Sunday, 7 February 2010

I Want To Live In An Oarhouse

At school, once a year, we had this thing called ‘Project Week’. Mixed groups of pupils (accompanied by a couple of teachers) would go off Youth Hosteling or camping, always in beautiful places like The Lake District, Wales, and Devon. We camped inland, we camped next to the sea; but it never made a blind bit difference: the girls, in their sleeping bags, always looked like mermaids. But they didn’t taste like mermaids (which I imagine to taste of the sea: fishy). 
One dark night a couple of us (boys) were crawling – literally, on all fours – around the girls’ tents when I knelt on something sharp. I felt my knee: it was wet. I thought I’d cut myself on a tent peg (an occupational hazard). I licked my hand: tasted blood. To better assess the damage I stuck a match. I hadn’t cut myself; I’d knelt on a used-tampon jammed into to opening of a flattened Coke can - thrust-out-from-under-a-tent.
I was recently reminded of this cautionary tale - a tale of poor taste (paw-tasting tale? Pour tasting tail, even) - when I found myself on all fours, tracing oars... tracing oars on rolls of wallpaper: I want to live in an Oarhouse. When I’ve finished decorating, the sitting room will look it’s been papered by something from the Laura Ashley Broadmoor Range… and my oars (like my home) will be open to contradiction: “Ooh, those oars are so well hung”. 
And I’m not having any paintings or photographs on the wall. No. I’m going to go out and get me lots of short, bright coloured skirts, and dress the oars - long-legged oars in short skirts. I’m going to paper the sitting room, hall, kitchen, and, of course, the bedroom. But if you have a children’s bedroom (I don’t) - and feel life-size oars might be ‘a bit much’ – you could consider scaling the oars down to the size of a Barbie doll’s legs and printing them on background of jolly coloured wallpaper. The short skirts might be inappropriate in the children’s room though. You could try painting slightly see-through sleeping bags over the junior oars: use watercolour to achieve the transparent paint-wash effect, and again, use vivid colours; watercolour sleeping bags are also in keeping with the overall mermaidness of the project, and after all, sleeping bags are appropriate to The Bedroom. But beware: condoms are also associated with The Bedroom, and a certain slippage (seepage?) can take place during the painting or drawing of a mummy-shaped sleeping bag: it can accidentally come out like a condom (an easy mistake to make; times, I've seen it done). And I’ve tried a condom on a Barbie doll - she looked as mermaid-like as any fully-grown woman in a sleeping bag does. So be warned! You don’t want your children waking-up to the sight of a room full of oars wearing condoms.
Finally, whilst I was tracing all those oars, I composed a poem: a bedtime poem.

If jellyfish swallowed goldfish whole,
You’d have a natural goldfish bowls.
But if mermaids swam out of their sleeping bags,
Like crocodiles burst out of eggs,
Wouldn’t mermaids walk on oars, instead of legs?
For more ideas about ‘useful things you can do with oars’, see my piece: “The Floating Photographer and the Mermaid’s Oars”, in Glen Jamieson’s superb new book: “Suspicions of a Peninsular Town”, YH485 Press, 2009.   
The oars and the photographs (of me) belong to Lucinda Wells, who also owns a sleeping bag and lives by the sea. Beyond that, there’s no connection.

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