Sunday, June 17, 2007

repetitive tasks

terre cuite.JPG

Is it a personality type thing, I wonder to myself as I jab at the plaster and sand on the back of the three hundred and first tile of eight hundred which I must clean in order to relay my floor: Set me up with a repetitive task and I will make it a meditative one, finding within it a thousand variations and nuances, just like when I am playing the tonic and dominant in a bass line. I will go back to it diligently every day until it is finished but, like a child, I seem to need someone to hold my hand (explain the process, write down the recipe, highlight the map, do the first tile or brush-stroke) in the beginning.

The tile in my hand is one of the newer monochrome ones and, though I feel uninspired, I concentrate on the blackbird and the crickets, the church bell and the rustle of the wheat that I have chosen to have accompany me in my work instead of my ipod. However, the next tile I pull out of the bucket is older, its rainbow of fired earth spreading out from its core towards fragile edges, and its history of young Provencal lovers' tiptoed steps upon its surface. I am overwhelmed with affection for this thing that I have wrenched up from its comfortable plaster bed in order to lay a hemp floor and under-floor heating, and I want to return it to its home where it will listen to the sound of my cello.

The walls are almost finished. Again, once the paint recipe is found, (2 percent casein to the lime paste and two parts water) I am off. The casein has transformed overnight into a foamy gunk in the juice jug that smells of the milk bottle sweets I snuck out to buy with money stolen, since I wasn't allowed sweets at school, from my mother's tweed coat pocket. The lime is a delicious cream like the filling of a favourite chocolate. The mixture is both clingy and fluid on the brush. It is the colour of rain soaked barley when first applied, glows white- heat at midday and shines pink in the morning light.


I work it out at three hours a coat. About four Bach cantatas. One coat still to go, maybe this time with a little pigment. The tiles will take longer – twenty one buckets and at a bucket a day…...

After my daily bucket, I walk in from the red sand on which the house is built onto the new terra cotta floor, and my toes squeal with delight as they sense no difference between the inside and the outside.

I will, of course, need help finding my pigment but I am thinking a traditional Provençal grey stripe along the base of the wall. However, I am nervous of all the fiddly little try outs I will have to do to find how many parts blue/black/white, and then having to wait for each one to dry before I adjust the recipe, before I can be let loose on another repetitive task.

terrre cuite.JPG


Anonymous Jenna from MD said...

Hello Ruth,
I guess I am one of those people who don't know you but who find your posts, and indeed your (and Julian's) life greatly fascinating. You bring me to another place, and to a life I will never live, and for that I am grateful. I'm sure it is strange that people like me are reading about the fairly intimate details of your life, but please don't stop.

And for what it's worth, I don't think you sound sad, but rather thoughtful. You seem to enjoy life's little pleasures, which I think is really the only way to be happy.


1:30 PM  
Blogger Dale said...

What a beautiful, minor key post.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Augustine said...

Hi Ruth, haven't been here in a while - good to return to your beautiful words and pictures. Last night I was at the first performance of Tavener's "The Beautiful Names" and amongst the people milling about in the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral I saw your Dad. So I went up and said hello but he obviously didn't remember me (understandably since I only ever met him at artists' books exhibitions and such) but I said my name and he shook hands then I said, I've been in touch with your daughter, Ruth, in France. Oh that's nice, he said and hurried away. He must have thought "WTF? What does this woman want?" I felt a bit of an idiot.

10:58 PM  

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