Saturday, 31 December 2011

Turning the Pages

The valley in which our little town sits is muted by a veil of misty rain. Everything is hazy and still. The only movement I can see from my window is the swoops and swirls of gulls on the wing. All is silent, all is calm. Tonight will be very different as the streets fill with revellers, all whooping and hollering in drunken song, and the sky will be lit with fireworks in that time honoured need of the human race to mark the passing of the year.

As a pagan, as a Druid, I mark the year as it turns in many ways. Small, yet significant, ways which mark not the end of one long year and the starting of the new, but the highs and lows of the seasons, the hope and the harvest, the sun and the snows, the rains and the four winds and the turning of the tides. I know there is no end of one year, no starting of the new. Nature knows no end, no beginnings, only an ever continuing cycle. A cycle of repetition and change, of life and death and rebirth, but no endings, no beginnings.

And yet the man I am will look back on this last year and will take stock regardless, and start out with new hope, new ideas for the new year. Because I am human and it is our way. We have a need to mark the passage of time, to box up and label the memories, to start a new chapter, to pat ourselves on the back or kick ourselves up the backside- whichever is more appropriate. And hopefully from there we will build on what we have achieved, or learn from our mistakes and move on. 

Happy New Year, may 2012 be full of blessings and may you follow your dreams where ever they may lead you.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Winter Walks and Granddad Grinch

Its fair to say I'm not a huge fan of this particular season. The cold is not a friend to my aching bones and all the Christmas hype and commercialism really gets up my nose. The temptation to dig a big hole in the garden and hide there from December 1st through to January, emerging only for the Solstice, is incredibly strong. And before you cry 'Bah Humbug', I bet you'd join me if you had the chance. Go on, admit it, if you could avoid the endless and shameless consumerism, the family rows, the financial headache and the obscene over-indulgence, you would, wouldn't you?

I do however, have a confession to make. I don't hate it all half as much as I make out. But I have a reputation to keep up. Having long ago donned my scrooge cap, it is expected of me. My wife and daughter dubbed me Granddad Grinch a few years ago, and taught my second grandson to say that long before he understood what it meant. It provided much amusement for them and I was happy to play the part. But still, I think there is a tiny part of all of us that yearns for roaring open fires, roasted chestnuts, and quiet snowfall blanketing the frozen earth (as long as I don't have to go out in it). But shhhh, that's a secret. You can keep a secret, can't you?

We've just come back from a week away visiting family and doing the 'santa run'. With nine children and seven grandchildren between us (number 7 was born during our visit much to my wife's delight) santa was particularly busy this year! I got to meet my youngest granddaughter for the first time and lost my heart. She's beautiful and a real charmer at just seven weeks old. It was great to see everyone, catch up and chew the fat even though the Grinch in me is glad to be home.

While half the planet is getting excited about the imminent arrival of Santa Claus, I've already had everything I could possibly want, a beautiful new Granddaughter, a wonderful wife, and a plentiful supply of wood. Everyone from my in-laws to my ex-wife have been collecting wood for me and my little work room is bursting at the seams. I have tall pieces, short pieces, twisty, curly pieces, strange pieces, amazing pieces and my imagination is working overtime. I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who now spends their time outdoors searching the floor for anything I can use. I can't wait to get going.

The first few days of our visit were spent dashing about trying to get to see everyone, making sure all the presents were delivered, but once 'Santa's' work was done there was time to relax before the long drive home.
I absolutely love this wood my in-laws took us to visit. It is a heavily managed woodland, copiced and cared for by teams of volunteers, yet still maintains a wonderfully tranquil feel.

Full of surprises, we came across a recently cleared section of woodland and discovered this wonderful chair. Needless to say, my wife now wants a couple of them for the garden. I've got a lot of work to be going on with, but I am looking forward to trying something different.

As the sun began to set we came across a wilder section of the wood with a magical feel, every inch alive with creatures of this world and other world, just beyond our sight.

 I hope everyone had a wonderful Solstice, full of light and love and laughter.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Sometimes we need to take a bit of time out.
Sometimes we need to realign our focus.
Sometimes we need some space.
Sometimes we need reminding we are great.
And sometimes we need to see how small we really are.
Sometimes we need to feel real power.
And sometimes we need to let that power go.
Sometimes we need to put things in perspective.
And there is nothing like the might of the Ocean for doing that.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Another Year Bites The Dust

It was my birthday on Friday.

I don't particularly like birthdays. I don't really understand what all the fuss is about, I'm another year older. So what? I celebrate my mother on my birthday, she was the one who brought me into the world, it is her day not mine. Maybe I feel that way because I lost her all too soon or maybe I feel that way because she truly was a remarkable woman.

