It’s always the same, isn’t it? You look at a project. It seems so joshingly easy. Just some planks of wood and a few hinges. Saw a couple of posts, whack them in as a door frame. Boom, you’ll have a door. A day or two max, right?
He he he. How I wish! It’s never like that when you build something. You learn it when you’re in or observing a construction. Or maybe like me, you half-learn it, and then conveniently forget as soon as the next enticing vision pops into your head. I was sure I’d have my doors done in a jiffy. I’d even allowed a nice fat cock-up margin, giving myself a generous week per door. Ha! One month later and I’m just about to attach that second door into the frame. Attach the door. So easy right? Just screw it in. He he he.
I have years of experience of construction crawl heaped behind me now. It sits there like an unsightly pile of road aggregate the council left on the pavement. Sadly it’s wholly ineffective in preventing me from confidently expounding on the every Land Report video that this or that will be completed by next month. They’re a charitable lot over there on Patreon. They never mention it. But it’s as obvious as a technocratic takeover, the mortar, the windows, floor or the mud plaster, they’ll never be done when I think they will, and I’m talking out of my arse.
But let me defend myself a little. How can it take a month to make two doors? Well first: I didn’t hop in the car and buy ’em ready-made from Bricomart. They wouldn’t have fit, because my barn is a wonky, wiggly old devil and the apertures are just as skewed. The doors, the frames, and the thresholds were all handmade by yours truly. Second: I have no carpentry tools, so I made them using a chainsaw and a jig. Yup, that’s right. Third: You ever tried joining a door that isn’t a rectangle but some other weird shape with only a jig and a chainsaw at your disposal? Let’s just say it’s a challenge. Throw in a few old solid-as-iron-yet-utterly-unstraight chestnut beams, and you’re really having fun.
Of course, challenge is my middle name. Even the word itself goads me. It’s a shame really but once you reach a certain age, you realise some parts of you are simply just like that. Thus with a glint in my eye and fire in my belly, I rolled up my lime-spattered sleeves and set about door number one: the main door.
It was a glorious day nestled within a sun-splashed wall of glorious days. October has been beneficent up here, with the skies as open and blue as a leopard’s eye. I stepped into the cavern of my barn, and pulled out a couple of surplus pine floor joists. Then I picked up the chainsaw.
What? You chainsawed the door frame? Yeah...I wasn’t sure it would work either, but it did. Let’s just say I’ve learned a thing or two from Jose Manuel, and while I’m not quite Antony Gormley, I can now chainsaw a very straight edge.
The machine whirred. The sawdust rose. And the frame posts were cut to size. The day progressed, and the mountain ridge turned from emerald to orange to violet. I screwed the joists together with a bridging plank to form a frame, and duly fixed it into the gap in the barn wall. But, as I mentioned, the frame was wonky. Somehow I now had to make a wonky door to fit it. All in all this seemed like a good time for a swim break and some ice cream to ponder that particular conundrum.
Some time later I purchased five tongue-and-groove pine planks from the wood yard, and screwed them together with pieces of sanded and oiled chestnut. Now I was at the door hanging stage.
You ever tried single-handedly hanging a door? This isn’t my first lone door fixing experience. I knew it was going to be a pain in the butt, because you need three arms and only possess two. My trick has been to stack wood up under the door frame and rest the door on that while I screw it in. It still takes a lot of jiggling, some dextrous use of your big toe, and a decent lexicon of four letter words.
October rolled on. The leaves were turning russet now and drifting to the ground in crispy heaps. But the weather was holding firm. Sunshine banked the entire vista from morning until night. The main door was complete, so I mortared between the frame and the existing wall, which is a lot faster to type than to do. Naturally, then I had to decorate it, because why do something easily when you can really complicate it, eh?
The door from hell
Because door one went so swimmingly, I’m afraid not for the first time in my life I got a little ahead of myself. Ahem. Door two is the wood store door, and I decided to try and form it completely from the old chestnut that's laying around from the roof. This meant nothing was straight. In fact, straightness wasn’t even a level glimmer on the horizon of linear possibility. Every plank and post was gnarled and warped and as heavy as a girder.
Did that put me off? It should have done, but alas no. First I chainsawed the threshold bar, sanded it, and wedged it into the space in the stone wall. That wasn’t too painful. It was the door frame that drove me chestnuts. At least one side of a door frame has to be straight and smooth so you can hang the darn door on it. And both sides have to be plumb so the door opens and closes and fits relatively flush.
One day I set about it. I measured. I sawed. I screwed until I had a frame. It would seem to sort of fit and then I’d notice something out. So I’d adjust it, which made something else not fit. So I’d adjust that, then it wasn’t plumb. So I’d adjust that, and the first thing was out of kilter again. This went on and on, far longer than anyone in their right mind would normally put up with.
After three days of wrestling in this manner I was ready to chainsaw that effing door frame into stove-sized rectangles. And this was when the frame started to beat me up! I pulled it out for the hundredth time and it whacked me in the face. Rolling my tongue over the painful area, I realised I had a fat lip. Then I bashed my head on a floor joist. My hand tendons began to hurt where I’d over-exerted. It was at the end of day three, with no visible progress made, that I began to feel I was beaten in more ways than one.
Evening arrived with the land languishing in shadow, the sun now hoarding his gold in the peaks. Dusk thickened like cold soup. It was hard to see. I grabbed my head torch and took one last look at the door frame. I wondered if I should give up and just buy in some standard pre-cut pine. But as I looked at that beautiful two-century-old chestnut, the romantic in me wouldn’t have it. I’d sanded that wood so it was as smooth and toned as a cyclist’s leg. Yes, the door frame was a bridge to another reality, one where people cared more about process than results, more about soul than productivity, more about unique beauty than speed. Seeing as that reality is the one I’d rather inhabit, I decided to sleep on it and see what the next day held.
