I’d been dreading the front wall of the barn. So enormous. So cracked. And much of it so high up, the top ridge quite broken and needing to be rebuilt. I’d had enough of ladders and wobbling and flirting with broken legs, which is why Jose Manuel had built me a “scaffold” before he’d left last month.
June arrived and the sun pulled overhead, ready to make up for lost time. The mountain peaks basked under an open sky. The days stretched into endless pools of light, all but banishing night from our world. The temperature climbed. And the hens looked for shade. I was out of excuses, it was wall time.
My first attempt at climbing the scaffold involved plenty of ungainly grunts and groans as I levered myself upwards onto a ladder which had been thrown horizontally across two struts as a walkway. This was level one of the scaffold. Over the course of the first day I foraged for rocks, split them, and faced them where necessary. Then I lifted them from level one, up to level two and finally up onto the top of the wall. That evening, my biceps and thighs let me know I had indeed used them. Even so, a bit of gumption had been released. The next morning I stared hard at that wall and vowed to complete it before the month ended, come rain, shine, or June’s usual disappointing offering of clinging, minging mist.
So I mortared the rocks at the top in place and rebuilt the stone columns supporting the roof. Lest you forget, I don’t have a cement mixer. Every bucket of mortar is churned by hand. Finally I stood at the front of the barn, craned my neck back and crossed my arms in satisfaction. The worst bit was over. Just the repointing to do.
I knew nothing about repointing before I reached Europe. And there’s a lot of it going on in these parts. Most European countries boast stacks of ancient stone buildings and people who like repairing them. I remember travelling in my van through the UK, France, Portugal and Spain, admiring the stone and mortar work at each stop, some of it even using lime. I expect I’ll ruffle some feathers now, but of all the stonework I’ve seen so far, the dry stone and mortar work in Spain (at least northern Spain) tops them all, at least in terms of aesthetic. It’s artwork. Which is why right back at the beginning of this adventure, I went and studied any local repointers I could see. I watched them mortaring and copied.
I remember my first attempts in what is now my kitchen. What a mess! But I kept at it, experimenting with different sands, and different trowels and guns, until finally I got it.
So the day arrived. I stood before the front wall, hammer and chisel in hand. The weather gathered steam behind me, the thermometer mercury climbing to the fabulous late twenties. Perfect mortaring weather. Hoisting myself up to the top level of the scaffold, I remarked how it no longer scared the hell out of me. Then I sat down and set about digging out years of badly applied concrete.
There is something incredibly satisfying about digging out old mortar. The positioning of the chisel. The tap of the hammer. And the plop as another bit of crud hits the ground. It’s like cleaning fingernails or plucking eyebrows (if yer know what I mean). Even the barn itself seemed to revel in the process as I hacked the debris out of its epidermis.
How to Dislodge Old Mortar
There’s an art to digging out concrete. Here’s the thing: You can’t attack it front-on. Well, you can but it’s hard work and you waste a massive amount of effort because the mortar resists. To clear it out, you have to find the weak spot first. And the weak spot is the edges. This is where the elements have attacked it, and if the mortar is concrete this will be where it’s pulling a little from the wall. So, one places the chisel under one of those edges, taps it with a hammer, and slowly works one’s way in, chimbling away at it.
The days went by. And the weather decided to change tack. Storms drove in from the south like the four horsemen, kicking up dark clouds and throwing down lightning bolts. Then came the rain and the cold. They sat on our world until we lit fires. But I wasn’t in the mood to be put off. So I donned my wellies and raincoat, and set about that mortar. I tapped and chipped and dug away, raising a middle finger at the driving rain. In the moments when the precipitation receded, I refilled the gaps with a lovely new lime mortar. The barn seemed to gleam, the beauty of the old rocks now visible once more. It was at this point I just couldn’t help myself: Out came the sparkle. Thus I added a glass beads and shells and pretty stones too.
Perhaps it was me. Probably it was, projecting my own pride onto my barn. Yet it seemed to stand a little higher now, a little grander. The old forgotten outhouse, ignored for so many years, was being reborn as royalty.
Another Brick in the Wall
Walls are often used as metaphors for oppression. Pink Floyd made a whole film on the subject, which looks as appropriate now as it was when it was first released. The Wall has become sleeker of course, tech-powered and glossy. It’s guarded by AI, controlling what we see and literally hacking our brains, mining us for data gold. But as a friend of mine said: “There’s no point attacking it head-on. You have to be like water. You have to squeeze through the cracks.” How true this is. And by squeezing through them you widen them, gnawing away at that suffocating concrete mortar until it cracks and is pushed out for good.