My wife however loves birthdays and will always make a fuss of me no matter how much I protest. This year was no exception and she surprised me with a book I've been hankering after for ages. I don't know how she knew, I hadn't told her, but she always has had an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what to do, or say, or buy.

We spent the day out and about, running the usual errands but also having a great time together. We took a trip over to Exeter and spent some time on the moor. It was bitter cold and dark by the time we got there but that didn't matter. We stood in the still, calm magic of that place and gazed with awe at the stars. Away from the lights of the towns and cities, they shine so bright. I know I am truely alive wrapped in a Dartmoor night.

And so I am another year older and as birthday's go, I actually rather enjoyed this one.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Beauty in Extremes

It's not often we have a day out just for the sheer pleasure of doing so, usually there is some kind of plan, some mission, some chore that drags us out of our comfy home and we make a day out of it. We turn the mundane into the magical by way of our attitude. The most basic of shopping trips can be turned into a day out by the addition of a little detour, a flask of coffee and a few sandwiches. But last week we made an exception. We planned a day out just for ourselves, no little jobs, no errands, no shopping, no chores. And it was long overdue.

For a long time now we have been planning to visit  Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor. We'd seen pictures of it, we'd even seen it on T.V but for some reason we had never managed to visit. Last Thursday we changed that.

On the way we stopped off in Tavistock, a lovely market town, and there I lost my heart to a woman of such devastating beauty I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. She took my breath away. Her skin glowed with a milky luminescence and her soft hair tumbled over her shoulders to her rounded breasts. She was demure and sweet and yet the flowers in her hair spoke of a wildness and a passion that stired up my soul and stole my heart.

By the way, did I mention she was a painting? I don't want anyone thinking I'm having adulterous thoughts about any woman but the one I'm married to! My lovely wife was just as smitten with her as I was. To me she was the most perfect representation of the Goddess that I have ever had the honour to behold. She was painted by an artist named Lee Woods and, so I'm told, was painted to suit the stunning gilt frame he found in a flea market. They are indeed a perfect match and having looked at some of his other work on the internet, she was something of a departure from his usual style.

Never before have I been so moved by a piece of art and I felt a physical pain when I had to drag myself away.

But drag myself away I did and we eventually made it up to the moors. We took it slowly, to ease my aching back, knees, hip... and also to allow ourselves the time to simply drink in the wonder of the wild landscape. It was a grey day, but mild and the rain held off much to my relief and my wife's disapointment. I love my insane little Witch but I draw the line at trudging across the moors in a downpour.

I often struggle with walking, especially in the damp, but My Goddess it was worth the walk! A more magical, sacred place I have never seen. The calm I felt beneath the stunted oaks was beyond compare. I truely felt a part of the wood, a connection with my brother Druids from ages past. The raw energy of that place seeped into my weary bones and gave me a spring in my step I haven't felt in many a year.

We ate our meal beneath the trees, sheltered from the wind by the mighty strength of a great overhanging boulder and we walked amongst the oaks, marveling at the tenacity of these trees to survive in such a landscape. With great boulders littering the ground like remnants from some long forgotten game of giant marbles, the shapes now blurred by moss and litchens; the trees too wearing great cloaks of green across their trunks and branches. It is a truely etherial place and one that has taught me much, about clinging to life in the face of adversity, about the dependancy of the small on the mighty, about the true beauty of wilderness and hope in the dark.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Am I the ONLY ONE who hates Halloween?

I really don't like Halloween. It grates at me, it gets my back up, it infuriates me. But I'm surrounded by people who think its fun so I swallow what I'm thinking and keep quiet. But this is my blog and what's the point of having it if I can't let rip occaisionally!

I love Samhain. I love everything about it. I like that feeling of the veil thinning, it is comforting to feel my loved ones near. I enjoy giving thanks for the final harvest and thanks too that the weather has allowed us to have a final harvest at all. I like to sit back with a glass of mulled cider and reflect on what has happened over this last year. I put things to bed that I cannot change, and move on having learned from the experience. I protect the things that were good, keeping them close through the dark of winter. I plan what I shall do through the dark time, what I hope to accomplish, what I hope to learn.

Yes, I love Samhain but I bloody hate Halloween.

I know that this will be controversial but I'm not one to shy away from controversy. I see Halloween as something of a p***take of my beliefs. It makes a mockery of the things I hold dear. Plastic skeletons? Glow-in-the-dark skulls? Fancy dress and the my-pumpkin's-bigger-than-next-door's-pumpkin syndrome. Pur-lease! When all is said and done it is yet another PAGAN festival that has been hijacked by Christianity and watered down, fluffed up, stuffed up, and cheapened.

