Essay – On Coincidences

I have sat on this post for a few days. I have been suffering somewhat from writer’s block. But on Friday evening, when I got home, this nearly-thousand works just fell from my fingertips. I read it back and felt immediately glad that I had written it, and equally bashful about publishing it. I know it’s a bit grandiose and sentimental. And I worry it’s a bit wanky. But sometime’s life is about being a bit vulnerable, so here it is. If you read it, please be gentle in your criticism. 

I’m not generally a telly watcher. Unless it’s Hoarders, Game of Thrones or Love Island, it’s probably passed me by. I’m on holiday in Cornwall at the moment, so evenings are of a somewhat slower pace, and some TV has been watched. We’ve watched a fair bit of Amazing Spaces and Grand Designs. Then last night, Wonders of the Universe was on. (As an aside, it should be every human’s love goal to find someone who talks about them like Brian Cox talks about physics…) Despite physics and I ending our love affair at A Level, I found the episode fascinating. It was focussed on entropy and the passage of time. Brian visited long abandoned towns built for the diamonds once found in their sand, and shipwrecks now kilometres from the shoreline, where the decaying iron carcasses split and crumble like dry wood. And then he explained, with sandcastles, what entropy is, and what will happen when all the stars die.

Sometimes, life hands you lovely consequences. One of our missions for this week was to have a look at some towns/villages that we don’t usually visit. Our plan is to eventually move back down here, but none of the places we typically visit are quite right for living in. We wanted to very vaguely start thinking about where might work for us. Top of the list are Mousehole and Newlyn. On the day we visited Newlyn, we popped into the shop at the gallery right at the end of our day. I was getting to the point of being ready to head home as we were planning to go to the Land’s End fireworks that evening, and we needed to go back and have some dinner. As we left the shop, and went to head home, something in the main gallery caught my eye through the window, and I decided that we should pop in after all. I’m so glad that we did!

The gallery’s theme for the season is ‘Craft Week’ and it’s all about celebrating simple, beautiful, hand-made things. The downstairs gallery features clothes, shelves, furniture and small sculptures made from holly wood. Upstairs features some books, videos, some amazing rescued chairs and the small workshop space.  The Itinerant Quilter were there for just the day we visited and were adding pieces to their quilt. Simon offered up a bit of his t-shirt and now it has a little boat patch to mark its contribution.

One of the sections featured work by Celia Pym; examples of mending through darning. The largest (but still tiny) piece is a heavily darned baby’s jumper. I spent ages looking at the intricate mending work and marvelling at the delicacy and beauty of the original garment. Hung above it are photos of it being worn.

As we sat down to watch some of the videos, I picked up one of the flyers. It just so happens that we’d picked the perfect week to visit as the exhibition is being supplemented by events. Today (Friday) saw a foraged meal followed by a talk by none other than Celia Prym! What luck!

So today we had delicious curry and flat bread, followed by blueberry ice with hogweed seed biscuits, and then we had the absolute pleasure of hearing Celia talk about her journey as an artist, her influences and her work. I knew that I would find it interesting, but in fact I found it fascinating. I’m fangirling so hard that I’m not going to link to her directly, lest she read this and I look like a crazy stalker person. Luckily her name is distinctive should you want to find her, and I strongly suggest that you do. The part that resonated with me most strongly was when she discussed the power of mending. How people brought her their grief, their history and their loved-to-pieces happiness, all under the mantle of a hole that needed a patch or a darn. I also loved her thoughts on visible mends. Just like the Japanese art of kintsugi, where ceramics are repaired with gold, Celia repairs clothes with unapologetic, bold colours; bright yellow on jeans, bright blue on white gloves and so on. A darn is not a weakness, to be ashamed of or to be hidden, it’s tiny “act of love and care” to be worn with pride.

As we walked back to the car, Simon said that it was a funny coincidence that we’d watched the Brian Cox programme about the passage of time, decay, and renewal, and then we’d gone to this talk which is, of course, all about those very same things. And as we walked, we spotted all those signs of the passage of time that are all around us; a pipe peeping through the pavement where thousands of feet have walked; the dull grey metal on the handrail of the bridge where thousands of people have stopped to look at the river rushing past; the scooped out steps down to the water on the harbourside. It got me thinking about the scale of those marks; the tiny, domestic, personal, and then the planet, the stars, and the universe.

It feels like we’re going through a period of history where there are a lot of people determined to make their mark on the world, and they’re making holes; leaving damage and decay. And it really does scare me, if I’m honest. I feel helpless.

But we are not helpless. Because wherever there’s someone making holes, there’s someone darning; there’s ingenuity, and compassion and resourcefulness. Even if we can’t stop the damage or prevent the holes, we can always pick up the needle, be the thread, be the darn.




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