacation spot visited during spring perhaps?) near his home in Livingston Scotland.

Jason can be seen here 'sweeping' it again.

A few years ago a very good walling book came out about a fairly well known British waller by the name of Steven Allen entitled In There Somewhere by David Griffiths . The reference presumably alludes to wallers being able to find and assemble the right stones from a random pile rocks to create the very wall that wants to be built. It occurred to me that looking at the prominent ridge of snow Jason was showing me I might just be able to believe there was a wall 'in there somewhere' and judging by pictures of other walls I'd seen on his website it was pretty cool.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Handy advise?

I understand that this creative dry stone feature was designed and built by Irwin Campbell at the Coffee Bothy at Blairlogie Scotland (near Stirling). We went here for a wee spot of coffee before we went back to building a wall in Crieff last week.

Unfortunately some of the stones are beginning to disintegrate. Sometimes you can run into trouble using this particular quarried sandstone, especially when it is vertically bedded.
It is usually obvious if the stones you are considering walling with are not going to be durable enough, but in some cases, even what appears to be perfectly good looking stone may begin to disintegrate after a short while.

Do any of the wallers who follow this blog have any experience with this sort of thing and have they any advise for our readers who are perhaps less familiar with this problem?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fixing the Dyke

This is a short video clip about fixing a gap in a 'dyke' in Glen Lyon. Dyke is the word for dry stone wall in Scotland . They are still very much needed here in Glen Lyon not just to contain the sheep along the valley but also to keep the deer out. This section of the wall, though not fallen over yet, had a bad lean in it because of a huge ash tree root which had growing under it.

After discussing what needed to be done with the grounds keeper we took all the stones down, carefully chopped out the root and then rebuilt it properly using the same local mica schist 'stanes' from the wall which was originally built over a hundred years ago. We used an extra thoughstone which we found and rolled down from the hill directly above the gap. Norman calls this Big Rock Rolling. (I may post a video of this on another blog) We coped the wall with turf that Norman had carefully cut (in rectangles and at angles) out of the ground not far from the wall, the day before we finished the gap. He puts one layer on upside down and then another the right way up with a slight diagonal overlap. The turf is much thicker than the rolls you buy at a garden center.

Norman has built and repaired miles and miles of thse walls all along the valley over the last 30 years.

Dave Goulder (another very good dry stane dyker) provides the music for this video. You can order his music online.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hand Evaluations.

A Scotish farmer and a waller go out into a field on a cold morning to discuss some walls that need repairing. Their eyes and their hands look at the work that needs to be done. Their hands tell the story.

They point at the various gaps where the wall has fallen down. The length of the span that will have to be taken down either side of each gap is described in the arc of the wave of their hands. The pile of stones they will use to do the job is pointed to and considered. The route by which the stones will be brought to where they will be needed is conveyed by hand. The hands describe how they will do the work, and how difficult it will be, and in their gestures they try to comprehend how much it will all cost.

Then the hands warmup in the pockets of the coats of the men who now walk silently down the fence row until they need to speak again concerning more sections to be repaired.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stone Poem

Photo by John Shaw-Rimmington
The stones are stored in winter, stowing
Amidst the cold of winter snowing
All froze and braced 'gainst fiercest blowing
And hard they lay but hardly knowing.

They're past, they're left in blankest bleakness
Neath draughts of blasts they lay there sleepless
As proud as they are cold and speechless
In frozen brooding heaps of gneisses.

All huddled they like rocks a-herding
And bound to each inert exerting
Locked deep within and never turning
Lines of stone in toneless wording.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All the Wall's a Stage.

Simon Scott is an actor friend of Norman who lives in Creiff. He has often helped Norman in the past doing hearting. At the invitation of Norman he came along with us on Thursday to help us work and finish up the last stage of the wall Norman had been building at a country estate on and off over the last 3 months.

Speaking of the ' last stage' and 'working on the wall', Simon actually played the 'wall' in the Rose Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night dream in London last year. The play was directed by Sir Peter Hall and Dame Judy Dench played Titania, queen of the fairies, which she first played with the same director in 1962..

Simon acted the part Snout, a talking wall which divided the two lovers in the play within the play.

In the same interlude it doth befall

That I one Snout, by name present a wall

And such a wall, as I would have you think,

That had in it a crannied hole or chinks.