I know most pagan's just join in the party. I know its meant to be fun. But how can it be fun when so much of what we believe is being walked all over, bits pinched here and there, in the name of entertainment. It's just wrong.

I said this to my wife last night but she just said 'I don't have a problem with Halloween'. She makes the distinction between Halloween and Samhain quite easily. Thankfully she doesn't go in for all that pumpkin carving, cobweb hanging nonsense (well, not often anyway) but she's full on O.K with those that do. To me that is just so wrong. We didn't get into a debate about it. We are both firmly entrenched in our views about it and nothing was going to sway either one of us and neither one of us wanted to spoil our Samhain by getting heated but.....

.....I can't be the only one who hates Halloween, can I?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

An Experiment!

Remember that back breaking piece of hazel I dragged in from the bottom of the garden a few weeks ago? Well once I'd cut it down I ended up with one lovely staff sized piece and another bent bit that might have made a staff for a hobbit. I could have made a walking stick, but I wasn't in a walking stick mood. Besides, I like a challenge.

So...I had a root through my box of odds and ends. In there I keep all the odd little pieces I don't know what to do with but are too interesting to want to let go. Most are odd shapes and not really usable for a staff but there, lurking at the bottom was a piece of driftwood about a foot and a half long. Hmmmm. Could I do a bit off staff surgery?

Faced with two pieces of wood, neither long enough to do much with on its own, I set about joining the two. I loved the pale colour of the hazel and also the darker colour of the driftwood (its a fruit wood of some sort I think, possibly cherry) and I didn't want to lose either colour by staining. But how was I going to join them with out it looking a bit...well, wrong?

This is what I came up with. And I love it. Varnished, the hazel has a look of ivory about it; and the rich colour of the driftwood glows. The natural beauty of the wood shines through, cracks and all. I like that. I haven't tried to hide the joins, its as honest as it comes. What started out as something of an experiment has turned out better than I could ever have hoped for and I learnt so much in the process...Result!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Just Drifting

Yesterday I went beach combing for the first time in what seems like ages. It was just on a whim really. We were on our way home from doing the shopping. By that I mean my wife was doing the shopping. I'm not allowed in the supermarket. She thinks that's her idea but was in fact the result of careful planning. I didn't have to 'participate' in very many shopping trips before she stamped her foot at my antics and confined me to the car :) Now I get to sit in the car park with a book while she plays dodgems with the trolley and competes in the 'checkout wars'. Besides, it all adds to the magic of her kitchen mysteries if I don't get to see the basic ingredients.

Anyway, we were on our way home when I suddenly decided to take a different turning and go to the beach instead. We couldn't stay long, not with a car full of frozen food, but it was great to walk along the sand again. I've avoided the beach, pretty much, over the summer. I don't like its sanitized, high season feel. But now the holiday makers have mostly headed home, it is peaceful again.

There is nothing like picking my way through the sea weed to make me really appreciate how lucky I am to have all this on my doorstep. Whenever I start to take it all for granted the smell of the sea comes along and clips me around the ear and reminds me that life is good. We didn't have time for a good root around but I still came home with a couple of really interesting pieces. I think they will make fantastic carved tops for staffs, but I'll give them time to dry out properly and then see what they have to say.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Holly Wand

I was lucky enough recently to be given a beautiful piece of wood by my neighbour. My first thought was to create a staff (albeit a little short) from the stunning shaft of, nine years seasoned, holly. But the longer I looked at it, the more I felt it, the more I was sure that was wrong. It didn't want to be a staff.

I feel very strongly about working with the spirit of the wood and this one had very definite ideas about what it wanted! I spent night after night just sitting with the holly, running my hands along its satin smoothness; taking in all the detail of the tight grain and knobbly features and slowly an idea took shape.

When I first said I was going to make a wand my wife looked at me with absolute horror. I had over four feet of beautiful holly and all I was going to do was make a wand! I think she thought I was mad. (Hmmmmm, she'd be right about that. But that aside...) Yet this wasn't going to be any ordinary wand. This piece of holly had something special in mind.

And this is the result.

Holly Wand- Sheathed

I've never made a wand with its own sheath before and it was quite a challenge to hollow out the shaft to take the wand smoothly but I think it was worth the effort.

Holly Wand- unsheathed
The rich colour of the wood has developed through repeated waxing to both protect it and enhance the detail. And it feels wonderful...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Long Way From Home

Every so often Dartmoor calls me. It whispers in my dreams and I cannot ignore the call. And so it was that we found ourselves, in these glorious days of an Indian summer, high up on the moor once more.

