Anyway, last summer my very dear friend Jocelyn (my partner in crime in Dorset during my teaching days) was at Hampton Court Flower Show. Amongst the blooms she spotted a stone-carver displaying his wares. She knows how much I love stone-carving, which I used to do at evening classes in Weymouth College and also at Tout Quarry with Hannah Sofaer. When she saw his work she knew that she'd found the perfect wedding gift for me. Mr B and I are coming up to our fifth wedding anniversary, but Jocelyn is a patient woman and wouldn't be hurried into such an important purchase.
My friend Jocelyn yesterday in Beaminster
By strange coincidence, it turned out that the sculptor, Peter Price, lives and works in Dorset! And so it was that Joc and I visited him in his workshop in Beaminster earlier in the autumn to chose my Bright Carving. (We share a love of Gormenghast.)
Peter's a talented man and produces some very unique pieces. They're all crammed into a tiny outdoor area attached to an old manor, with ivy growing around and the green hills of Dorset in the background. Who could not be inspired in such surroundings?
He said he'd carve the Green Man bench for me in his usual style, and by request would add some spirals and a little heart in the corner. Jocelyn, ever the cynic, had made gagging noises when I'd asked for this. But as I pointed out, the bench was meant to be a wedding present even if it was almost five years on!
Peter Price at his Beaminster workshop
Hoping that my Bright Carving would bring me similar fortune, yesterday I drove it carefully back to Reading with the tail of the car much closer to the ground. Mr B and my teenage step-son managed to haul it into the back garden in the pitch dark, avoiding the pond and prancing puppy. I was so excited to see the bench this morning when I let the chickens out! Drax was intrigued too.
Isn't he a wonderful Green Man? So solemn and aged, so wise and all-knowing.
It's actually so beautiful that I'm now thinking maybe I won't use it as a bench after all. And I don't really want to sit on his face, which seems a little disrespectful! So perhaps I shall use it more as an altar to nature. I have a fire-basin that my children bought me last year, and with the water in the pond and my wind-chimes too, I think the area will become my Place of the Elements. I often sit here and watch the birds and squirrels, the sky and clouds, and feel the trees' presence all around me.The bench will make a lovely focal point and will represent Earth. Can you see the seam in the piece of stone? And it's slightly glittery too.
The spirals carved into the stone will remind me of the magic all around. I'll look at those and think of this incredible year when the final Stonewylde book was published. I'll recall the incredibly moving things that my readers have said to me about the journey we've all been on together. The heart will make me think of Mr B and our first five years of marriage, so unexpected and so joyful. And it will also remind me of enduring friendship. Thank you, Jossy!