Drystone Walls, Lego and Foundationial Principles

Dry stone wall building in South Wales
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Once in a previous life I built drystone walls and trail. It is satisfying work. Simon Lapington, a friend with whom I used to work titled an anthology of his poems “the Legend of True Labour“, and this resonates with me. The thing is that now when I walk past a garden wall or stone house cladding then I am drawn to a quick analysis. Form does indeed follow function and if a structure has true strength; as in the Menai Bridge from the last post, then it is is aesthetically pleasing. What I find is that I baulk at a lot of the stonework that I see, I am sorry but it is plain offensive. I was always taught that there is a simple rule when walling. One on two, two on one. When I see a straight line travelling through a wall I want to scream. Any child who has spent sufficient time with Lego knows that if blocks do not overlap then the structure is weak.

The thing that irks me is that people are paying good money for “professionals” to this kind of work. The other thing that makes me sad is that it is simply remedied. My apprenticeship with stone was served with large mentors who took no nonsense. It did not take me long to create the simple practice of laying one rock so that it sat on two others and making sure that it was tied down by having two rocks lie on it.

What I now realize is that this phenomena is rife in education as well. In our ever increasing need to train complex situations we are not training young people in the simple, yet foundational behaviors and skills that they need to do work successfully and efficiently. My mentors did not allow me to move forward untill I had the basics down. We are in such a hurry to reach high performance we often sabotage it.

So what are you going to do to make sure that you have the basics covered?


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Growing up “social”: Misdemeanors in a small world

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I am so glad that I grew up before computer screens lit up the faces of young people. Needing a scalpel to be removed from a gameboy was not an available affliction to folk of my age and I shudder to think what my life would have been like. Can you imagine every mood of your adolescent years being the focus of attention on Facebook? I am particularly glad that peers could not point a phone at my misdemeanors and immediately record them to you tube.

Good fortune has provided me with a number of vibrant and youthful “friends” on Facebook and seeing their antics broadcast on the web causes me to smile and also ponder how things might have been different. I am certainly glad of having few witnesses to a number of my “social experiments” and explorations into finding out what it is to be human and truly alive.

At college I was also lucky in that I had great friends who through adventure sports knew what it was to be truly focused; they had glints in their eyes borne from pushing boundaries. While some might see this needle sharp concentration as selfish and disruptive it was the essence of young people who were on a journey of finding themselves. Many went on to become stalwarts of the community and their skills were developed through “play”. The thing is that most of this behavior was best unheard of and even better unseen.

So here is a quick story that I am willing to share. As a student I lived by a body of water called the Menai Straits and from our dorm rooms we could see the island of Anglesey. Spanning this briny channel is an incredibly beautiful bridge suspended from chains more than a hundred feet above the water. Built by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826 it is an incredible example of aesthetics and how there is an extreme elegance in sound engineering.

We often used to cross over to the town of Menai Bridge which had a good collection of pubs and after dark it was not unheard of for us to return over the top of the chains. The view from the eerie at the apex on the towers is amazing and the feeling of freedom provided by the airy journey is (was) quite sublime.

One evening we had gone out in fancy dress and elected to return by the “high road”.

Unfortunately, a passer by had called the police and while most of us scattered, one brave young man chose to stand on top of a building on the mainland that housed one end of the chain. The policeman decided to try and talk our superhero down, I need to also tell you he was dressed in tight red and blue with a flowing red cape and a large red “S” highlighted by a yellow background.

“Come down son.”


“OK, what’s your name?”


“Don’t get smart with me sonny. What’s your real name?”

Clark Kent. I come from Krypton, and I am going back there now.” With that he leaped off the back and ran down to the beach never to be caught. Meanwhile his audience in the bushes sniggered.

So yes there are some scenes from my past I would love to see on youtube and this is one of them. Your homework today is to think of things you want people to see that you do and also to happily reminisce on memories you know were kept from the public eye.

Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent
Image via Wikipedia
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