Day Three

Day Three

I haven’t seen any darkness here yet, despite awakening once or twice in the dusky night. Last night there were oyster catchers and a bumble bee still up at gone 11. This morning in the small hours I thought someone was checking out my van, peered through the curtains and off fussed a noisy chatter of little brown hobbies – starlings, I realised later as the whole flock descended again around the van and on the fence, and doing their thing (starlinging?) from spot to spot in their waves.

I’m in my driver’s seat (thanks to aforementioned mechanic-knight for a safe, solid, adjustable, allegedly spine-adjusting, original Type 1 van seat) watching the sea again, as I’m finding I can do for hours. I didn’t think I was particularly a sea person, wedded as I’ve been to the uplands, but my thousand miles or so were not complete until I’d got all the way to the Atlantic. The inland-facing sea-lochs just didn’t cut it – I just had to come all the way to the edge. I can’t actually *see* Greenland, but it’s quite amazing knowing it’s there. (Note to self: double check maps. I could be way out!) And so here I can rest. And weave. And play tunes.

On the loom is a project I’ve brought up from Devon, where I was seeking to capture the bluebell wood just below Huckentor: the truest, softest, strongest blue; the most acidic greens of new leaves; the red young bramble stems; the darker green nettle and the white of stitchwort.

Bluebell wood on the loom

The National Trust made a plea for colour

a pale gold sun appears, wintry and northerly, setting down the line of the headland into the sea – pale, palest icy colours…

just when the Westcountry hedgerows were at their most incredible. With all this upheaval I’m behind though: stuck on Westcountry hedgerows (when the all-pink campion-smothered bank was what I really wanted but failed to capture), when now it’s summer and all I want to be weaving are the Harris yarns I’ve just bought, and the island austerity. At least the acid green of beech leaves is practically the same as the acid green of drying gut weed (which, incidentally, I ate for lunch today, see recipe below), and I have earthen reds, rusts, terracottas, brackens and rainbow tweedy browns for the kelp and dulse and bladder wrack, or whatever the other red one is here. (I could have eaten the whole rock face, but my (highly recommended) River Cottage Edible Seashore only covered a number, and though I understand that something like 99% of what comes from the sea to be edible, I don’t know what the 1% is (bankers? Oil barons? I’m an ethicatarian, I don’t eat those).)

I’m troubling over the nature of my weaving business. P – a ‘good egg’, as my friend says – at the National Trust gallery is enthusiastic and supportive and has some good ideas and is great to work with. However I need to watch my tendency to try to please and work *for*. A remit, brief or specification can be great: inspiring, steadying, focussing. Creativity can thrive within parametres, like the strict rules of a haiku, or like compression in a diesel engine. I think. But the perennial questions of the artist or craftsperson: how to make a living without playing to the market? How to make affordable things without compromising the artefact’s integrity? I don’t want to make pretty trinkets. I don’t want to make luxury garments. I’m not sure I even want to make art. I want to make good, honest, cloth. I’m surely in the right place for that, but next to the weavers of Harris tweed (and even the Bovey Tracy weaver in his deeply inspiring traditional workshop) with their Hattersley looms I feel like a WI hobbyist with my (relatively) little table loom and recent pretty colours.

And then I think of the (dark and miserable but still a bit pretty) songs I’ve been making with guitarist and cellist friends, and remind myself to work for edginess. I think of my musical heroes – tradmaking Celts: the depths they plumb and the new ground they break, and how when they work with popular, even more prestigious, highly ’successful’ outfits (I’m thinking especially of the Transatlantic Sessions) they lose their edges, and, for me, are sorely compromised.

And that’s why I’m out here, right on the edge.

Maybe I’ll make only blankets from now on.

Cliff camper-van stir-fry

Butter

Courgette (optional)

Salt

Smokey tofu (with good, firm texture)

Gutweed (the limest green, soft, fine fronds, cut from the rock, not ripped; ultra mild flavour; can be eaten raw)

Lemon

Garlic

Soy sauce (not Marmite, as I used)

Rice noodles

Toasted sesame seeds

Lightly sautee the courgette in butter, salting to taste and adding tofu, garlic, lemon and half the rinsed gutweed (a good taste-carrier) when courgettes are lightly done. After a minute add just enough water to cook rice noodles in the same pan, with a little soy sauce. After a few minutes, when almost all the water has been absorbed or turned to sauce and the noodles are cooked al dente, stir in the remaining gut weed (to get the benefit of the bright green). Lastly, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with a sea view.

(Photos to follow)

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