On art, anniversaries, and playing with poo

Friday was my 6th just-finished-my-aprenticeship leavers-party anniversary.

I didn’t exactly celebrate, but I did get DB to take me to a friend’s ‘horse farm’ and load a trailer with 3-yr-old horsepoo.

Somehow it seemed fitting.


The headteacher usually gives the speech at the leavers ceremony on the last day of school. Usually. When my year group finished, he unfortunately had some extraordinarily important, spontaneous meeting planned which couldn’t possibly be moved to a different day (or time), so he handed the responsibility to his deputy, an art teacher on the verge of retirement. I’d never had him as a teacher, but he seemed innocuous enough. Until the leavers do anyway..

It started at 11 am.

Most of us were still exhausted(/hung over) from the unofficial party the night before, but that didn’t bother us much. It had mostly been a good night and we were ready for the friends, parents* and/or grandparents* to turn up and celebrate us. We were the Stars of all the shows and we wanted (and, at least in our minds, deserved 😉 ) to be applauded for working so hard for so long.

The tables had been decorated and the canteen staff had graciously allowed us to use real plates and cups, instead of plastic. The stage was full of balloons from the morning’s balloon fight. J and I had organised drinks and most of the group had brought cake, sandwiches, biscuits and other party foodstuffs – someone had even made trifle, but don’t ask who. Several select members of the group below us had been chosen to wait on us.

Anyway, the scene was set.
Let the show begin!

The deputy head got onto the stage and, after all the customary waffling and welcoming that goes on at these things, he proceeded to spend 20 minutes recounting his first artistic endeavours. Which, seeing as he was an art teacher, would have been okay, IF he’d started his artistic career using crayons or potato prints or fingerpaints and paper like the rest of us. However. He had had the dubious privilege of learning to paint with the contents of his nappy and the walls of his bedroom.

Even that would’ve been bearable if it had been a 30 second joke before he moved on to something serious, but it wasn’t and he didn’t.

20 minutes is a long time to listen to someone you don’t know talk in graphic detail about things you’d really rather not know about.

It was excruciatingly embarrassing. Cringeworthy even.

No one actually got up and ran away, but it would have been understandable and probably appropriate.

I think the only thing keeping us there was the promise of certificates and once we’d got our grubby mitts on them there was no stopping us.

No one really felt like staying on and celebrating afterwards. Coffee was served and drunk in a stunned silence, no one really had an appetite for anything, much less for chocolate mousse or trifle.

By 1pm the hall was empty, except for J and I and a couple of others who stayed to clear up before going our separate ways for the weekend and the rest of the summer.


Which brings me back to the weekend.
I never thought I’d spend a weekend playing with poo. But I did. And I even quite enjoyed it.

I have a new raised bed and while the horsepoocompost was already amazing the way we got it, it’s also full of bits of wood and random stuff like clothes pegs, so I’ve been sieving the biggest stuff out. I’m getting a load of topsoil delivered this week so hopefully, by the end of the week, my babies will have new homes by the weekend 🙂

*(not mine, but all the rest)

On letting balloons free – part 2

This is the part where I explain, in my own way, what I was doing (and why) last night.


For 3 days, a “wall of glowing balloons on sticks” was put up accross the city. They blocked roads, filled pavements and generally got in the way. People would probably normally have complained about the chaos, except this was different. Instead of getting annoyed about them, people stood next to them, took pictures of them, took pictures of themselves standing next to them, walked along beside them, looked them up on the net, or saw them on the news. It was more of a festival than a nuisance.

Crowds of people gathered on the night of the 9th to watch them being let loose. The wall disintergrated and floated off into the sky, carrying their message(s) with them.

There were certainly loads of tourists among the crowds, but these onlookers were mostly residents, people who live in Berlin, or ex-residents, who’d lived here 25 years ago and for whom the evening was more memory than reality.

It was a re-enactment of the past.


Berlin used to be a city.
After the second world war the British, the French, the Americans and the Russians divided Germany, and Berlin, up into approximate quarters, or sectors, and each was in charge of their piece of country and city. Russia was communist, and wanted to enforce it’s communism, regardless of popular opinion.
Lots of the people who happened to live in the DDR, the part run by the Russians, didn’t appreciate what was going on, and left.
It didn’t take long for the DDR, the Russians, or the Soviet Union, to realise that they were losing inhabitants at a worrying rate and decided to do something about it.
They built first a barrier and then a wall accross Germany and around West Berlin.
The barrier went up so unexpectedly, some people got caught out. Unaware of what was going on, they went shopping, or to work, and never came home. Families were split up, streets were divided down the middle, houses situated on the border were considered no man’s land and the residents evicted and/or rehoused. In some cases, people escaped through the windows – until they were boarded up that is.

Over time, the borders were strengthened to the point where the guards were allowed to shoot anyone within a ‘safety’ distance and automatic shooting systems where set up to get the rest.

West Berlin was an island in the middle of East Germany. It wasn’t a deserted island though, despite efforts to cut it off – there were even times when planes dive bombed the City with food parcels. It wasn’t a forgotten island either. If you could get into West Berlin you were ‘safe’ and could get a new passport and travel to west Germany and wherever else you wanted to go. If you were caught, things didn’t look good for you.

Several years went by and far too many people died.

Then, in 1989, the people protested, and the wall was taken down. Or at least the gates were opened. (Some other stuff happened too, but that’s complicated)

Free to travel, free to do what they wanted, free to meet up with long lost relatives, free to say what they wanted without going to jail. Free for the first time in approximately 30 years.

That was 25 years ago.


Last night was a trip through memory city. 8000 lit up helium balloons were set up along the path of the original wall. 8000 people were each given a red jacket and the privilege of letting one of the balloons up into the air. I was one of those 8000 people.

The wall of balloons ‘fell’ the way a line of dominoes falls; one by one, each balloon free-er waited for their neighbour to release their balloon before releasing their own.

I have never seen the city so full!  😉