How to Build a Tree House for a Writer

Dorset is a beautiful part of the world. Last week, while the temperature in London crept slovenly higher, a thick and cool fog floated in from the English Channel and swallowed up an oak forest at Hooke Park by the sea where two architects, Nozomi Nakabayashi and Elizabeth Cunningham, are building a tree house for a writer. Inhibited vision and a heightened smell of the woodland indulged the sense that Dorset exists on another plane entirely to the one left behind on the train.

The tree house in question will be suspended from the branch of an oak tree five feet up on a slanted hill over-looking a field filled with deer, and a pond that the writer has built on his land. These two views are precious to him. In a tree house, suspended from the branch of an old oak tree, he will be able to lie flat on his back, as in a bath, he says, and gather inspiration - not to write, but to think. ‘The building is a metaphor for how their life is’ says Nakabayashi. It will be built using techniques learned in the forest at Hooke Park, a place visited often by the writer and where his son has learned similar techniques. Materials used will cause little harm: Douglas Fir from Dorset for the structure and cork and denim for insulation. The tree house is a mixture of poetry and pragmatism. ‘I’m not so worried about safety; I want something epic. I don’t mind being up there clenching my buttocks’ said the writer and so, hanging from the branch of an old oak tree, on a hill where the ground feels like it is falling away, it is epic and quiet and still. At the base of the tree house is a covered perch where the writer’s dog can come to rest, marking the realisation of the project’s most important feature.

 

 

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When David Cantan first met Jack Quilligan in 2006 through a mutual friend, through a mutual city, through a mutual negotiation of heart-on-sleeve the two began recording as The Dying Seconds in a suburban bedroom. Joined in time by mutual friends, in a mutual city The Dying Seconds out-grew four walls, recording instead in a hillside cottage over looking the sea, in an abandoned factory, amongst the echoes of a church, trying to figure out how you replicate courage and optimism, the fragmentary highs and lows of loves lost and found, in the immense particulars of acoustic space.

With the ghosts of previous musical ventures present like a spectral force in their music and by placing aside an indie-band’s earnest reliance on guitars and bass, with all the beautiful innocence and grafting and youthful wide-eyed wonder that entails, The Dying Seconds grew-up. Presented in their 2007 eponymously titled debut album as a stripped-back duo devoted to the computer-grid-sequencer, two obedient engineers playing with mechanical hearts they discovered, however, that music is nothing if it hasn’t got a soul, and technology is an enabling loneliness. In time, bolstered by the recruitment of new hearts they produced the wholly improvised ‘Let’s Not Say Things We Can’t Take Back’ both a dramatic new departure for the band, and a rite of passage in the development of trust and assurance in group sound.

Glimmerers is a love-story in three acts and like most love stories it is euphoria informed by melancholy. Buoyed by human beings, electronic sketches were transposed to the rhythm of the human hand. Far more attention was paid to process, songs were torn down and rebuilt with ruthless vigour. The resulting depth of luscious sound points to no small creative debt to musical influences like Efterklang, The National and Bat for Lashes whose music without exception captures the essence of wants and aches. Moulded by the present six members of the band, gathered over time and place, each new personality presenting another battle to an album that wanted to be challenged and stronger and bigger than its collective force be that either beautiful or vulnerable, in the providence of music that was forged between the mountains and the sea.

Hailed by The National’s Aaron Dessner as ‘the ferocious coming out of a great new band, a stunningly beautiful and ambitious debut album’ The Dying Seconds take to the road after an 18 month break dedicated to writing and recording, taking with them an album which is as tender as it is fierce, as technically ambitious as it is gentle and kind.

The Dying Seconds are; David Cantan, Jack Quilligan, Gary Donald, Charlie Keegan, Naomi Moriarity and Mark Rooney.

