Wood work

Kramfors

Photo of my Grandfather’s house taken from the driveway of a similar house he built for his sisters.

This house was built by my Swedish grandfather, a master carpenter, at least so the story goes within our family and he also built a similar house across the road, which was just a gravel track back then, for his four sisters. My father grew up in this house in a small town not far from the coast in northeastern Sweden. In the cellar my grandfather had a carpentry workshop but my father was never allowed down into the cellar.

As such my father lacked confidence in making things and struggled even to put up a shelf, much to my mother’s endless dismay and despair. Nevertheless he had an interest in technical things and bought a Sinclair Spectrum computer when it arrived on the market in the 70s. He was still typing emails and using Facebook into his mid-nineties before passing away a few years ago.

I on the other-hand learned all my woodworking and metalworking skills at school in the UK, mostly before the age of 14 and I can still remember all those lessons vividly. I passed my woodwork O-level at another school, where strangely I cannot for the life of me ever remember doing woodwork there, but that’s by the way. While teaching at a university in Taiwan I drew on many of those early secondary school lessons while instructing students on their design models.

A kitchen I designed and am presently in the process of constructing got me back into woodworking and I was reminded just how enjoyable working in wood can be. Unfortunately being impatient and a bit of a bodger much of it has been a bit of a pig’s breakfast. Still, undeterred I am making progress and look forward to posting pictures of the kitchen once it is completed. After years of torturing myself I have come to accept my mistakes and to learn from them, a useful attitude for all perfectionists and even non perfectionists out there.

As a footnote: Both those houses mentioned were pulled down by the local council back in the 70s or 80s and new blocks of flats were built in their place. My remaining grandparents and great aunts were rehoused into new apartments, no doubt reluctantly as none of them survived much longer after that upheaval. The whole area was redeveloped making it impossible to recognize again and now it’s just another typical ‘modern’ characterless urbanization. Thankfully I can still remember how it once was and enjoy those memories. Even the distinctive smells of the wood, polish and something else that was unique to Sweden. No idea what that smell was but my memories of that old house were triggered on a visit to Kalmar some years ago, almost 1000 km away.

Bikes galore

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I was planning on a Sunday walk blog post today, which I have not done for a while but after a week of working my butt off I simply did not have the energy. So here instead an old photo from 2015 of bikes parked on Fuengirola bridge, Spain, during an annual biker meeting. Many of these bikes were Harleys but there were also a few custom bikes demonstrating the beauty of one off specials. Even if you have no interest in bikes it is still hard not to appreciate the artistic effort and detail that goes into many of these designs.

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Temples & towers

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Where has all the craftsmanship and artistry gone?

Pictured, part of a temple roof in Taichung and beyond Hotel One, a modern day skyscraper. The turquoise-tinted all-glass Hotel One is certainly an impressive sight and easy on the eye, mainly due to its curved shape and breathtaking height. However the detailed coloured carvings of the low wooden temple could be viewed for hours whereas a brief glance at the skyscraper and you’ve seen it all, just about.

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Just one of the many intricately carved sculptures found on temples.

Many skyscrapers are simple geometric forms clad in mirror glass, which if nothing else has one advantage of reflecting the sky, making them semi invisible and slightly less oppressive. However the majority of office and apartment blocks are just plain grey rectangular concrete boxes with uniform square windows placed at regular intervals with about as much aesthetic appeal as a brick. That’s it! I would hazard a guess that covers around 80% of high-rise buildings worldwide.

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A tall tower block rises from the city almost obliterating the view.
Skyscraper mirror glass reflects concrete apartment blocks a common sight in every city.

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I wonder how this affects our moods as we wander through sun-shaded cities of grey concrete and glass, looking for some greenery and a place to sit, rest and chat.

 

NYE across the world

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For those who may have missed the spectacular drone displays celebrating the New Year 2020 you can click on the image or here to see a YouTube video showing examples of what many cities displayed. Whether Shanghai’s display ever happened seems open to debate as the video above was created earlier in the year.

It is interesting to note that many Asian and Far Eastern countries had incredible drone and light displays and less fireworks. Their displays were fresh, original, spectacular and less polluting than most of those in the West. Meanwhile Boris’s ‘Brexit’ Britain used the event to pollute London even more with an endless stream of conventional fireworks, no doubt bought from China.

The Chinese must be quite amused. It sums up today’s Britain for me, a lack of sophistication, sensitivity and originality. A disappointing start to the New Year. You do have to wonder where all the British creativity has gone as the rest of the world seems to be way ahead of us. Below a still from the NYE drone show over Singapore.

