Lockdown Amusements

Amazing what you’ll do to amuse yourself during lockdown.

Thing is… when (most) people get bored they start to think about taking up a hobby, and generally speaking, it corresponds to one of two categories: 1) Something that you did before, but gave it up due to circumstances; 2) Something you imagine you fancy… you see someone on the TV or internet and you think… mama-mia – l can do that!

Well, it transpired that when l was impersonating a saint, (l was visiting an orphanage), nearby was this house (unfortunately closer to a hovel) and outside was a large tree trunk. Desperate for help (financial) they offered me the opportunity to buy it. Areas of the trunk were infested, but I surmised that the majority of the trunk was in reasonable condition. Inquiring as to what they intended to do with it (if someone didn’t purchase), the consensus was that it made reasonable firewood.

You know those crazy moments, the rush of blood to the head (and heart)? Lockdown had destroyed normality, the school was closed, and also the airport. Realising that my time in Burma was going to be indefinite, a notion came upon me to resurrect this once beautiful piece of nature. It really is a bit out of my league (never carved before) but l thought… let’s buy it and think what to make of it later, so for the princely sum of £11, l purchased a 54cm wide x 520 cm long trunk. As it included delivery (l’m a hard bargainer), l graciously condescended to allow them to cut the trunk in half. I couldn’t allow myself to be responsible for that family (including kids) dragging that dead weight about 1,000 yards… 🙂

So here I was, at a dead-end due to lockdown, and a tree trunk: a marriage made in heaven.

But problems arose (don’t they always?) When I had the chance to study the items more carefully, in particular the type of wood, it shocked me to discover how hard this ‘hardwood’ really is. This beloved creature of mine is known as a ’rain’ tree here in Myanmar, but according to my research also known as the ‘monkey-pod’ tree. As the wood is so ****** difficult to cut l guess the name is fitting… they made a monkey out of me- or rather l made a monkey out of myself.

However, perseverance is the ability to take a sucker punch… and so it proved.

I bought myself some cheap chisels (another story, suffice to say they were Chinese crap), and a hammer. Realising how inefficient this method is, I managed to buy a home-made axe and commenced scraping off the bark, and eliminating woodworms. What a majestic tool the axe turned out to be. With a lot of practice, and hours of patience, it really can be used in a dexterous manner.

Next came a two-handed saw; many hours of sweat and swear words followed, for it is a bastard of a tool to operate. Weeks later, and numerous coats of polyurethane, both my carvings were finished. While I am relatively happy with the results, it has tested my perseverance to its limits.

May l humbly suggest that if you’re going stir-crazy, take it out on a piece of wood… with determination (and a lack of other things to do), you never know what you’ll end up with and surprise yourself!

In the beginning…

The work in progress

And in the end…

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