When David Cantan first met Jack Quilligan in 2006 through a mutual friend, through a mutual city, through a mutual negotiation of heart-on-sleeve the two began recording as The Dying Seconds in a suburban bedroom. Joined in time by mutual friends, in a mutual city The Dying Seconds out-grew four walls, recording instead in a hillside cottage over looking the sea, in an abandoned factory, amongst the echoes of a church, trying to figure out how you replicate courage and optimism, the fragmentary highs and lows of loves lost and found, in the immense particulars of acoustic space.

With the ghosts of previous musical ventures present like a spectral force in their music and by placing aside an indie-band’s earnest reliance on guitars and bass, with all the beautiful innocence and grafting and youthful wide-eyed wonder that entails, The Dying Seconds grew-up. Presented in their 2007 eponymously titled debut album as a stripped-back duo devoted to the computer-grid-sequencer, two obedient engineers playing with mechanical hearts they discovered, however, that music is nothing if it hasn’t got a soul, and technology is an enabling loneliness. In time, bolstered by the recruitment of new hearts they produced the wholly improvised ‘Let’s Not Say Things We Can’t Take Back’ both a dramatic new departure for the band, and a rite of passage in the development of trust and assurance in group sound.

Glimmerers is a love-story in three acts and like most love stories it is euphoria informed by melancholy. Buoyed by human beings, electronic sketches were transposed to the rhythm of the human hand. Far more attention was paid to process, songs were torn down and rebuilt with ruthless vigour. The resulting depth of luscious sound points to no small creative debt to musical influences like Efterklang, The National and Bat for Lashes whose music without exception captures the essence of wants and aches. Moulded by the present six members of the band, gathered over time and place, each new personality presenting another battle to an album that wanted to be challenged and stronger and bigger than its collective force be that either beautiful or vulnerable, in the providence of music that was forged between the mountains and the sea.

Hailed by The National’s Aaron Dessner as ‘the ferocious coming out of a great new band, a stunningly beautiful and ambitious debut album’ The Dying Seconds take to the road after an 18 month break dedicated to writing and recording, taking with them an album which is as tender as it is fierce, as technically ambitious as it is gentle and kind.

The Dying Seconds are; David Cantan, Jack Quilligan, Gary Donald, Charlie Keegan, Naomi Moriarity and Mark Rooney.

I have a two-fold memory of a war I never experienced. As a child I read Going Solo for the first time in which Roald Dahl writes of his excitement at joining the RAF,  addictively describing the magic and privilege at learning to fly, swooping down over the African planes to follow herds of exotic animals chart their way home. When I was older I discovered Over to You; Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying, heartbreaking in the minutiae and loss of his war effort. Haunted on every page with the ghosts of people he had found and lost; of people screaming at the sky in disbelief. 
 
The Imperial War Museum was opened in 1917 as a manner of attempting to record what happened during the Great War; to gather and immortalise, lest we forget. Initally focussing solely on Britain at war, in its current guise it holds a comprehensive record of what happens at war, internationally.The concept of how we present and display war  however, faced immediate difficulty in a dialogue between a civilian population who sought to display it in its most abstract form, as emotion, as story telling, and the service men who returned knowing that science and technology were the only narrative to be told with any accuracy. And so we piece together all manner of atrocity, guessing the trauma inflicted from the mechines that hang from the roof, and the tanks that play host to hundreds of scrambling children every day. The main exhibition hall at the museum is two-fold in a similar way to Dahl’s . At once clinical both in its labelling and its presentation like the almost detached tales in Going Solo, yet potent with the manifold memories of the people who chose to spend time there. The main exhibition hall at the Imperial War Museum looks almost like a playground until as Bachelard describes in the Poetics of Space we  add to it the ‘consciousness of our existence’.[1]
 
Housed on the sight of Bedlam, the name given to Bethlem Royal Hospital one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in the world, and subject to notorious stories of inhumane treatment, of ‘unfortunates’ chained to the walls for public viewing, the building’s background lends an extra dimension to Lambeth Road’s present incarnation as a site already charged with public meaning. Apt in many ways to the tales that gather in the museum’s abundant archive, it almost lends a voodoo quality to the story, a cruel fable created in Roald Dahl’s imagination. 
[1] Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994.