I learn so much each time I visit; about the land and about myself. I become so much more simply by breathing in the air, by planting my feet firmly upon the land, by raising my eyes to the skies and by feeling its heart beating in time with my own. Dartmoor, for me, is a deeply spiritual place.

But as much as I love the stillness and the wild, it is a place too for people. Some live in happy harmony with the moor as farmers or artisans, some make their living providing for the many visitors who come to be overwhelmed by its beauty. For others still, the moor must seem a very bleak place viewed from the confines of that dark and brooding institution that is Dartmoor Prison.
H.M Prison Dartmoor
Designed by Daniel Ashe Alexander, Dartmoor Prison was originally built to house French prisoners of war captured during the Napoleonic Wars. Work began in 1806 and took its first inmates in 1809 but by  1812 it was also home to American P.O.W's. When both wars ended in 1815, the prison had outlived its usefulness. It was re-opened as a men's prison in 1850 and is still in use today. During WW1 it was used to house conscientious objectors. It is now a category C prison housing non-violent inmates although for many years was a high security prison and looking at its foreboding walls it is easy to see why.
It is at Dartmoor the charity Storybook Dads is based. Their aim is to 'help imprisoned parents maintain meaningful contact with their children'. By enabling inmate parents to record a story onto C.D it helps to improve literacy and be involved in their child's development. For children finding it difficult living without a parent just to be able to hear their voice whenever they want on a storybook C.D, the trauma, stress and sense of loss is easier to deal with. Such a simple thing and yet it does so much good, for both child and parent.

So when we saw a 'chain gang' collecting money on  their five mile hike across the moor we were more than happy to dig deep in our pockets.  Last year they were able to produce over 2,600 C.D's to make children smile. This year they hope to top 3,000.

But the chain gang weren't the only unusual sightings that day on the moor. I think these Highland Cattle are a long way from home!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Harvest Home

My Equinox
I'm not one for elaborate ritual; it has its place, and there are times when I feel the need for incense and candles and carefully composed prose, but yesterday was not one of those times. Yesterday was a day for quiet reflection, for simply getting out in the fresh air, for feeling the ebb and flow.

I sat on a log, that at high tide is submerged, and pondered the cycles we are all a part of. The tides come and go, the sun rides across the sky, the seasons change. We can either resist and force our way through life struggling against the tides or we can embrace the never ending cycle of change.

Now is the time for reflection, for preparing for for the cold, dark days ahead. It is hard to think of winter when the sun shines, it is hard to let go of summer; but just as my wife busies in her kitchen preserving the hedgerow harvest so I must too. My harvest is the harvest of the soul, the harvest of dreams. Now is the time to take all that is good and pickle it! Its been a tough year at times and the gains have been hard won.  But they have been won.

I had a dream of a quiet life, a druid's life. Simple and honest. Three years ago I took a chance and walked away from the job that was killing me; I said goodbye to a steady income and healthy bank balance. I cut up my credit card and moved 300 miles from everything I knew and understood, and, may the Lady bless her for it, my wife made that leap with me without fear or complaint.

I'm not going to lie, there have been times when I thought it had all been a dreadful mistake. There have been times when I really didn't think I could do it, when everything I tried seemed to come to nothing, but this year has seen the first seeds of our dreams bear fruit.

Now I have to take the good and discard the bad, preserve the things worth saving, nurture them through the dark days ready to plant again. I had a dream of a quiet life, a druids life. Simple and honest.

I had a dream and I'm living it.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Recycled Collection

Didn't I say I was heading out to the woods? Wasn't I going for long beach combing walks? Shouldn't I have been out gathering over this last week? Mmmmmmm something seems to have gone wrong somewhere!

Or maybe not.

I've learnt over the years, as most of us have, that life doesn't always have the same plans in mind for us as we have for ourselves. Circumstances change and if we have any sense we change with them. Once upon a time I would fight change. I would cling, kicking and screaming, onto my idea of how things should be and after I'd put myself through a lot of stress, hurt and hardship I'd end up doing what I'd been resisting for so long anyway. So now...when plans go awry, when change comes knocking on my door, I hold on tight and enjoy the ride. Something good almost always comes from it.

I may not have had breakfast on the beach but I discovered a take away that makes the most glorious sticky ribs that brought memories flooding back. I didn't get to disappear for days amid the trees gathering wood but I have been gathering, of sorts.

An unexpected little financial boost meant we could sort out all those little things we've been meaning to do for a while, like finally getting a phone that works. That's a novelty!  We've also been on the hunt for many of those little things that make a place home. My wife hates to buy anything new. Why go to a big store to buy the same stuff as everyone else when with a bit of imagination and leg work one can uncover something different, something with character for a fraction of the price and give it a new lease of life?

