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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wanting the scythe

In Act 5 Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Henry V Burgundy bemoans his country's loss of peace...

....from France too long been chased,
And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
Corrupting in its own fertility.
Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
Unpruned dies; her hedges even-pleach'd,
Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,
Put forth disorder'd twigs; her fallow leas
The darnel, hemlock and rank fumitory
Doth root upon, while that the coulter rusts
That should deracinate such savagery;
The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth
The freckled cowslip, burnet and green clover,
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
Conceives by idleness and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs,
Losing both beauty and utility.
And as our vineyards, fallows, meads and hedges,
Defective in their natures, grow to wildness....
Compared to digging, cutting the weeds on an overgrown plot with my scythe is a rewarding pleasure. As a quid pro quo for the specialist advice she gave Lin and I about turning the Central Handsworth Practical Care Project into a company limited by guarantee I scythed her plot, next to ours, this morning - hearing the noise of a chain saw on the railway embankment running beside the Victoria Jubilee Allotments.  I'm was using my shortest blade and not using graceful long strokes swinging close to the earth because there was a good deal of debris (bricks, stones, old wood and plastic and metal pieces) hidden in the grass and weeds, plus I promised myself to leave Rachel some flowers standing after I'd finished.
Vanley came by as I worked
"Can you teach me how to use that?"
"Of course"
I attended a workshop on using a scythe 5 years ago - a day in April I took a train to Yeovil on Friday and cycled seven miles through Somerset countryside to the Fleur de Lis Pub in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, close to Tinker’s Bubble where, the next day, Simon Fairlie led a workshop, for six of us, on how to use a scythe (see scythe revival). I'd wanted to use it in the churchyard of St.Mary's, Handsworth, with an uneducated notion that we might circumvent the council's ground maintenance routines and turn the place into a meadow, by scything - instead of strimming - at times of our choice, clearing cuttings to avoid their over enrichment, nurturing a richer diversity of flowers. But I'd bitten off more than I could chew - the scale of the churchyard and the momentum of the city's grounds maintenance bureaucracy. Had I persisted I'm sure we'd have prevailed. I didn't. The next time I used the scythe was to help my daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Guy, to recover the lawn of their new home on the east of the city. So I haven't been using it much. I had to fiddle with assembly; reminding myself of the proper way to sharpen the blade - something to be done nearly every five minutes when scything - let alone observe the method of thinning the soft iron cutting edge of the blade with a hammer so that its vital sharpness can be maintained - peening it with the jig I bought at the same time as I bought the scythe and two bladesLuxor for lawns, Rasierschnitt for rougher work with a protective tine at the tip. Bringing that kit back on the train Sunday evening, the blade well wrapped, I was joshed about being the grim reaper. I can't quite recall how I carried it back from New Street on my bicycle, but I suspect Terry Pratchett would have approved the image of a scyther on a Brompton folding bicycle. Now I carry just the handle across my handlebars, leaving the blade in my basket - well-wrapped.
Schröckenfux hand-forged scythe
*** ***
In the evening a chance to run our plans for the practical care project by two officers of Birmingham City Council, Jessie Gerald and Yvonne Wager.
L-R: Yvonne, Jessie, Leslie, Denise, Mike, Edmund Lin, Charles
** ** ** **
Village historian, Korakiana school teacher Kostas Apergis, closes the main door of the village school for the last time
....24 Ιουνίου 2011: Ο Κορακιανίτης δάσκαλος Κώστας Απέργης κλείνει για τελευταία φορά τη μεγάλη πόρτα της εισόδου…Από το Σεπτέμβρη το κτίριο θα φιλοξενήσει ένα Γυμνάσιο της Κέρκυρας.

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