This blacksmithing course is rather intensive, what. For instance, on the Sunday, the guy next to me said, Were we working on making [tool X] yesterday, or on Friday? But buggered if I knew either. There were only Times You Were Working Really Hard In The Heat, and times you were sitting somewhere kinda glad you were away from it and kinda wanting to get back in and get going again. As with most things, I would have enjoyed it much more whole-heartedly if it was going well; and that’s probably something I should work on. (Within reason; who wants to do really sucky stand-up comedy that they and the audience hate, week in week out? Whoa, wait, that sounds rather like this blog, doesn’t it? Erm, moving swiftly on!)
But over the course of the last two days of, er, the course, I did have the following experiences:
– Fire-welding for the second time, woo! This time I abjectly sucked at it, alas, for this time it did not involve ‘bashing a white-hot steel sparkler as hard as possible, but tapping it tenderly. No not that tenderly. No, not that hard! Stick it back in the fire!’ etc).
– A red-hot coal shot out of the fire, past the plastic curtains and came within a milimetre of actually wedging itself inside my auditory canal. Mercifully, it bounced off the entrance instead, but it hurt like hell and I could barely scream in pain for imagining the horror of having the damn thing stuck inside my head (while burning through my eardrum, presumably). Ick.
– Later, a red-hot coal shot out of the fire and hit me under the chin, then did a triple-skip off my sternum and went down my bra. I danced and swore and laughed a lot (the latter got me a look of intense dubiousness from the gigantic but (usually) genial assistant. Or maybe it was the swearing).
– I discovered there is something I can do that the other lassie cannot – make wine! Woo! She said she wanted to be able to, however, and had already got a demijohn, so I decided that before the weekend was out I would convince her to have a go, for it is very easy and satisfying. Hell, I convinced Rice Krispies to have a go, and she seemed dead chuffed with it! So that was my new side-mission.
– I got a go on the power hammer! Woo! And indeed, damn; Peat makes that thing look so easy; it’s like a giant sewing machine, you just put your foot gently on the pedal and it thumps away while you smoothly run the red-hot metal backwards and forwards under the hammer. Or in my case, it jumps and skips like a skittish deer while you grapple with the end and try to remember not to retrieve it with your fingers when it sticks. Although I think I could be good at this given enough time (because I still think I could be good at any of this, given enough time. Ha. And there are people out there who mock me for my pessimism!)
– Having had no luck in coming up with Intelligent Topics For Conversation About Smithing and thus redeeming myself somewhat, I asked about the possibilities of running a power-hammer off a water-powered source (the hydro visit and the waterwheels, they were only last weekend! And I still cherish my – admittedly idiotic – dream of having a Bit Of Land with a cottage and a stream and a workshop where I can, erm, faff about making wine and growing things and using a power-hammer to do the stuff I can’t smith, why not, and generally being about as relevant to the modern world as the Doctrine of Signatures. Seriously, I might as well spend my life hoping to fall through a cupboard into Narnia. And not get eaten by anything on sight at the other end.) However! It was Not A Stupid Question! It turns out that despite requiring three-phase electricity, it can be done, has been done on a regular basis since the 1640’s, and it was even done by the Romans. And Peat likes this subject too, thus that day I was saved from feeling like an utter pillock. (That came later, when on the walk back to the hotel with one of the retired teachers, the conversation bombed like anything and I am unsure who bailed first, but I definitely bailed like a big machine designed for compacting hay into geometric shapes. Bah. Twice this weekend I have attempted to make conversation As I Have Seen The Others Do and it has ended in ignominy. I thought I would grow out of this.)
– I did not get all my tools finished, the hot set being the one that got away (although as I realised while failing to finish it, last time I was here, I could not use the hot set unaided, so really, what is the point (of anything I do ever, ever, ever)) – but I did get the delight of helping sledgehammer a punch I made* through a piece of tempered steel an inch thick in the attempt. Woo! And then I returned the favour to the amiable guy from the MOD and we grappled with the bastard like anything and laughed and shouted encouragement at each other and ultimately gave up and packed up, for it was Time, but that was a really nice end to the weekend. It is amazing how much adrenalin fools you into feeling a connection with someone, what!
And in conclusion: while I may not be cut out for this, well, I tried. And one day maybe I will find things I am cut out at (please god; I am running out of the obvious options).
On the plus side: nothing got skewered on the way home this time, and the Bossman came to greet me off the train again, aww, it seems so strange that the last time I did this we had barely met!