And so it was that I found myself having to overcome my shopping aversion to visit just about every charity shop, flea market and boot sale in Cornwall....and ohhhh did I find some treasures!

My work room now has quite a plentiful supply of wood but this time it has been rescued from old, unloved bits of furniture and decor. I'm having fun dismantling it all and identifying the beautiful hardwoods hiding under the peeling paint of a tatty chair or table. It has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I will still be making wands and staffs gathered under my self imposed rules of never cutting wood from a living tree, but now I will also be producing a 'recycled collection'.

I'm not sure where this will take me yet but I'm looking forward to uncovering the inherent beauty in wood that has been hidden or neglected for many years and allow it to breathe again, to know it will be loved again.

I'll post some pictures when I've finished a few pieces; for now I'm taking my time, slowly peeling back the layers to find the life within.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Walk on the Wild Side

Took a trip over to Tintagel last week to take some more of my stuff over to the fabulous folks at Willow Moon. This made my lovely lady very happy; not just because of the present I bought her to say a big Thank You for all her support, but because she's now no longer tripping over a staff every time she turns around! I'm just sorry I forgot to take photo's of everything first.

My work room is looking decidedly empty now. My stack of wood is rather diminished so this week will be devoted to forays into the wilderness in search of potential wands and staves. Its a hard life. lol

It's high time I took another walk through the wild. As much as I love working on my latest piece it's easy to let that take over and I can go for days without stepping foot outside. The time slips by so fast when I'm working. Now I'm very much in need of slowing down, just for a while. It will be good to feel the sun (or the wind and the rain if the weathermen are to be believed) on my skin again. I need to breathe again, infuse my soul with the sweet Cornish air. I'm looking forward to watching the dawn creep slowly across the sea as we have a beachcombing breakfast. I'm not a fan of early mornings, I've always been much more of a night owl, but I can make an exception for bacon butties on the beach.

So I'm off to roam for a few days, if I don't get lost on the moors or decide to take up permanent residence in the woods, I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

More Shopping? Moor Ponies!

Only my wife could manage to arrange two hospital appointments, at two different hospitals on the same day. Both in Plymouth thankfully; at least I didn't end up racing over to Truro for one of them.  I know what you're going to say about two birds with one stone, I agree. But eight hours apart! That's just cruel.

Now Plymouth's not a bad city, as cities go. In fact it actually has quite a lot going for it, there is a lot of history and a walk on the Hoe is always pleasant, but there are limits. Especially for me.

Anyone who knows me well knows I hate shopping. Anyone who knows me even slightly knows I hate shopping. In fact people who don't know me but might have happened to pass the time of day at a bus stop know I hate shopping. Even someone who may have passed me one wet tuesday afternoon going in the opposite direction on an escalator will probably have a pretty good idea that I hate shopping. In case you're still a little unsure about just how stongly I really feel, let me give you an extra clue... If I were to win the lottery this weekend I wouldn't even drag myself down to the Aston Martin showroom. I'd pick up the phone and order a fleet of them, one for everyday of the week, but there is no way on this earth I would willingly go shop for one. Now that is a man who really hates shopping.

So you can imagine how I felt about the prospect of wandering around Plymouth window shopping. Shopping when I need something is bad enough; shopping to merely kill time? It'd kill me.

So what is  a mad Druid to do when his wife starts to linger just a little too long outside shops that sell pretty, sparkly things? There's only one thing he can do...RUN FOR THE HILLS.

Which, when one is in the vacinity of Plymouth, means Dartmoor. Knowing we had to drag ourselves away for a 6.30pm appointment at the Nuffield (who makes an appointment for 6.30, I mean really!) we didn't actually venture up on to the magnificent moors. That brooding, mysterious landscape grabs me by my dangly bits and won't let go. I love it. It calls to me. It whispers to my soul. I could wax lyrical for hours about the magic of the high moor but I'll spare you that for now. Today we contented ourselves with parking up on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park and making friends with some of the locals.

I thought at first this guy was after my pasty but it turned out he'd rather try to take chunks out of my steering wheel. I have quite a track record with Dartmoor Ponies and cars. We parked up in the early hours one night high up on the moor to gaze at the stars and await the dawn, only to be disturbed by an equine vandal, just as the sun gently nudged the horizen, who decided my car was breakfast. I had a hell of a job when the lease ran out expaining the damage to the dealer!


The car survived this time and I was honoured to spend an afternoon in the company of such beautiful, trusting creatures.

I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them.

