British Beginnings

When I arrived in London three weeks ago, the maelstrom of humanity hit me square on. It was quite a shock after six relatively peaceful months in Hälsingland, almost like the world had condensed around me and solidified into the sprawl of the city. In my seven days there, the experiences spilled over one another. Some highlights included visiting Jack Kontou’s wing chun gym, eating the best Chinese meal of my life, seeing the shows Stomp and The Lion King, and obsessively seeking out ironwork in museums. I also spent a good deal of time lost, wondering if I had stumbled into Daedalus’ labyrinth – but no, just another winding London street.

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One of many incredible pieces of ironwork in the V&A museum.

My arrival in Dorset brought with it a feeling of familiarity. This is the England that I imagine: rolling hills, little stone villages, narrow roads and lots of green. There have been many pleasant surprises however, and always a feeling of newness.

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A walk we took to look at the scenery…although the views didn’t stretch very far, it sure was beautiful.

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A walk along part of the Jurassic Coast. No suntans this morning, but plenty of fossils:

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I was welcomed by Alex Pole and family. Alex is a blacksmith I met a year and a half ago in Sweden, on a fortuitous bus ride. He happened to be headed to the same place I was, and our friendship began. Here in England he has his own shop and company, Forge Kitchenware, and this is the setting for my life these past two and a half weeks.

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Imagine: a peach sky in the southeast, zigzagged with the black profiles of birds flying about. Their song is constant, a modern symphony of sorts, the slow movement. I am surrounded on two sides by an apple orchard, which is crisp with morning frost. As the sky shifts into the peculiar light pastel blue that is so common here, I make a fire with some gathered applewood twigs to cook breakfast.

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My back yard.

This is a common scene in my daily life, with some variation of rain, moonrises, and of course, work. I am living in a camper trailer outside of Alex’s workshop, which is about a twenty minute drive from his house. I cook over the fire, chop lots and lots of wood, and am generally caught up in the busyness of living. It is extraordinary to have the opportunity to take time with all of the small things, simple actions which normally slip right by unnoticed.

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The house.

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The kitchen.

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My office.

I have been doing relatively little forging in my time here, but have managed to make a few things. Besides helping with a one day course, I have forged a couple of spoons, made two pairs of tongs, and am in the process of finishing a few knives and a fire poker.

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Scrolling tongs are incredibly useful, for grabbing the little ends of pieces and bending them around. Like the blacksmith’s version of tweezers.

The main task has been a building project. We have been doing some serious renovation on Alex’s workshop, and have created a wonderful semi-outdoor workspace. I spent one day mixing cement by hand, much time up on a ladder fixing timber and boards in place, and plenty of moving of equipment and materials. It has been rewarding work, with the great feeling of leaving a space better than when we started.

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Our framed and boarded wall.

I often think about how welcomed I have been on my travels. I am blown away by the generosity and openness of those whom I have visited, and their eagerness to help me. Wherever I turn it seems there is a friend or a stranger ready to lend a hand, and it gives me great joy. I have seen an inspiring show of humanity, and no matter where my path leads, I can only aspire to live in such a way myself. There is an overflowing feeling of gratitude just about every moment of every day. Not a bad way to live life, don’t you think?