I have a two-fold memory of a war I never experienced. As a child I read Going Solo for the first time in which Roald Dahl writes of his excitement at joining the RAF,  addictively describing the magic and privilege at learning to fly, swooping down over the African planes to follow herds of exotic animals chart their way home. When I was older I discovered Over to You; Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying, heartbreaking in the minutiae and loss of his war effort. Haunted on every page with the ghosts of people he had found and lost; of people screaming at the sky in disbelief.

 

The Imperial War Museum was opened in 1917 as a manner of attempting to record what happened during the Great War; to gather and immortalise, lest we forget. Initally focussing solely on Britain at war, in its current guise it holds a comprehensive record of what happens at war, internationally.The concept of how we present and display war  however, faced immediate difficulty in a dialogue between a civilian population who sought to display it in its most abstract form, as emotion, as story telling, and the service men who returned knowing that science and technology were the only narrative to be told with any accuracy. And so we piece together all manner of atrocity, guessing the trauma inflicted from the mechines that hang from the roof, and the tanks that play host to hundreds of scrambling children every day. The main exhibition hall at the museum is two-fold in a similar way to Dahl’s . At once clinical both in its labelling and its presentation like the almost detached tales in Going Solo, yet potent with the manifold memories of the people who chose to spend time there. The main exhibition hall at the Imperial War Museum looks almost like a playground until as Bachelard describes in the Poetics of Space we  add to it the ‘consciousness of our existence’.[1]

 

Housed on the sight of Bedlam, the name given to Bethlem Royal Hospital one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in the world, and subject to notorious stories of inhumane treatment, of ‘unfortunates’ chained to the walls for public viewing, the building’s background lends an extra dimension to Lambeth Road’s present incarnation as a site already charged with public meaning. Apt in many ways to the tales that gather in the museum’s abundant archive, it almost lends a voodoo quality to the story, a cruel fable created in Roald Dahl’s imagination.


[1] Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994.