Hail Epona, Hail Rhiannon

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Are Druids 'Up Themselves'?

Due to my own stupidity I haven't been feeling too good of late. An old back problem has been playing up more than usual and I've barely been able to make it from the bed to my arm chair. As a result I've been on-line far more than normal. On a good day, I get up, check my emails etc (or very lazily get my wife to do that for me), then potter about in my workshop for the rest of the day. That is what I should have been doing today but a few days ago I spied a lovely big hazel bough, just laying there in the neglected wilderness beyond the gardens saying 'come get me, carve me, love me' and I couldn't resist. So off I went to do battle with the nettles and brambles, got stung and scratched and slipped on my arse down a slope much steeper than it looked. Then I lugged said branch back up the slope, over a fence, through the neighbours garden and our own, and then up a flight of stairs. The magnificent hazel branch now stands in the corner of my workroom. Which is more than I can do; I can't stand at all. I sort of hobble about, stooped and crooked issuing expletives and whimpering sounds in equal measure.

I'm being looked after by my capable wife, as usual. She helps without complaint; providing pain killers and potions, massage and a listening ear, cups of tea and nourishing meals. I'm getting the tea alright, I'm just not getting the sympathy! As she quite rightly points out (but please don't tell her I said that) this whole thing could have been avoided with one little word... Help. Or rather two, Help Please. I do have manners after all.

My wife has long insisted that Druids are 'up themselves'. That's OK. I allow her these little lapses. I know that in reality Druids are here with the sole purpose of keeping Witches in line. (*ducks here to avoid all the shoes, stones and heavy kitchen implements that are being thrown, or swung, in my direction by any witches reading this). Its our little joke. I have utmost respect for my wife and her craft. She is a witch through and through, its in her bones (both the ones in her body and the ones that litter the kitchen window ledge! What is it about witches that make them want to bring dead things home?) I am in awe sometimes, of her insight and her abilities. We tread different paths but those paths often run together, a sort of 'duel carriageway' of faith, if you like. We can poke fun at each other along the way because we do it with respect.

Only now I'm a little worried. Until now I've taken 'up themselves' to mean stuborn but lovable; eccentric but in a nice way; insular but indepedant and inovative; authoratative but understanding, confident but get the idea. But now I'm starting to wonder that when she says 'up themselves' she's politely saying 'Druids have their heads stuck so far up their own arses they could bite their own tonsils!'

So what has brought about this disturbing re-think? Well as I think I mentioned at the start of this post (before my mind started to wander all over the shop) I've spent far more time on-line over the last few days than is normal for me. This has been a good thing in some ways. I've caught up with old friends and answered emails that should have been dealt with weeks ago. Hell, I even wrote to my brother! But then I got bored and started reading blogs. Nothing wrong with that, there are some excellent blogs out there (just take a look at the list to the right to find some of the ones I enjoy; some beacuse they are thought-provoking, some beacause they are beautiful, some just because they are an honest window on someone's life) but I started to venture further afield. I followed links through to links through to links, winding my way through the blogosphere without the aid of a map and survival gear.

And I kept coming back to one thing. There are very few Druid blogs that I actually enjoyed reading.  Its all so serious! And by that, I don't just mean serious, I mean pompous and arrogant; complicated for complicated's sake. A serious subject should be treated with respect, obviously, but there is great merit in humour; in admitting one's failings (yes, even Druids cock things up sometimes); and just enjoying life for no other reason than to enjoy life.

I'm not a great Druid. I'd be the first to admit that, at times, I'm a very bad Druid. But I was taught by a great Druid. I was taught by a man of honour and integrity, of deep faith, of humility. I was taught by a man with great humour. A lot of that humour was directed at me (although I was frequently too dense to realise that until I was half way home!) but it always made me chuckle, and then it made me think; and then I thought you clever old goat! And then I'd chuckle some more. I learnt so much through humour from that man. His untimely death left holes in my education that I can't ever hope to adequately fill.

I'm not saying all Druids should be comedians, far from it. But some nights I sit and watch my wife as she reads through new posts on the witchy blogs she follows. Sometimes they make her thoughtful, sometimes irate, but there is always at least one that makes her laugh. Out loud, a proper laugh. And that is good.

It is with great sadness that I find myself wondering if Druidry has lost something somewhere? Has Druidry become so caught up with presenting an image of  being learned that its forgotten how to laugh at itself? Has it become so bogged down with complexities that it has lost its sense of wonder? Have we lost sight of the beauty of living by druidic priciples? Have we become so enamoured by what Druids were we've forgotten what we are? 