There was a small celabration at the end of the project with drinks and snacks which many of the client's neighbours attended. Caroline made a special 'wall cake' and provided sparklers for the kids. A bottle was placed in the wall with a note commemorating the building of the wall in it.

Simon's final lines in the play were..

'Thus have I, wall, my part discharged so;

And being done, Wall away doth go.'

Simon might perhaps have recited this when from the property, where at, we did construct the wall, we then did make our final exit.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turf top coping for dry stone walls is dug by hand.

Norman Haddow explained to me about how he cuts sod for the tops of the many walls he has built and repaired in Glen Lyon Scotland. We have been repairing a gap in a wall near Innerwick Village all day yesterday and tomorrow we hope to complete the repair and put the clumps of sod across the top of the dyke to hod the stones down. Later I hope to post the video of the completion of this project.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Discussion over walls.

The interesting thing about walling is that within the physical universe as we know it, (even reduced to the simplest of disciplines, that of humbly laying only stones upon stones so as to maximize their connectivity) there are fundamental disagreements amongst walling experts as to how it is to be done. You would think by now people would have reached a universal consensus discussing such things as basic to walling as...

- coursing versus non-coursing (random) and also diagonal patterns

- slight outward versus inward leaning of individual stones in a wall

- graduation of sizes of stones from top to bottom

- imperative requirement of throughstones

- type and depth of foundation

- existence and degree of batter

- shaping stones versus not shaping

- most practical style (flat or vertical) , and lean (or not) of coping

- specifications concerning the thickness and proper construction of dry stone retaining walls

Even accounting for variations of rock types and geography there are still many differences of opinion about how the science of walling is to be understood. Apparently even after thousands of years of fitting stones together we can't agree. All over this stoney planet there are so many examples of differing styles, and differing explanations for the principles at work, that 'breaking down' why certain piles of stone stones 'stay up' better than others, still remains very much a mystery.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Central Scotland AGM

Speaking of AGMs, I was asked back in September to speak at the Central Scotland Branch of the DSWA at their branch AGM which was held last Sunday afternoon. We had to drive 3 hours straight from the main AGM meeting of the DSWA to Perth to attend this branch meeting.

It was good to see some familiar faces and share with them some of the exciting things that have been happening in Canada since I spoke there last nearly three years ago. I was able to show photos of the recent dry stone wall festival we held last October in Ontario as well as pictures of similar events in Washington and California. DSWA secretary Kate Armstrong wrote me today to say that some of the members expressed an interest in arranging some sort of public event along the lines of Rocktoberfest next year or possibly in 2012.

The dry stone bridge built during Canada's first Rocktoberfest in 2004 at Port Hope Ontario

It is great to see how our organizations like ours in Canada, and the Stone Foundation and Marenakos in the States, can benefit from foundational walling knowledge provided by such organizations as the DSWA and then be able to put a new spin on it which then becomes the catalyst for new developments in promoting the craft back in Britain.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The light hand of the plowman and the waller

Welcome to 'Thinking With My Hands' -Where fingers can sometimes convey more than words.

Norman Haddow and I drove by a plowing match near Perth last Sunday. We stopped and watched for a while and I took several photos of a pair of horses pulling a plow. I marveled at the team in this video responded to the subtle messages sent through the reins from the man walking behind the plow. He held the leather lines in the baby fingers of each hand. 'Plowman's Pinky' is an expression used to describe the finger control used to guide the horses along the furrow in this traditional type of plowing. It is interesting to watch and to imagine how quiet and satisfying it must be to control large animals like these with such a subtle means of communication. It's also quite a contrast to hear all the tractors at the plowing match in the background buzzing like a bunch of wasps.

Above is a photo of Norman Haddow's hand. It is the hand of a full time dyker. Norman tells me the permanent curl in the baby finger is from holding the walling hammer too tightly over many years of shaping stones and breaking up hearting. Is this perhaps a wallers pinky? Norman told me it has been caused by 'trauma to the tendons'. He says he maybe learned a little too late in his career how important it is to 'Let the hammer do the work' .

His son Duncan once asked him what colour he thinks of when he's breaking stones.

Norman answered "Red".

Duncan said, "Try thinking blue or yellow".

The plowman and the waller work the field. They leave earth and stones in rows upon the land. Their hands take the material of the past and shape the future. In both strength and gentleness the horse and hammer learn their work. Their knowledge is received through hands which lightly hold them all day long.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The DSWA AGM meeting 'Held' last weekend.