It is a strange thing to travel alone. There are moments remembered, absorbed by the lonely viewer that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. In January two years ago I travelled to Poland by myself and spent a month alone in the frozen and still depth of winter. These are some of the things I remember; memories that were presented in the small, singular channel watched by the lone traveller who has been left undisturbed to revel in the indulgence of an unexplained fascination. When there is no-one but you to tell these stories, you become watchful: the single witness for the purpose of regaling others, or not, with the tiny and the unremarkable and the mammoth and beautiful. In Krakow, where I began my trip, the temperature regularly falls below -10 and so in my mind’s eye, that time remains ossified; caught off-guard and immoveable in unexpected time: static until the temperature will suddenly change and the city comes to life again. But until then these snapshots are fixed, like frames from a much longer film. They begin on Ulica Józefa in the Jewish district of Kazimierz.At number 34 on the street is the Secret Apartment. It is an old synagogue and I was its sole occupant. Alone in this eerie space, every night I lay in bed and listened to its noises-listening to the building expand and retract- and to the noises on the street.: A cellar bar that played loud music until late and then the shuffling of footsteps as people made their way home on the salt-lined street beneath my window. The Vistula River snakes through the city and runs north to the Baltic Sea, vast and important. In January when the air is so cold it stifles your breath and forms ice at any point moisture is to be found, teardrops, nose, blinking eyes - the river freezes over. A lone cyclist braves its river bank, and I alone watch him from the bridge. On the way back from the river, I cross the tram tracks for the first time and see a group of Cameldolite monks travel down the hill from the Wawel, the friction of speed at which they travel gently lifts the heavy, brown material of their cloaks. On Ulica Izaaka there is a bar called the Singer Bar, where behind a thick velvet curtain people sit by fires hiding from the cold, drinking warm cider and red wine in a protective capsule from a physical reality outside that once made me faint. Here I sat and read, occasionally listening to the Polish techno favoured by by the bar staff, but sometimes in almost perfect silence, and planned my route. In a churchyard across a garden almost impassable for snow, there is a Christmas tree. Bright, plastic lights balance on the edge of its branches as it leans against an empty crib. Against the grey of the church building, against the background of icicles that threaten to fall  at any moment, the tree stands out for some distance. Its pink, orange and yellow bawbles are a reminder of how exiting December must have been, redundant now to face a January without them. I ate fish, potatoes and pickled cabbage in an old-fashioned restaurant that was wedged between a sushi restaurant and an off-licence, and read my book. I was served by a man who could have been a ghost. To Auschwitz - impossible to describe, but I am grateful that I went. I remember lines and lines of photographs along a corridor - a single pink, plastic rose peeking out from behind one. A gasp, and a tear. Przykro mi. I nie mów polskiego printed on a piece of paper and directions of where I wanted to go, I took a tram to the train station, weaving across grand squares and shopping centres; weaving between a then and a now. The station stands beside a generic commercial court yard, all fountains and H&M signs. Stepping inside the station is to leave this familiarity behind and move away from the saccharine reminders that this could be anywhere and to step into Poland. Behind an old, thick-glass barrier, between a teller and a gesturing traveller a silent request was waged and an exchange agreed- 30PLN for a clutch of train tickets that I still possess. The next day I shared a carriage with four strangers and travelled 252km to Warsaw, as if chasing a storm, the weather continued to diminish. Friendly, broken conversation gave way once we left the city and entered the hypnotic glare of a pure white countryside, enabled into a trance by the rhythmic lull of wheels on track.  Like Narnia, white, grey and navy broken only hedgerows and stone walls we continue when at once the light suddenly changed and we entered the incredible hold of the petrified forest. Here, a darkness broken by sunshine allowed through the gaps in the forest wall, giant statues hovered far above the train; an entire forest preserved by ice for winter. Warsaw Central station is an imposing, desperately grey and sad building. I take a tram that goes in a straight line up and down the main street. I cannot use the ticket machine and a stranger gives me his ticket. I cannot lift my heavy suitcase up the concrete stairwell; a stranger, speechless, picks it up and carries it for me. I make my way to my flat sixteen stories up in a building the type of which I will see replicated for miles and miles into the distance. Inside, pipes clank, pumping boiling water through the building. Outside, Warsaw twinkles, reflected against snowflakes that fall silently through the sky. Opposite is the National Museum. War planes retire to its grounds and these planes, obscured only by the tram as it passes by is my view, visible through a freezing fog. There is a marble bench on the side of the street, partially covered by icey slush. Engraved is a map of Warsaw and a button. The bench will gently play Chopin’s Minute Waltz against the background noise of a busy street. I will remember this forever. The Old Town, completely rebuilt after the war, stands like a stage set built from cardboard on the cusp of the city centre. I climb to the top of a church steeple to see a Coca-cola sign blinking off in the distance. At the centre of the main inter-section is a giant Palm Tree, a gift from an Israeli artist. It seems completely at odds with its surroundings. On either side of it, the streets are desolate. Warsaw is an abandoned city in hibernation. I fall in the snow and break my shoe. A lady is cleaning the building and she lends me her shoes. I step out onto Nowy Świat Street. Leaning against a wall to catch my breath, the frozen air, caught in my lungs.

It is a strange thing to travel alone. There are moments remembered, absorbed by the lonely viewer that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. In January two years ago I travelled to Poland by myself and spent a month alone in the frozen and still depth of winter. These are some of the things I remember; memories that were presented in the small, singular channel watched by the lone traveller who has been left undisturbed to revel in the indulgence of an unexplained fascination. When there is no-one but you to tell these stories, you become watchful: the single witness for the purpose of regaling others, or not, with the tiny and the unremarkable and the mammoth and beautiful.

