Thursday 11th February 2016
What a day! What an adventure!
Calina (Sobriquet) a lady who lived quite a distance from the Wye Valley, had booked a private lesson with me that morning. She left her house at 6am and by 9:30 had arrived at the bottom of the road only 500 m or so from my house, all in good time for our 10:00 start. What happened next was as extraordinary as it was infuriating, with those last 500 m taking her an amazing two and a quarter more hours!
Unfortunately, the road leading up to our house was closed due to roadworks and the installation of new underground water pipes. Calina phoned me from her car, asking for an alternative route, so I told her to head back up the river Wye to Llandogo, the next village and then come over the top, through the national forest. The dear lady dutifully drove back to the main road and headed North. Just ahead of her, three cars had just been involved in an accident, and now this road was also blocked. She phoned me again. I gave her a third route to the house, but this time, directions were going to be trickier. Firstly, she would need to head back into Tintern village and then take a narrow, winding road following the course of a stream into the forest. The road signs up there are few and far between. She listened carefully to my new instructions then began her ascent. I am not sure she had the space in her mind to notice at that moment the wildness of the stream in full flow. Most of the time, the stream idles through the forest, the way Peter Rabbit might idle across a field of corn at the height of summer. But every so often, the infamous Welsh weather rains down on the valley, flooding the stream with wild, rampaging currents.
At one point along the way, Calina phoned me a third time. Where are you? I asked. She gave me a list of village names, only one which I recognised. I checked on the map. How can I help her? Suddenly, it dawned on me that she might have a sat-nav, so I gave her my post code. Hopefully, that will get you pretty close to the house (though never precisely there – but that is another story). How stupid was I not to give her my post code earlier…
Calina kept driving.
I kept phoning her.
I kept phoning her even though I knew she was not able to pick up her phone while driving. I just wanted her to know that I was thinking about her and that I hoped she was okay.
I phoned her twice, I think, then I put the kettle on and went outside. I looked for Calina’s car and imagined her arriving at any moment. I stood at the gate and studied the cars passing by. There were 4 x 4s, mini cars, cars with two or more people. I didn’t see any children, though of course, it was school time. More importantly, I couldn’t spot any lost-looking ladies. One car I did recognize; it kept driving back and forth up the hill. A couple in the car stopped and asked me for directions back to the main road. They told me they had an appointment with the General Practitioner. I saw the lady’s hand covered in medical bandages. I told them that they could go through the forest but it could get complicated. I recommended them to use a sat-nav because I was not sure myself I could explain it that well without any signposts to guide them. The driver, a gentleman, said we would try it nonetheless.
I tried phoning my husband to ask him to track down my client and escort her to our house. I sent him a text then I heard a ping sound in the lounge. His mobile was still in the house…
I imagined Calina in the middle of the forest with no-one around her.
The forests in Wales are very untouched, covered in broken branches, with moss, mud, ferns and riddled with streams and evergreens that block out the sun. I love the atmosphere, the air that I breathe here.
I surmised that she must have decided not to come in the end. I should have told her to come another time. But she had come such a long way, and had gotten so close! I kept my house phone and mobile in my coat pocket – just in case – and waited.
Calina phoned again about 11:15. She told me that a kind-hearted horse rider had agreed to escort her to the Japanese house! Wow! A prince on horseback escorting a damsel in distress. What a help! What a relief!
She finally arrived about 11:40. When her car pulled into my driveway, I was so happy. We hugged each other even though we had never met before.
I re-boiled the kettle and made her a coffee, while she recounted her amazing journey.
Well, it was an unforgettable Ikebana session for me. Once we started the lesson, after the coffee, after Calina had settled into her space in front of the double-height windows leading onto the stream, she opened her mind, like our Japanese Shoji doors slide open silently to let the light pour in. Calina showed true empathy with the plants at her disposal: salix babylonica, tulips, anthurium and chrysanthanum.
I loved listening to her thoughts and seeing her imagination coming out through her arrangement. She expressed with her arms how interesting she found the lines formed by the salix. She had prior experience with flower arranging and I could see that. I also felt she has lots of stories, experiences in her life and things she wants to express. It a joy of my job to meet such artistic people.
I would love to see Calina again in the future but definitely without the arduous journey!
09:30-11:30 Saturday 18th May 2019
Monmouth Library, Wales
Japanese Calligraphy Class
Interview by Together and Sunspell (English & 日本語）