The DSWA of UK has been an inspirational organization for many of us in North America. It has been the model for much of what we have been doing here in Canada for the last 9 years, as we have endevoured to 'uphold' their walling standards and techniques as well as inviting skilled British wallers to attend many of our DSWAC events. We have also kept a close association with them in terms of bringing over competent DSWA instructors to impliment their Craftsman Certification Scheme as a standard for all testing of wallers who come to us to get their intermediate and beginner levels of accreditation.

Two days ago Norman Haddow and I attended the DSWA annual general meeting in Otterburn near Newcastle in Northumbria. I had the priviledge of meeting up with some very good friends and a number of very talented wallers who arrived for the two day event from all over Britain. Each district had a display with pictures of the impressive activities that they had been involved with throughout this year. Among those attending was Lord and Lady Cavenedish. Lord Cavendish, who has been the president of the DSWA for the last three years opened the meeting with an address which for me encapsulated the level of co-operation and respect that could be seen amongst all those who attended. I have included some excerpts from that speech.

May I say how grateful my wife and I are to be invited here this afternoon: it is such a pleasure to be amongst you again.
What a privilege it is to be in this spectacular part of England. I would also like to thank most warmly the Northumberland Branch for hosting this week end.
Speaking of privileges, I feel it is a genuine honour to hold an office in this distinguished association.
As I enter my third year as your president, I reflect perhaps with a twinge of guilt, that I have had only pleasure and interest from this Association and no hassle at all.
This is not always the lot of Presidents who are supposed to stay in the background until something goes wrong. I can tell you I have had my fair share of things going wrong with other organizations...but not his one.
Nor is this a matter of chance. Experience teaches us that everything can and will go wrong unless there are people who labour tirelessly and with utter commitment to ensure that things go right.
I think therefore it is right to salute those who not just give their officers an easy ride but who make and keep the whole association healthy and bring a sense of vitality.
At the bottom of your program appear the words "Keeping walling alive"; how brilliantly that aspiration has been filled.
Perhaps very many people can take credit for this state of affairs; it goes without saying that we are hugely indebted to the retiring Chairman Richard Love.

In the year in which so much has happened and with memories of a wonderful International Convention still fresh in our minds, I would like to say a tremendous thank you to the permanent staff.
To Allison who has, I believe been absolutely central to the success of the association and personally a great help to me.
Supporting Allison and again pivotal to the smooth running of the office at Crooklands are Helen and Shirley.
Our warmest thanks to you both....
One final thought.
Remembering the participants at the convention who seemed to range from hands-on dry stone wallers to poets and philosophers, I thought Ii would Google dry stone walling poetry; nor was I disappointed. Perhaps you all know this rhyme by Pam Ayers:
It seems to have an element of self-parody and went like this:

I am a dry stone waller
All day I dry stone wall
Of all appalling callings
Dry stones walling's worst of all

I should like to close on a rather charming observation of the poet Alice Oswald who compared her writing to the process of dry stone walling:-

"...finding discreet blocks of words and jamming them together to make something."
The guest speaker for the Saturday meeting was Derek Proudlock, Southern Area Manager for Nothumberland National Park. His talk included an impressive analysis of the historical and structural elements of Hadrian's Wall, part of which goes through a section of this beautiful park.

Norman Haddow talks with Andy Loudon at the recent DSWA AGM dinner in Otterburn.
Andy has just returned from a three week visit to Canada

Later there was a special dinner to which some of the guests, like Sean Adcock and Brenda attended in very formal attire. Sean is the president of the North Wales branch of the DSWA and publishes an informatiuve quarterly magazine dealing with just about every aspect of dry stone walling around the world called Stonechat. I hope to do a special article about him and the magazine in an upcoming blog entry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

la Rock et la Science

Dry stone walling is not rocket science. It is a science however and it does involve rocks. In fact it is probably the most basic of sciences. It breaks down the concept of structure into the simplest elements the way the science of logic examines the process of reasoning. By analyzing how logic works and breaking it down so as to only allow well-defined statements, using inductive and deductive arguments, a basis is established for understanding the nature and structure of formal and symbolic logic.