In Krakow, where I began my trip, the temperature regularly falls below -10 and so in my mind’s eye, that time remains ossified; caught off-guard and immoveable in unexpected time: static until the temperature will suddenly change and the city comes to life again. But until then these snapshots are fixed, like frames from a much longer film. They begin on Ulica Józefa in the Jewish district of Kazimierz.

At number 34 on the street is the Secret Apartment. It is an old synagogue and I was its sole occupant. Alone in this eerie space, every night I lay in bed and listened to its noises-listening to the building expand and retract- and to the noises on the street.: A cellar bar that played loud music until late and then the shuffling of footsteps as people made their way home on the salt-lined street beneath my window.

The Vistula River snakes through the city and runs north to the Baltic Sea, vast and important. In January when the air is so cold it stifles your breath and forms ice at any point moisture is to be found, teardrops, nose, blinking eyes - the river freezes over. A lone cyclist braves its river bank, and I alone watch him from the bridge. On the way back from the river, I cross the tram tracks for the first time and see a group of Cameldolite monks travel down the hill from the Wawel, the friction of speed at which they travel gently lifts the heavy, brown material of their cloaks.

On Ulica Izaaka there is a bar called the Singer Bar, where behind a thick velvet curtain people sit by fires hiding from the cold, drinking warm cider and red wine in a protective capsule from a physical reality outside that once made me faint. Here I sat and read, occasionally listening to the Polish techno favoured by by the bar staff, but sometimes in almost perfect silence, and planned my route.

In a churchyard across a garden almost impassable for snow, there is a Christmas tree. Bright, plastic lights balance on the edge of its branches as it leans against an empty crib. Against the grey of the church building, against the background of icicles that threaten to fall  at any moment, the tree stands out for some distance. Its pink, orange and yellow bawbles are a reminder of how exiting December must have been, redundant now to face a January without them.

I ate fish, potatoes and pickled cabbage in an old-fashioned restaurant that was wedged between a sushi restaurant and an off-licence, and read my book. I was served by a man who could have been a ghost.

To Auschwitz - impossible to describe, but I am grateful that I went. I remember lines and lines of photographs along a corridor - a single pink, plastic rose peeking out from behind one. A gasp, and a tear.

Przykro mi. I nie mów polskiego printed on a piece of paper and directions of where I wanted to go, I took a tram to the train station, weaving across grand squares and shopping centres; weaving between a then and a now. The station stands beside a generic commercial court yard, all fountains and H&M signs. Stepping inside the station is to leave this familiarity behind and move away from the saccharine reminders that this could be anywhere and to step into Poland. Behind an old, thick-glass barrier, between a teller and a gesturing traveller a silent request was waged and an exchange agreed- 30PLN for a clutch of train tickets that I still possess. The next day I shared a carriage with four strangers and travelled 252km to Warsaw, as if chasing a storm, the weather continued to diminish. Friendly, broken conversation gave way once we left the city and entered the hypnotic glare of a pure white countryside, enabled into a trance by the rhythmic lull of wheels on track.  Like Narnia, white, grey and navy broken only hedgerows and stone walls we continue when at once the light suddenly changed and we entered the incredible hold of the petrified forest. Here, a darkness broken by sunshine allowed through the gaps in the forest wall, giant statues hovered far above the train; an entire forest preserved by ice for winter.

Warsaw Central station is an imposing, desperately grey and sad building. I take a tram that goes in a straight line up and down the main street. I cannot use the ticket machine and a stranger gives me his ticket. I cannot lift my heavy suitcase up the concrete stairwell; a stranger, speechless, picks it up and carries it for me. I make my way to my flat sixteen stories up in a building the type of which I will see replicated for miles and miles into the distance. Inside, pipes clank, pumping boiling water through the building. Outside, Warsaw twinkles, reflected against snowflakes that fall silently through the sky.

Opposite is the National Museum. War planes retire to its grounds and these planes, obscured only by the tram as it passes by is my view, visible through a freezing fog.