In the morning I meditated. As I did all the rules and dictates from the standard building world crumbled under the weight of their own irrelevance. A cool breeze of care fluttered into my world, rustling the leaves and my hair. I heard the tap tap tap of a woodpecker in the gulch as a bent line of sunlight crossed my forehead.
Clearheaded now, I visited the door frame again. As I stroked the treacle-coloured wood, I fancied there might be a way to work with the wonk. Taking a hammer, I tapped lightly at one side then another. And what do you know, it sort of aligned. Before something dastardly could usurp this snippet of good fortune, I screwed the frame into place.
But what about the door? I was having similar doubts about that, because the chestnut planks possessed not one straight edge among them. So how to fashion them into a door? I then remembered the sidings of larch I’d seen on natural homes in Scotland, and the overlapping of the wood to create ripples. After this, the rest seemed to fit together by magic. I made the door in an afternoon. Each plank was sanded and oiled and screwed into place, and the result made me happier than you’ll ever know.
There are many commentaries regarding renovations, and everyone has their own style. Or do they? Because so often it seems our “style” is purchased from the shelves of public opinion rather than home-grown. So many assumptions about what is better and what is worse, what is ultimately possible. We drag them into everything we do. It is assumed that straight is “better” but no one knows why. In the same way, it is assumed things have to move fast or be as efficient and convenient as possible. It is assumed new is better than old, and that you need money to make doors, walls, or even to live.
Yes, there are two doors, aren’t there? Not just in my barn, but in our new world order. The main one is modern, slick, and oh so convenient, albeit with apps and codes and constant surveillance. But it’s easy. Ping and you’re in, just as long as you are ready to give up your privacy and body autonomy; Next up are fingerprints, DNA, bank account. Never mind though, at least you can still shop at Zara, and work in a fluorescent-lit box your whole life. Lucky you!
Then there’s the other door at the back. It’s rather less illustrious. A gnarled unfashionable thing at the end of a poorly lit alley, the kind of place the riff-raff hang out. That door is for the rejects and it creaks on its ancient hinges. You might bang your head, or stub your toe, or be beaten up on the way. You'll most certainly be tutted at. But here’s the thing: you get through with your personal power and sovereignty intact.
Obviously the majority will walk through the first door. And obviously from then on there’ll be two worlds, two classes of humanity, as good old Jacinda* openly states here. Some at the main door won't bat an eyelid because they’ve been told the other entrance is full of unsavoury types they’ll be glad to see the back of. Others will realise the true implications when friends and family members are cut off, colleagues leave and they enter the shadowy world of social credit. But pay attention folks, for not all is as it seems. So many assumptions, and we all know where those lead, don’t we?
The assumption seems to be that the main door leads to the best life with all the freedom (oh the irony), and that the rest of us marginals can (and will) go to hell, unless of course we consent. Remember that word from somewhere? Yes, me too (pun intended). The dehumanisation is saddening yet hardly a surprise. It's been the language of the system for millennia; foreigners, immigrants, the unemployed, single mothers, and the homeless can all tell you about how underclasses are inevitably found deserving of their treatment. The machine operates by stereotyping, punishing, and separating after all, and never has cared about individual health issues, emotions, spiritual callings, or the millions who for any given reason can’t or won't fit in. It doesn't want wildly different viewpoints either. It thrives on oversimplifying, pitting one group against another and using one lot as a scapegoat, while the elite cream off the wealth. What's new? But let's get real here, we're all complicit. Haven't we all sometimes wished people we disagreed with would just disappear? Haven't we all built walls? Yeees. Most of us have two classes of people in our hearts if we're honest. And this is where it leads. Always. What we reject, hate and try to suppress comes back to haunt us. So it will continue until we get the message.
Back to that assumption. Two doors, two classes, and the marginals who are about to be excluded from the system. Don't pull out the violins just yet, it's just getting interesting.
Last word from a long-term marginal
Speaking as someone who’s lived on the margins for a good long while now, despite the chilling tone of the threats from our overlords and ladies, I’m prone to chuckle. Or perhaps I don't know whether to laugh or cry, because the world is so inside out and humans so prone to assumptions. Look, you aren’t going to go to hell or die without that cruddy system my friends! Take it from me, you’re going to live. And it might just be the best life you've known. You’re going to slow down, walk more. You’re going to watch sunrises and sunsets to make your heart burst. You’re going to eat clean home-grown food and feel healthy and vibrant and in your power. You’re going to discover a creativity and ingenuity you didn’t know you possessed. Heck you might even talk to your neighbours:) After that you’re going to hear the planet and see magic that will make you gasp. Your intuition will be heightened and you'll start creating magic too. There are worlds and worlds beyond the status quo, and many of them are heaven by comparison. I don’t deny initially the other door less convenient to pass through, but what in life of any value comes without effort? So for those feeling cornered now, hear it from a stubborn mud hag on a hill without hot water, a fridge, a washing machine, or a pension. This is a beautiful life. One of the best on planet Earth. I wouldn’t, nay couldn’t, live any other.
Don't be so sure that first door is going to the promised land or the other door to hell. No. Don't be so sure.
*Lest someone still thinks this is about left/right politics and all about left-leaning democrats, just pointing out that at the time of writing, Australia is possibly the most segregated place on the planet and it's governed by a right winger, the UK has Britain's answer to Donald Trump bringing in digital passports, and over in Austria which has just locked down a third of its population, we have the good old Christian Democrats.
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