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Liu Chuang – Bitcoin video

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Today I watched one of the most fascinating art films I have ever seen. At the National Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung there is an exhibition ‘The strangers from beyond the mountain and the sea’ for the 2019 Asian Art Biennial. A 40 minute film by Liu Chuang was shown split on three wide screens in a small theatre with seating for about 10 people. The film explores China’s history, Bitcoin, iPhone technology, the environment and other interesting interconnected subjects. A review can be seen here:  

Art review Asia.

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pterodactyl

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This pterodactyl is just one of many image tiles on the walkway strip leading up to the National museum of natural science. (see post: Taichung postcards). The creatures come in all sizes and this one is by no means the biggest. The larger ones are hard to view unless you have a drone or access to one of the tower blocks surrounding the walkway. Even then trees along the strip would probably hinder the view. So I created this image by stitching together 8 separate images so that it could be viewed in all its glory as I doubt few people have ever seen them properly. My feet at the bottom show just how big this one was.

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A pedestrian walks along the strip, the normal ground level view.

Taichung postcards

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Taichung’s old main station lit up in all its Christmas glory.

Initially Taichung can seem chaotic and impossible to navigate, especially for non Chinese speakers. However, well designed tourist maps are available from the main station and buses are frequent, well marked and easy to use, especially if you buy a swipe card (Easycard), which is essential for frequent trips. (MRT is still under construction). Most bus trips inside the city are free so that even getting the wrong one costs nothing. A shuttle bus service does a round trip stopping at many of the main places and it is useful if you have a particular place in mind.

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Taichung park lake and fountains

However, from the old/new main station with a bit of zigzagging it is possible to take in many of Taichung’s main attractions by walking or riding through the greenest parts of the city. First stop after the station is Taichung park, which was created by the Japanese during their administration of the city. It’s a great place to relax with a real zen atmosphere, spectacular trees and a boating lake full of koi carp and turtles.

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A typical restaurant street at night between the park and the canal walkway.

From there head west along the canal walkway to the National Taiwan museum of fine arts. Then a long narrow park with sculptures (Calligraphy greenway) takes you north again until you reach a vast green area overlooked by the impressive Hotel One.

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A typical ‘Calligraphy Greenway’ path where a variety of sculptures can be found.

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Hotel One towers over the a park where families spend weekends picnicking and playing.

Continue northwards staying on the parkway strip and eventually you will reach the National museum of natural science and finally the botanical gardens.

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There is a beautiful tiled pathway leading to the National museum of Natural Science with inlaid animals and plants depicting a timeline from prehistoric to contemporary times. Unfortunately they can only be viewed at ground level, which is a pity as some are so big, particularly the larger dinosaurs that they are difficult to see properly.

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Finally you will reach the botanical gardens with a tropical glass house and waterfall.

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Taiwan aboriginal village

A day out to educate myself. At least that was my plan anyway…

In the heart of Taiwan not far from Sun Moon Lake is a place called the ‘Formosan aboriginal culture village’. A 90 minute bus ride from Taichung took me there for just a few Euros.

On the way, as we headed inland towards the mountains, it was clear to see the ever present pollution hanging over Taichung, something that is easy to miss while in the city as the air does not seem to be that polluted. The cloud of purple grey pollution hovering over a city on a clear blue sky day was something I first noticed in Munich, Germany back in the 1980s.

On arrival my destination turned out to be more of an amusement park with touches of Disney world. At first I was shocked and a little disappointed as fun fairs were never really my thing even when I was younger. However it was quite spectacular.

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Observation tower, cable car and crystal clear water park with huge slide (not shown)

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I discovered, via a well designed map, that the aboriginal village and museum were situated high above the amusement park, which required a fairly long walk and ascent of several hundred meters.

A labyrinth of paths climbed the hillside but many of the direct routes had been blocked due to maintenance and so I was forced to zigzag my way up in search of the museum.

Lets face it, museums and art galleries are hard on the legs and feet at the best of times but having to walk and climb several kilometres (slight exaggeration) to reach this one did nothing to help my growing disappointment. However once there it was well worth the effort, particularly the museum artefacts and the reconstructed wooden homes of the aboriginals.

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A peaceful retreat away from the amusement park noise and screams of excitement.

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It was fascinating standing inside the wooden huts imagining how they had once lived and for a moment, despite the simplicity of the structures, I felt slightly envious that they could have been so close to nature as the structures were mostly open to the elements. No triple glazed sealed boxes here. Just the sounds of the forest. It really made me wonder about much of present day living, especially in cities with the ever growing tower blocks.

The whole experience of the Formosan aboriginal culture village took most of the day and on my return through the amusement park it certainly looked great fun if you are young and into that sort of thing. The water ride looked particularly spectacular and there was also an observation tower, cable car to Sun Moon Lake and a monorail. What more could a family want for a day out.

Well, it was a good job I did not Google research it beforehand as I may have not gone and then I would have missed a treat.