In short, are Druids really up themselves?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Dust and Dreams

Yesterday I made the big mistake of starting to clean and organise my work room. Nothing wrong with that you might think, and indeed it desperately needed to be done, but I kicked up a dust cloud of monumental proportions. That wasn't cleaning, it was a natural disaster!

Once upon a time my workroom was the spare bedroom. It isn't very large, although it is bigger than the tiny utility room I used to use, but when all is said and done it is still only a single bedroom, and rooms that size tend to look cluttered no matter what they're used for. Add chisels and planes, saws and stains, and sandpaper by the ton and very soon there is barely room to turn around...and that's without the wood. I knew it would be a big job to get it all back into some kind of order, I just didn't appreciate how big.

There is always going to be a degree of mess when you work with wood. Stripping off bark, and sanding are not by their nature tidy jobs. The bark isn't really much of a problem. That can simply be bagged up and taken out to the compost heap after my wife has picked out all the 'pretty, curly bits'. (I'm not sure what she's doing with them. I'm kind of scared to ask.) Its the aftermath of the sanding that is the nightmare. The dust gets everywhere, every tiny nook and cranny. Now, I'm basically a clean and tidy person. I tidy up my work bench and sweep the floor everyday (honest!), but I have to confess I'm a bit lax when it comes to cleaning up that dreaded dust. The only part of my work room that gets a regular dusting is my altar. The rest, well, that builds up bit by bit until I'm forced to tackle it. Which brings me back to yesterday.

The fact that my wife wouldn't venture past the door should have given me an inkling into how bad it was; a slender arm would pass in cups of tea from a safe distance before she retreated to hide her new hoover before I got any ideas. But you know what its like when you're busy and in the middle of it all, you're always the last one to see. Last night I had to use my inhaler for the first time in years and I'm seriously suffering today. I got up the worst of it with the old, dying hoover; the one I inflicted mortal wounds on the last time I used it (to vacuum up after I'd sanded down the walls when we were decorating) so now it tends to blow out almost as much as it sucks up. When what's left of the dust cloud has finally settled, I'll have another go. Glutton for punishment, that's me.

Oh how I dream of a proper workshop; one with plenty of space to work and stack materials. There would be a big, solid work bench running down the centre and racks for my tools around the walls. I'd have room to work outside when the weather was fine and a big roaring fire to keep me warm when it wasn't. There would be no neighbours so I could make as much noise as I liked and work all night if I wanted to. It would, of course, be in a wood and close to the sea for forays into the wild for deadfall and driftwood. It would have electricity and be free to rent and cups of tea and sandwiches would magically appear whenever I wanted them. Oh and every idea I had there would work first time and elves would come in at night to clean up.

If anyone knows of such a place contact me @in-your-dreams-you-mad-druid-now-stop-fantasising-and-get-back-to-work-that-room-won't-clean-itself!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tintagel and Willow Moon

Hi folks, just a quick update. You will now find some of my wands, staffs and athames on sale at Willow Moon in Tintagel. Its a lovely shop with a great atmosphere so if you're anywhere near Tintagel pop in and have a look.

I love Tintagel, we've spent many happy days there. When we were first thinking of relocating to Cornwall it was one of the first places we visited, and always headed for there first on our many house hunting trips. There really is something magical about the place, I've never quite pinned it down but there is a peace there, just something in the air that soothes me. A wander round the shops, a pint in one of the many pubs, a pasty to eat on the little beach by Merlin's all makes for a great day out.

 Pasty nicking seagull
Sunset over the cliffs

Merlin's Cave

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Support for London

I love London. It's in my heart. It's in my soul. I no longer live there but some of the best times of my life have been spent there. The first time my wife and I visited London together she laughed at me for getting off the train at St Pancras and kissing the platform! Now I think she'd do the same. I have lived in London on and off for most of my life. I can only be away for so long before it calls to me again. To see it brought down this way by ignorant, unthinking, mindless mobs is soul destroying.

But London will recover as it always does. The spirit of the city and the people will win out. Just like it did after the blitz. Just like it did after 7/7. The people of London are strong and they will only take so much before they fight back. They will fight back with quiet dignity; they will fight back by cleaning up and rebuilding; they will fight back by simply carrying on. London and Londoners have a history of surviving.

My heart and my thoughts go out to the people of London.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bad Boy Corner

My latest staff is currently languishing in 'Bad Boy' corner. It hasn't done anything wrong but, as yet, it isn't right.

