Talking statue monologue number 26: Abstraction written and read by Kelvin M. Knight. A one thousand word story inspired by the Cumbria-land theme for The Carrot: Issue 1 of New Writing Cumbria’s on-line magazine. Backing music ‘Of Sand and Stars’ curtesy of SILENTWATCHER. Artwork curtesy of Grizedale Forest, Lake District.
Putting a chisel behind my ear, I contemplate the different-coloured piles of slate I rescued from the derelict stone cottages hereabouts. Hmmm, what kind of statue do I concoct? I must make one, for our good neighbours in Northumbria have the Angel of the North guarding them and la’al us have none.
Or should I create a sculpture? I crunch two pieces of slate together and watch the emerald-tinged onyx shards tumble like unnaturally dark rain. It certainly rains a lot here. That’s why it’s called the Lake District.
I don’t know the difference between a statue and a sculpture because I haven’t performed a Fine Arts degree, or had any official training, really. I’m an enthusiastic amateur who spends more time in a dictionary than on a canvas.
Sculpture (mass noun) the art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms, especially by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster: Middle English taken from Latin sculptura, from sculpere ‘carve’.
Statue (noun) a carved or cast figure of a person or animal, especially one that is life-size or larger: Middle English taken from Old French, from Latin statua, from stare ‘to stand’.
If I stand here any longer beholding words, I’ll become a statue.
‘Ay, Mr Crow? Aye, Mrs Sheep?’
Listening to their doleful bleats, I shovel armfuls of dingy wool into a pile that seems to arc as the wind tugs at it. Clang. I carry a pair of old milking pails, each filled with black feathers, and plonk them either side of the wool. Staring eyes? The result resembles a wary face.
‘That’s it, don’t pull the pull over my eyes!’
I shall make an enormous stat-ulpture which personifies Cumbria, that embodies Cumberland. That much is clear. Clear as mud. And there certainly are rivers of mud here, due to the oceans of rainfall. Falling to my knees, I scrabble with my tools. Sheep regard me critically. Upon their backs, crows balance in ones, twos and threes.
‘Yan, tan, tethera.’ I wave my hammer and bowsaw at them. ‘Caw, mint sauce!’
And Cumbrians do love food, so much so they have their own sausage, unique in size, shape, texture and taste. Curling majestically, the spicy, juicy meat can be immersed in mashed potato, or tucked in a bed of chips, drowned in gravy, or grated cheese, or both.
‘Scrummy yummy in me tummy!’
But, when that wonder becomes staid, there’s a meat and taatie pie crowned with mushy peas. It’s enough to make the royal family green with envy.
I knuckle my growling stomach. Come on brain, stop dithering, think. Think! Appetites are excited by all the fresh air and exercise: the fell walking and tree felling; the rowing and swimming. And the harsh winters on the northern most, western most corner of England: starting with droving and ending in… in… rugby? League first, union later.
But no Rasputin, although… How do I highlight these ethereal commodities with the materials to hand? Squinting about, I tug my hair, not my forelock, such deference ceased decades ago. The forests engulfing my extended garden zoom in and out, then swirl kaleidoscopically about. Oranges and silvers, coppers and browns, then greens…
‘Of course, greenery!’
There has to be a liberal amount of trees in Mr Cumbria / Mrs Cumberland, not these newfangled evergreens, but proper old trees, proper hard trees: oaks with their stalwart hearts; ash that’s green is fit for a queen; and beeches without the sand or seashore. Now my stat-ulpture’s personality can change with the seasons.
And personalities are important, for tourism if nothing else. Tourism, it’s such a scary word, softened by the poetry of Wordsworth, then trampled by the feet of Wainwright and all his acolytes, who much as they love wandering lonely as a cow, insist on remapping Alfred’s courageous spirit. Quite right, too, for without courage…
I grab a broomstick, not a witches one, but… one shaped like a totem pole. I locate more broomsticks from around my yard, then bind them together with coils of ivy. Totem poles, yes, spirits living in the trees, one with the trees. But not fairy folk, spirits existing within the bark, not barking mad.
I see this clearly as night sees daylight: woods overflowing with shadowy faces which are upside down and inside out, and swirling, round and round, like those huge white elephants lumbering across the hills, criss-crossing our communities with love, except when it’s too windy, then the blue spark production falls to the Mother of invention. Over there, way, way over there, beyond where Ravens become glass. Greenery again, though, this time fluorescent, incandescent, pubescent.
I shall face-faint the spirits as if they’re children, using nature’s own palette. Similar to the Koshare, but not as funny as those sacred clowns. And, as if by magic, here’s one I prepared earlier. Chuckling, I mooch across the grass and stamp one foot into a sink full of berries, the other I grind into a bathtub of locally sourced charcoal. The contrasting textures, the blackness…
Unsure where this thought popped from, I pop the guard off my chainsaw and rip the starter cord like it belongs to a speedboat. Grasping the throbbing handle with both hands, I imagine slaloming after it as I’m dragged to the rear of my garden where wildness and leaning tower of Pisa trees thrive.
‘Time to thwaite-ify you!’
My chainsaw chomps through tree after tree; however, they don’t topple to the ground, they topple into each other. I lasso them with rope-like ivy. When the trees resemble a giant wigwam’s skeleton, I am clambering up their inclines and engraving faces that peek out from beneath the bindings, which jump into the bindings. Faces whose cauliflower ears swing from the branches, whose sausage-shaped lips kiss the branches, then munch them.
That’s the visualisation done. Now for the art.
Kelvin M. Knight’s short stories have been published in a magazine, an anthology and won an online competition. His first anthology, Short Stories In A Year introduces many of his short-listed efforts before he undertook an MA in Creative Writing. In 2014, he completed this journey and marked this achievement with a second short story anthology Love I Am.