Step Two – Actually, maybe Half the Battle is Half the Battle
So. Fire. Scared of. Moron, for forgetting of.
Just fake it, I thought, it will all be okay! Nobody noticed you were terrified when you had to suddenly learn to swing fire clubs for that Imbolc fire festival thing. Nobody noticed you were terrified at the top of Etna, right? (Well, they had their suspicions but could not prove anything, phew, I’d signed that form saying ‘I swear I am not scared of heights’.) Nobody… okay, everybody noticed you were terrified on the log ride at Alton Towers (curses, stupid cameras everywhere). This may all yet work out!
[‘internet’, ‘wittering about on’ – Ed].
First off, getting me anvil turned round, for I had said over email, ‘I am a southpaw, does this make a difference’, and they said, ‘why yes, ten points to Hufflepuff for thinking to say so’ – and then forgot. These things happen.
Second off: pain in my shoulder still at fairly unbearable levels. And I have to swing a big metal hammer all day, ho hum.
Still, things started out pretty rapidly. All eight of us turned up, and I was Not Last which is important because I didn’t Hold Things Up and get tsked at. Which is especially important because it turned out I was the only chick, and we all know how that works out when you fuck up. We got into goggles and leather aprons (so much less erotic than it sounds), shown how to turn up the heat, given a metal pole and off we went. Forty-five minutes to create a rat-tail poker!
And I did not bad, I thought! I am so going to enjoy this course, I thought. Check me out, I can already fuel the fire, bend metal, draw it out and make it into a point, I thought!
For the course is designed to cover all the basic blacksmithing techniques, and send you home with three items wot You Made Yourself. Out of only very basic metal shapes, and everything!
Then we had the business end of the hanging basket bracket to contend with. Which went great until I discovered I didn’t have the right-size things to bend it round, at which point I lost confidence and things started getting difficult. (Possibly, this could have been avoided had I had the guts to holler, ‘Yo, this thing is the wrong size!’ at the gigantic guy who was assisting in teaching us, but since I was all ‘for godsake don’t be a problem, you’re being an ambassador for your whole flippin’ gender here (again)’, I didn’t like to. Instead, I stood around and waited, and wilted, and became abashed and the whole day instantly capsized.) Mood: it can affect your surroundings!
So I got worse and worse at everything all afternoon, culminating in a chronic inability to do a hot set to make the bracket base. This is a very simple process, in theory; you carefully mark a line down the centre of a piece of metal, stick it in the fire with the tongs, haul it back out when it is a glowing cherry colour, set a large chisel on it and whap it with a three-pound hammer until it cools back to black (warning, it will still take your fingers off if you touch it), reheat, and repeat till you’ve carved it in half.
Could I get up the strength to do this? No. The pain in my shoulder was actually easing off all day, thanks to constant movement and the heat, which was like, um, a furnace, even, but I was getting tired, and ashamed, and hammering random objects all around me and it was only a matter of time before I got my own fingers, so I had to change down a size and still couldn’t manage the damn thing. It was the most frustrating thing I’ve had to do since I had Dr Hurricane and Newbie at work all up in my grill at the same time and both completely ignoring everything I said as they ranted contradictory things at me while I was having a really bad day anyway and trying to answer the phone; and I probably looked like I was having a tantrum. (There is a fine line between, ‘trying really really hard and not giving up but it’s just not happening and you’re crap,’ and ‘having an Actual tantrum’. Honest. I hope.) Anyway, by that point, I was trying not to cry [and nobody would still know about that if you hadn’t written it just there, you moron- Ed].
The gigantic assistant turned out to be very kind and helpful, which is the one thing I don’t need when I’m trying not to be all tears and snotters at the age of thirty-six OH GOD THE SHAME because it pushes me right over the edge. He decided I was not having a tantrum, just using too big a hammer, or at least he said so, and I did my best to be very, very meek and make it clear that I wasn’t having a strop (please god, let this not be me having a strop). And then he did it for me. My shame, it is complete.
Well at that point I bottomed out and things took an upswing just before the end, which was something. And I staggered out into the beautiful, blazing sunshine (of course, I paid a lot of money to spend all day in the dark, indoors, in the only heatwave of the summer. In a big jumper) and the four-miles-anna-train back to the hotel. Holy baby jesus, was I tired. And dehydrated.
But there was an Asda on the way home, so I could pick up supplies, and giant, ripe blackberries along the edge of the dual carriageway which I hadn’t seen in the gloaming the night before. Exhaust fumes be damned, I ate them all. And then wailed all over the poor Manager, who came out and chain-smoked with me and sympathised and told me all about her family. And then I went to shower before I seized up completely and collapsed, haha, so much for my plan to spend my evenings studying. Holy Hell, I have bitten off more than I can chew with this course. I wonder if I dare go back tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don’t dare not go either – I can’t afford to change the train ticket home, so I might as well suck it up and just treat it as some sort of horrible endurance test I can brag about later.
(Note to self, don’t mention the tears and snotters part.