There is a marble bench on the side of the street, partially covered by icey slush. Engraved is a map of Warsaw and a button. The bench will gently play Chopin’s Minute Waltz against the background noise of a busy street. I will remember this forever.

The Old Town, completely rebuilt after the war, stands like a stage set built from cardboard on the cusp of the city centre. I climb to the top of a church steeple to see a Coca-cola sign blinking off in the distance. At the centre of the main inter-section is a giant Palm Tree, a gift from an Israeli artist. It seems completely at odds with its surroundings. On either side of it, the streets are desolate. Warsaw is an abandoned city in hibernation.

I fall in the snow and break my shoe. A lady is cleaning the building and she lends me her shoes. I step out onto Nowy Świat Street. Leaning against a wall to catch my breath, the frozen air, caught in my lungs.

In some plays the music I chose was in part a gesture to people I loved. For example, I used Tom Moore’s Oft in the Stilly Night in two plays because sixty years ago my father taught that song to his school choir that I was in and we won a cup at the Omagh Fels and he was inordinately proud of us – and of himself. And for months afterwards he would line us up and start us off singing that Moore song. Then he would leave the classroom and cross the school yard and go to the far side of the country road and just stand there - listening to us singing in harmony in the distance. And although I couldn’t see him standing there, I knew that we transported him. And I imagine that that may have been my earliest intimation of the power of music to move an audience.  -Brian Friel-

I’m glad to see you back, I thought you were gone foreverSamuel Beckett has given us a great many things. A framework to cope with desolation; a language to contain loneliness; beautiful, endless sentences that speak of the spellbinding state of confusion and existential crisis that exists when logic fails. A reminder that in our powerlessness and sense of nowhere there is the strength of human endeavour and infinite human emotion that is at once tragic and gracious. Somewhere in the space created by this lack of certainty and paradoxical knowledge that we could be great is our decision; 'I can't go on, I'll go on' a statement of determination or resignation, filled equally with sadness and promise, equal parts courage and fear. I see nothing, there’s no lack of voidClare Henderson’s work continues to be informed by a quest to find where the soul lies. It is a difficult quest, without the benefit of science or the guidance of religious belief, relying instead on what is to be found in the primal motives of grief and kindness and nurture; In the comfort she finds in unsophisticated invention and in the reassurance found in unbridled concern.I’ll carry you, if necessaryIt is easy to see how the works of Beckett, like Paul Auster and Buster Keaton would have such a profound effect on such a quest, too. United by a sense of beauty in the damned, in the solid structure of the human soul in a seemingly uncontrollable reality, that despite of our individual sense of fragility, we all leave our mark; be it in shadow, or lingering voice, we, like Vladimir and Estragon, do not move.  

I’m glad to see you back, I thought you were gone forever

Samuel Beckett has given us a great many things. A framework to cope with desolation; a language to contain loneliness; beautiful, endless sentences that speak of the spellbinding state of confusion and existential crisis that exists when logic fails. A reminder that in our powerlessness and sense of nowhere there is the strength of human endeavour and infinite human emotion that is at once tragic and gracious. Somewhere in the space created by this lack of certainty and paradoxical knowledge that we could be great is our decision; 'I can't go on, I'll go on' a statement of determination or resignation, filled equally with sadness and promise, equal parts courage and fear.

I see nothing, there’s no lack of void

Clare Henderson’s work continues to be informed by a quest to find where the soul lies. It is a difficult quest, without the benefit of science or the guidance of religious belief, relying instead on what is to be found in the primal motives of grief and kindness and nurture; In the comfort she finds in unsophisticated invention and in the reassurance found in unbridled concern.

I’ll carry you, if necessary

It is easy to see how the works of Beckett, like Paul Auster and Buster Keaton would have such a profound effect on such a quest, too. United by a sense of beauty in the damned, in the solid structure of the human soul in a seemingly uncontrollable reality, that despite of our individual sense of fragility, we all leave our mark; be it in shadow, or lingering voice, we, like Vladimir and Estragon, do not move.