By experimenting with heavy random-shaped three-dimensional objects and analyzing how they can be stacked and fit together best so as to make a durable, reasonably permanent structure, and then applying that knowledge, by building free-standing walls of stone, we are doing the same thing. (without using any mortar of course) We are understanding informal structure.

It's like we are enrolled in a kind of interactive hands-on science course, studying (at the most elementary level) the physicsof how the shape and size of random objects are affected by gravity and friction in their placement relative to each other. Where else but in dry stone walling can physics be broken down this way? By beginning to understand the workings of something this basic, for me at least, the universe seems more reliable, more predictable; not less magical or even less complex, but somehow just a little less intimidating, and a little more 'logical'.

By contrast, just imagine the scientific complexities engineers have to deal with in trying to formulate the physics of what happens when you introduce cement mortar to the mix.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can't put my finger on it.

While the weather in Scotland (according to Norman Haddow's previous warning emails) had been very wet and cold leading up to my trip, the day before yesterday was beautiful sunny and warm here in Crieff. We had come this morning to a lovely farm property to work on the last section of a new garden wall near Auchterarder that he was finishing up, one which he had been been building on his own for several weeks . When we arrived early Friday the sun had started to separate the morning mist into layers and the light was catching both sides of the wall giving it a strange realer-than-life look to it.

I had the pleasure of working with Norman for the better part of that day at that site in ideal conditions. We put our hands to the task, comparing building methods, joking, discussing the plans for the rest of the two weeks I will be here in Scotland, and working for periods too in silence, just soaking in the pleasure of being alive. I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasnt a dream. It is at times like these you can't imagine there is anything better in life than simply building walls with stones. If there is, I can't put my finger on what it is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Depressed and Yet Happy

Akira Inman is tightening up the brackets that hold the Platon down on the dry stone replica of the Scotish Blackhouse roof built in Grand Valley Ontario during our 2009 DSWAC Rocktoberfest.

This plastic sheeting is a described as a tough waterproof 'double dimpled' high density waterproof membrane that keeps soil away from house foundations. It provides the surface over the planking for us to build the wooden framing on and to then put the soil into so that we can plant the green material, probably chives, thyme and various Sedum. In this case the dimples create some friction for the roots to grab on to, and an air space between the roof and the membrane, to allow air between the damp soil and the wooden sheathing so that the wood doesn't rot.

By the end of last weekend , before I left for Scotland, we had finished applying the layers of membrane and box framing so that we are now ready for adding soil and green roof material. We were 'doubly pleased' to have got it done before the rain moved in.

It's funny about dimples. They are a depression that appears when one smiles. : )

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wall Hopping

My first day in Scotland involved some jumping around. Norman picked me up from the airport and we hopped off to see some very interesting walls including two horse jumps near Auchterarder that he built nearly ten years ago.

They were surprisingly still in very good condition. It's one thing for a wall to look good after it's been exposed to all the effects of time and weather, but quite another to be subjected to being jumped over by horses every day as well, and also crazy Canadians, every now and then. These jumps looked in mint condition. Now that's something.

I said to Norman that this was either a tribute to his wall making skills or an indication of the calibre of horses that were jumping the walls.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meeting up with Norman

I'm off to Scotland to meet up with my friend and fellow waller, Norman Haddow, to work on some projects. He has warned me in a recent email that it's cold and wet and muddy where he is right now. (predictable Scottish weather) Like banging your head against a wall, it gives one a opportunity to feel incredibly good to stop doing it for the day, and come inside and get warm and dry again.

I am bringing a raincoat and gloves and overalls and a lot of changes of clothes. Several of my work pants are pretty well worn so that I probably wont have to bring them back when I hop over the pond again.

Speaking of hopping, here is a picture of I took of Norman in 2003, hopping over a wall. We had been driving around looking at some of the dry stone walls he had repaired the previous year when he noticed that one of the Ben Vorlich copes had disappeared from the new repair and needed replacing. She literally needed merely re-placing.

Norman had guessed right that the missing cope stone was still there, lying in the ground behind the wall, below where she had been knocked or perhaps yanked out of the wall. He jumped over the 'new wall to meet her' and after putting her back in place, hopped back over the wall. A quick fix, and we were on our way.

It all seemed not unlike the minor delay we air passengers experienced today sitting on the runway. The co-pilot radioed ground control about a missing contol, they found the 'new altimeter' and a flight technician speedily fastened it back in place.

A quick fix and we were on our way. Oh that everything were that simple.