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Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. March 30, 2011

Posted by janehaynes in : Atomies of love, Becoming..., Uncategorized , add a comment

Not being a TV viewer I only ever catch the finale of interesting programmes, strange how it’s never the beginning. The other night my husband was trying to find something to distract me from moaning on about my virus when we alighted on the end of Panorama's programme, 'The Big Squeeze' on how living standards have fallen in the past two years and most affected have been those in the building trades.

I found myself taken into the life-worn and immaculate workshop of a carpenter, in a Liverpool industrial area, who had custom built and fitted wooden doors and windows for new buildings. An exacting and precise craft. Rather that is what he used to do, and although he looked like a pensioner but perhaps he was prematurely worn to the bones with stress, that was what he still wanted and still needed and still could do. I have not been able to put his hang-dog dejection, nor his workshop with its metallic precision of polished and blood warm tools and surgical implements out of sight. If I was Seamus Heaney I might want to write a poem, or if I was David Storey, a novel,  for this man, so skilled and outlawed from trade, seemed to me to  embody all the dying poetry of  artisanal  England.

A pause to reflect on the word artisan, which is how the French still refer to their local rural builders, and which embodies the word 'art' which is not reduced to utility.  Manual skill is art, it can be living poetry and this man with his weak eyes stained by permanent tear, where perhaps once a star had spun as he swung his hammer, and who with his complexion now stained raw by blood pressure was still in every cell the artist in his workshop where every tool had its own hand-worn placement of apprenticeship to the wood.

Yes, His act worships itself.

What disturbed  most was that this man, I choose not to use his first name in a wanton intimacy, like other men interviewed in the programme, did not require thousands of pounds to stop his house being re-possessed, his workshop lost, only some hundreds. Why do 'we' need a government and the bureaucracy of  urgent and unpopular tax reforms for those of us who have enough, or even too much, or much too much.  'Oh reason not the need ' Lear  declares, to inspire 'society' to give up just one habitual luxury to prevent our 'neighbours', some might say the working classes from losing their homes and being cast out onto that unchanging heath of homelessness. Homes which the programme told us, within a matter of a year - or in some instances - still more tantalising, months would have become owned but which were now in the steely hand