Thursday, 1 March 2007

The Jigsaw


On Friday October 13th 2006, myself (Dave Wood) and Kurt Bosworth travelled to Cushendall, Northern Ireland to begin a project at the Curfew Tower in the centre of the town. It was creative, it was my birthday and it was Ireland. A damn fine combination of ingredients. And then there’s Kurt of course – great bloke who has made lots of donkeys fall over backwards with his narratives.
The two of us promised ourselves and the Hearth Project to produce a giant, double-sided jigsaw based on the locality – its people, its culture and its ambience (not ambulance). To gather some of these gleanings, we even had to force ourselves into pubs and crow bar ourselves out again (only kidding about the first bit).
What follows is a basic ‘what we did on our busman’s holiday’ from Kurt. We had a great time, little sleep and cold feet in the morning. The local youth were rowdy as promised (the current catchphrase ‘bothered?’ being hurled across the night air in rampant abandon) and the scenery and welcome were second to none. On return, it took a long time to finally pull the jigsaw together. It was a sad day to wave it off to its rightful place in the Tower. We hope who-ever uses it; enjoys it and doesn’t lose the box. That’s got the picture (and the poem) on…

Friday 13th October

Dave’s birthday. Baz takes me, Sharon and Dave to E M Airport for around 2pm. Flight not until 4.30. He drops us off quickly and takes Sharon back home. We check in and find the flight has been delayed 1½ hours. Going through depart/check in I discover I have a penknife in my coat pocket which I had completely forgotten about, Oh dear! I put it in bin, before metal detector found it. We had to take our shoes off going through security and still I bleeped. I was frisked and checked again. It may have been a belt buckle, I think he gave up in the end. We waited around and had some tea and coffee. Handed in a fiver to pay and got change for a tenner, not bad.

Boarded the plane at 5.30pm. Lovely flight, just like being on a bus; just more people and no scenery as such to look at.

Got to Belfast 6.30 – 6.45pm, picked bags up and made our way to find bus to take us to our overnight accommodation in Belfast. City Hall bus stop, the N° 20 would drop us off at the corner of Bathgate where there was a shop/off licence. It was dark by now (8 pm) A few doors down we were met by Mary who had seen us through the bay window. Dave introduced me to Mary and Charlotte, nice girls/women. Had a quick chat and went out again to get a pizza. Our room was in the converted attic, very nice. The whole house quite atmospheric and was built around 1901 I think. The room had a double bed, 2 fireplaces, 2 settees and 1 large table. We agreed Dave would sleep on settee and I on bed. We watched TV up in attic for a while whilst eating then came down and chatted to Mary & Charlotte till 12pm and went to bed. Slept no different from at home really, traffic noise dogs barking (they have 2 dogs) no different to home.

Saturday 14th October

Had cereals and packed up. Mary took us to city bus stop. Got the 10.55am bus to Ballymena and arrived at the bus station at about 12 noon. We had a bite to eat and got the 1.30pm bus to Cushendall, nice scenery, a mixture of the Lake District and Scotland. Got to Cushendall at about 3pm. We collected the keys from Hugh in the shop next door he opened the Tower for us. It’s really good. Kitchen at ground level, bathroom on the 1st floor, office/computer/study with open fire on the 2nd and a bedroom each on the 3rd and 4th floors. Don’t know what we are doing tonight Dave will have it sorted no doubt while he’s out at the library. There’s art work of all description on every level in the Tower.

Dave made pasta tonight and then we went for a walk around the streets, after which we went to the 2 pubs in town and sampled the Guinness. We went first to the Wee Room, Dave was wearing his favourite shorts and a woman took a fancy to his bare knees, stroking them, her ‘intended’ jokily took advantage of this display of affection saying he’d never had his knees stroked. It all concluded in a most humorous way, shaking hands several times and taking an unfavourable view (put on) of Dave’s sudden attraction by his bare knees fame. In the other pub next door a rather large man asked Dave if he was Protestant. He then shook both our hands and we left, it got a bit crowded. Went back to the Tower at about 11pm and had a cup of tea and went to bed.

Sunday 15th October

Going to see the sea this morning. Managed to get a signal on my mobile phone and rang home. Had a chat while walking to the beach, not many people about. Wrote in sand and walked along the other side of beach and then came back to the Tower. The time is 12.30pm and Dave is making food while I go shopping at ‘Mace’ up the road. I bought 2 postcards to send off tonight. I bought myself some chips and peas to eat back at the Tower. After lunch we had a walk around Cushendall and took photos. Later in the evening we heard a lot of banging outside and the sound of voices (like carnival noise) we took a look outside and all around the Tower there were people and cars and a bus trying to get moving. The people won, nothing moved. Cushendall had won the Hurling Championship that afternoon and the whole town seemed to be celebrating. We posted the postcards at Spar shop/Post office. We decided to go for pint of Guinness but could not get in first pub it was so full so we went to the Wee Room where we were last night. They had Martin Higgins (folk singer) in and it was very loud and cramped. Men all (nearly all) looked like builders/navvies. All good fun though. We didn’t stay too long as we had to get some more work done. Dave’s working on the computer now 10pm. I went to bed later on at about 11pm leaving Dave on computer

Monday 16th October

I think I’m coming down with a cold. Had some cornflakes for breakfast. Dave went to the press office but they were closed. He had a chat with an auctioneer who recommended he speak to the woman at veg shop for information about likely local eccentric people. Dave was hoping to find out more about Bob Hume who once owned the Tower but nothing materialised. We then went to a charity shop across from Tower and then to Harry’s, a cafĂ©/restaurant, for hot chocolate. We wandered around the town some more before going back to the Tower for some lunch. Dave spent the afternoon on the computer while I sketched and at about 6pm we went for chips etc. Chatted until around 9pm and then we both turned in. A quieter night, but I’ve definitely got a cold and didn’t sleep too well.