This has been my approach for the past ten years, simply ignoring The Wall and its ridiculous, ecocidal, and inhumane dictates, slipping through the gaps, weaving my way like a cord of spring water. But what if the wall starts closing in on you? What if it threatens to encroach on your very life force, and all that you hold sacred? Isn’t that time to find the sledgehammer?
Don’t fall into The Wall’s favourite trap. The rules of nature govern this planet despite what most humans think. The Wall is banking on sledgehammers. They’re so easy to deal with and make an example of. Call them terrorists or conspiracy theorists, discredit the few with integrity who question anything at all*, ruin their careers, threaten their families, set up fake Twitter accounts, and away you go. The protester unwittingly just becomes another brick in The Wall, nay even a buttress, because The Wall supports itself by using opposing forces and polarity. I’ve been a wall-soldier, remember? I was a teacher with dark sarcasm, light sarcasm, and British sarcasm to boot. I know exactly how it works. Competition and peer pressure are the most powerful tools any tyrant has. No, you don’t want a sledgehammer to most effectively deal with a wall. You waste too much energy attacking the parts of the structure that are most resistant. What you need is a chisel instead.
Those that for any given reason can’t buckle, those on the fringes, those who simply can’t fit into that wall no matter how hard they try, and yet have retained enough of their spirit not to hate themselves for it, these are the chisels because they have to be. They chip chip chip away at the edges of society, digging out niches for their freedom. They’re doing it now whether the centres of society are aware of it or not, whether they are called quacks or hippies or weirdos or not, whether they are visible or not. Whether ‘respectable’ people roll their eyes at them or not. It’s going on. Whole new sub-societies are being born all over the net and the planet, flourishing in the myriad cracks. And there’s nothing The Wall can do about it.
You may think The Wall is holding up just fine right now, but from here in nicheland it’s like the Emperors’ clothes, only existing because enough people believe in it. There’s mortar falling out all over the place, and the seismographs are getting excited. Looks like we’re about to see where the actual integrity lies.
How can I be so sure The Wall won’t last? Because it’s unsustainable. It's in the very word itself. The Wall can't sustain itself in its present form at its present rate into the future, because it's out of balance. This is one of nature's most fundamental laws. You know it. I know it. But apparently a lot of people like living in a kind of desperate denial instead of staring the truth in the eye and coming up with a game plan.
Walls of the Future
Walls are not always there to control. They are important parts of structure which protect, delineate, and filter. Cell membranes, river banks, and hedgerows are a few examples of how nature goes about walls. They are permeable, allow growth and change, and live in balance with their surroundings. The offer shelter rather than a prison.
From here in my magical, self-chiselled nook on a Pico half-in half-out of reality, I prefer to spend my time dreaming of new structures than rage endlessly against the ones so obviously already crumbling. When I close my eyes, The Wall has lost its concrete mortar and has become a breathing structure instead. Vines and moss climb all over it, creating new life upon and within it. Then from out of the crevices, new humans emerge who see wider and further than those that went before. Humans who can access Earth’s power and forge miracles from it. They take the old wall rocks and clean them until they shine in their original natural glory. Then drinking the sunlight and whispering with the divine, they form those stones into kinder, more inspiring structures that support the many instead of the few.
And the mortar to hold it all together? Ah that would be love and beauty, because what have you got without those? It’s how you understand whether a structure is of the future or the past, for without love it’s just a replica of the old. That new mortar will be covered in shells and beads and colourful jewels that sparkle and spangle and refract light over and over again. It will be whimsical, capricious, and joyful, and make people feel glad to be alive. But as you know when it comes to building, that’s kind of the way I roll:) Of course, many will say it's impossible, and that such things can't exist, that you can't build from love or mud or sparkle. Yeah yeah, whatever. I've heard all that so many times before. Never once did transpire to be true.
*People often make assumptions about my political beliefs, on both sides of the divide. It ought to be clear to anyone who has followed me for a while that I have no interest in a political system that offers two shoddy, corrupt candidates and asks me to give my mandate to one them. I don't. My work is about empowering people to live freely if they want to, and to respect nature. So just for the record: the press conference I linked to above has nothing to do with some sort of moronic political allegiance, and I daresay the politician who created it is as self-serving as the rest of them. It is about freedom of information and speech, which I already lost in Turkey once thanks very much, and which the majority of the West has voluntarily given away in front of my very eyes.
The full version of that press conference, featuring other doctors and some pretty shocking information on the suppression of alternative therapies is (of course) nowhere to be found on mainstream channels. You can watch it here. https://www.bitchute.com/video/yI1hrC2kX2uS/
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
"Reality meets fantasy, myth, dirt and poetry. I'm hooked!" Jodie Harburt, Multitude of Ones.