Bad Boy Corner is right by the chimney breast and so close to the hearth and heart of the home. It's in my line of vision whenever I sit down to relax. Whether I'm chatting with my wife or simply vegging out in front of the T.V watching re-runs of Top Gear and C.S.I., it is there. Things may sit there for a day, a week, or a month or two. Some things even make return visits although that doesn't happen very often, thankfully. It helps me a great deal. I believe very strongly that each tree, each piece of wood I work with has a spirit. I could not do the things I do if I did not listen to, and work with, the spirit of the wood. Because of this my ideas and inspiration change constantly, as the wood and I change our minds about what feels right. And if something doesn't feel quite right, all work stops. Frustrating as it may be when I want to get things finished, I won't finish a piece simply for the sake of finishing and I will not let a piece go if it is not the very best that it can be. I owe that to myself. I owe it to those who buy my work. But most of all, I owe it to the Wood.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Brain Fog

Uggghh. I'm really fed up of dealing with the headache from hell. I've done nothing for days now, I just can't concentrate. Think that maybe I'll make up a flask of tea and head down to the beach. The weather is just grotty enough for it to be deserted and maybe the wind and salt spray will chase away the fog thats clouding my thoughts.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Here Be Dragons

Yesterday didn't quite go as planned. I must learn not to flit from project to project if I want to get anything done! I'm having quite a bit of a dragon frenzy at the moment, I don't know why. It seems every piece if wood I pick up says 'dragon' to me. Some scream it, some whisper, some keep me guessing for days or even weeks before revealing their inner spirit. All make me work and demand blood, sweat and tears.

  Dragon Staff

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lazy Daze

Yesterday dawned blazingly bright and I'm afraid all plans of disapearing into my little work room went out the window. Sometimes my will power deserts me, what can I say?

My good lady wife did the honours with a picnic and we headed off in search of a beach that wasn't overwhelmed with holiday makers. Not that I have any objections to tourists, I'm well aware of the important role they play in Cornwall's economy, but I'm quite a solitary soul (ok, I'm a cantankerous old druid who finds it hard to resist the urge to shout "OI, stop digging up my beach" whenever I see a child with a bucket and spade!).

A little bit of local knowledge came in handy and we actually didn't have to travel very far. Only a mile away the town beach was crammed to bursting with happy holiday makers going lobster pink in the sun but a short walk across a field or two and a clamber down a few rocks and we could have been a million miles away. We weren't completly isolated, the occaisional dog walker came by to say "hello", but we were largly undisturbed. The town beach may have sand instead of pebbles and have been scraped clean of all its seaweed every morning, but give me solitude and a sea shore the way nature intended any day of the week. Pristine sand? They can keep it. 

After a mooch along the shore collecting a few little bits of driftwood and sea shells (and sadly collecting up a fair few plastic bottles, crisp packets and carrier bags... HOW HARD IS IT TO TAKE ONE'S RUBBISH HOME? Seriously, if one can carry it all out there when full, surely its no real effort to carry it home when its empty?) we settled down in a sheltered spot to while away an hour or six.  The sun was hot, the breeze was deliciously cool and our picnic was simply delicious.

I'm now convinced I'm married to a mermaid. Despite having forgotten to take swimsuit or towel, my completely insane wife was definately not prepared to settle for a quick paddle! After quite a bit of squealing and protesting about the cold I thought I'd literally have to drag her out of the sea to go home. My very own water baby. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting in the sun listening to the laughter of the woman I love and watching her cut through the waves as though she was born to it.

Today though, its nose to the grindstone. All my little projects are starting to mount up. I'm determind to get something finished today. Refreshed from my lazy day yesterday, anything is possible.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Bear With Me, I'm New to This Blogging Malarky!

Well, where to start?

A bit about me? Are you sure?

Ok, if you insist...

I'm a druid. Maybe not a good druid, but I try. I walk a solitary path and although I had a great teacher and guide upon this path, who is still sorely missed, I have never been part of a grove. Nor will I ever be. Nothing wrong with groves, you understand, its just not for me.

You'll find me in the wild places, listening to the mighty waves crashing onto the shore or watching ravens soar high above the windswept moor. You'll find me deep in the woods beneath the boughs of an ancient oak. Here I feel at one with this amazing world we call our home. Here I feel the strength of my Lord Herne and the love of my Lady. Here I find my inspiration.

I have little money and poor health but I am truely blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and my wife by my side. I have a little workshop where I can hide away and create (Ok, so it was the spare bedroom and my lovely, long suffering wife turns a blind eye to me discarding the bed and filling it with woodshavings, but its mine and I'm rarely happier than when I'm in there). The wood talks and I listen... and if the Lady is smiling on me the end result is what I hope for.

I make wands and staffs, athames and wood carvings. I make them from windfall or driftwood, never cutting wood from a living tree. I make them because I love it. What could be better than that?