Understanding Place, History and Soil
Where do you come from? Where is home and where do you feel most alive? What places have shaped your growing, your choices and held the ups and downs of your journey?
Do we really know where we live and what has shaped the soil, its history and buildings? These are some of the questions that this book has helped me to look at in a different light. They are ( I think ) my musings and certainly not the central heart of these ten carefully sculptured chapters divided into four parts ( Sarsen, Limestone, Marble and Concrete). It is the story of the authors 30-year journey through life as a stonemason condensed into the course of one year.
The scope of the work is ambitious – the building of Britain: part archaeological history, part personal biography as the stonemason allows us into the craft of shaping, restoring, building and creating space and place. It is an insiders view with some of the vocabulary that requires careful attention. Neolithic monuments., Roman baths, the spire of Salisbury Cathedral move into the mills and aqueducts of the Industrial revolution. There is an intimacy and knowledge captured on each page that draws the reader in and on.
Ziminski liberates the book from too much distraction from the text but gathers a number of linocuts at the start of the chapters were produced by Clare Venables. Attention to detail and love of the journey of learning characterise the volume – the author even carves the cover !
The author is earthed in the practicalities of his art – in an interview he comments:
‘When restoring or conserving historic structures, my main concern is to discover why a building has started to fail. Then it’s a case of cutting out and replacing anything that’s decaying, while maintaining as much of the original fabric as possible. You could say that stonemasonry is basically a case of large-scale dentistry. But it’s not just about cutting and fixing stones. One of the most fascinating aspects of my job is observing the different environment, landscape and cast of characters that every single building comes with.’
It is this careful eye that is so enriching. These chapters have been transformative and enticing – a book that I shall certainly read again. Now I must visit Stonehenge, Sherborne Abbey and look at Salisbury Cathedral spire with different eyes.