Tuesday 17th October

Got up at 7.30am hoping to go to Harry’s for breakfast but found he doesn’t open till 9am. Dave’s off on his trip to the Mournes today. His bus leaves at 9.55am and goes straight to Belfast where he gets another bus to take him south just over the border.
Went to Harry’s at 9am. I had chocolate and Dave had soda bread & egg. We got to the bus stop at 9.30am but Dave had to dash back to the Tower for a pee and just made it back in time for the bus at 9.55am. I went back to Tower for a cup of tea before walking to the tourist information where I had a long chat with the person working there. She told me she’d heard Bob Hume was an artist and poet. Had lunch at ‘Arthurs’ and did a little shopping at Mace. Later I went to the Celtic Craft Shop and at about 3pm I went to library to photocopy 2 rough sketches I had made. Spent the evening at the Tower in front of a nice open fire, reading and nursing my cold.

Wednesday 18th October

I slept better last night, maybe helped by of the sound of rain coming down fast. Got up at 8am and took a bath. Feeling better today so I might take a walk to the ruined church/chapel on the cliff walk near the beach. Walked along the path at the beach but must have taken a wrong turn, couldn’t see any signs anywhere. Got onto a tarmac road with houses on the cliff top and decided to retrace my steps back to the beach. I was worn out, maybe not as well as I thought and returned to the Tower at 12.30pm. Time for lunch followed by a nap. Decided to put sketches, poem etc in the big book this afternoon. Had another wander around the streets and to the river where I took lots more photos. I spent the evening in the Tower keeping warm and dosing myself with Lemsips.

Thursday 19th October

Got up 8.30 and had breakfast and went out at about 11am and had a chat with Hugh. It’s raining and dull. I was hoping to visit Cushendun while we were here but have decided against it, I still feel a bit yucky and the weather doesn’t help, I spent most of the day in the Tower sketching, writing etc. and sorted my bag ready for tomorrow’s departure. Dave got back at about 4pm looking tired and sneezing. We fetched our evening meal from the local takeaway and spent the evening discussing our stay in Ireland.

Friday 20th October

Got up early this morning, around 7.30am, had breakfast and then walked to post office and back. We caught the 11.36am to Ballymena and then on to Belfast. We arrived at 1.30pm and walked to the information centre where we left our bags for the afternoon. The afternoon was spent walking round Belfast before collecting our bags, returning to the Europa Bus Station and boarding the 5.10pm bus to the airport. We had a meal at the airport then waited to board the 9.30pm flight to the East Midlands airport. Arrived home at about 12.30am

I started to organise the jigsaw as soon as I got home and I soon realised it was going to be more involved than I at first thought. Everything had to fall into place first time, no room for error. After a couple of meetings with the jigsaw man ‘Rob Roy’ I was confident it would work out. I made my painting using watercolour pencils and felt tip pens and varnished the finished article with a solvent-based varnish. The next job was to glue the picture to an MDF board, as recommended by ‘Rob Roy’, for ease of cutting. Meanwhile Dave had been writing his poems, these were put onto computer disk and taken to a printer in Nottingham where they were enlarged and printed onto a board. So far so good! I then glued Dave’s board onto the back of the MDF, drew my design for the jigsaw shapes, in dry wipe pen, on the board. This next stage was the nerve-wracking one and while I had every confidence in ‘Rob Roy’ it was still worrying to see all our hard work going under the ‘knife’. Of course there was no need to worry he made a beautiful job of it and we were very pleased. Back home with the pieces I just had to do a little sanding and tidying around the cut edges and the jigsaw was complete. While all this was going on I had been on the look out for a box to pack and store the jigsaw in and had found one that it would fit in nicely also a bag to put the pieces in. I painted the box black and glued gold lettering and a jigsaw piece on the outside as you can see below and I also enclosed two photos of the completed puzzle for reference. Doesn’t sound too much reading it like this but all in all it took around three months to complete from our visit to Cushendall in October.

It took a lot of persuasion from family and friends to get me involved in this project. They clearly had more faith in my abilities than I did, plus I’m a reluctant traveller at the best of times. I did a lot of research before setting off for Cushendall and even thought I could do my painting here at home! How wrong could I be? Very wrong is the answer! There is no way I could have done the village and tower justice without firsthand experience and the friendly, welcoming villagers and beautiful scenery made it all worth while. And to top it all we were voted winners of the Curfew Tower Award 2007. We still can’t believe it.

Thank you Cushendall!