Working with our hands

“Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right.”
― Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

Good morning.

I had, just for a change, a good night's sleep. I needed it. 

I was up, though, well before my alarm went off — 5 am — and did my obligatory press-ups and sit-ups. I can't yet call it a routine but, absent the gym, I'm trying to spend part of my day doing some exercise and stretching. I find it wonderful that I still do the same stretching routine that I started over 40 years ago when I first started Karate (Shotokan).

I've drunk my obligatory cup of coffee* from my slightly naff, Peaky Blinders mug that one of the kids gave me for Christmas and I'm listening to the haunting track below from another new artist on Bandcamp. 

I'm not sure if I told you that I've stopped all music subscriptions and am now, mostly listening via the platform, sticking to ambient music. Of course, for those people who use or like the platform, if there's something I should be checking out, do send me a link or, indeed, from elsewhere. 

It's not that I've given up on Mixcloud, but I was struggling a bit with the fact that so much of what I was listening to seemed to be pre-recorded radio shows. That's fine as it goes, but these days, when I do listen to the radio (washing the dishes etc.), I stick to BBC Radio 3. If that sounds pretentious, it's only because I don't like too much talking and Radio 3 is the best place to find that and it plays some outstanding classical music to boot.

A quick update on my work situation. I'm still employed — not furloughed just yet — but my work has almost dried up. The trouble is, it could change in a heartbeat and be full on; I suspect, although I don't know, that's the reason why I'm being retained. 

Previously, I used to get a bit angsty with the fact that I didn't know what was going on with the company, and was kept out of the some of the key decisions that needed (in my opinion) legal input, but these days, I'm more sanguine about the whole thing. I was going to quote from Nanny McPhee ("When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go" 😁) but that could hasten my exit!

Anyhow, we'll have to play it by ear, but I'm certainly enjoying the wide-open space absent having my head buried in a computer screen or dense legal text, and for reasons which I can't explain have found joy in using...wait for it...my hands to make things. It started with tidying up the garden and planting some bulbs and now, having watched this wonderful film, A Tale from The Woods, I find myself using a very unloved penknife to whittle and try to carve wood. Actually, all I've done so far is hack at a tough branch to the point where I've almost got a teaspoon. It's going to be quite crude but for the hour or so I've spent on the task, it's felt, well, more than a bit therapeutic. 

Of course, as is my way, I want to be all over it but I'm taking my time. I'm going to make a pair of chopsticks next. Easy I know but it's something I need. I'll need to make sure I don't use a wood that's potentially poisonous. After then, well, who knows. I suspect, inspired by the artist, Maria “Vildhjärta” Westerberg, who's in the film, I'd like to be a bit more creative and do some things for the house. 

To be honest, I wouldn't blame if you said this all looks a bit vain and perhaps I shouldn't say anything but the truth is, having devoted all my working years — excluding holiday jobs — to anything other than manual labour, I think it's long overdue that I spend time working with my hands, again to feel what proper work feels like. I say again, because, previously, I've done serious hard graft, namely digging graves by hand and being a builder's labourer but it was a long time ago. 

Let's be clear, there are many people who, by my age, having spent their life on their tools, are physically and emotionally wrecked. I've seen that a lot in the building trade. Blokes who are used up having grafted six or seven days a week simply to make ends meet, and so, at the risk of offending someone, I recognise (once again) that I'm very lucky to have this time to play...if you will. 

I should just add that it's no accident that I have Matthew Crawford's book right next to me. It was called something else in the US but the title that I'm looking at is called, "The Case For Working With Your Hands". Prescient, eh? I'm not going to start reading it just yet, but one thing I know, from having watched a few YouTube videos, is that wood carving is a lot more detailed and expensive in terms of the tools etc. than I first thought. But that doesn't mean, at my level, I shouldn't keep going. As I've discovered with other creative projects, like improving my handwriting using a fountain pen, even 10 minutes a day can make a massive difference to my skill level.

As a slight segue, I do wonder if this sudden urge to make and 'do' is my form of rebellion at the ethereal world I've created for myself/the family? I don't know. There's part of me that wishes I'd spent more time working with wood, paper and arts and crafts but then again, there's still time. Perhaps I should loosen up and just enjoy the feeling(s) that's arising and leave it at that.

I know there are quite a few people that I follow on LJ who use their hands to make things — and I get great pleasure in seeing your creations come to life — but for everyone else (and coming to this post), what do you think about my sudden urge? Should I just go with it, or, as they, stick to the knitting which means writing and reading? I'd love to know.

As they say, it's time to get busy. Not really. I'm going to sit myself down and meditate and then do some proper exercise before the day cranks into action.

Take care.



* I'm on to my 2nd cup! It must be the time of day...

If you're able to support my work through patronage then you can either do so via Patreon or buying me a virtual coffee ☕. 


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