I’d really enjoyed last week’s stone clearing
. It was springtime for the world, but also for me, emerging from the other side of an unpleasant and scary experience and it gave me hope for the future. Sadly, somebody local to me had seen that video and taken exception to it. It’s a complicated story and I won’t get into it too much for various reasons. But today’s stone clear wasn’t quite as happy and I felt a little bit like Job, being punished by the stone gods despite my devotion to them.
I noticed as I got on to the field that there were a large number of big stones scattered on top of the field. They hadn’t been there last week and though stones grow fast, they don’t grow this fast. As I walked on there were loads more at regular intervals. I wondered if the farmer had for some reason (maybe because someone had been removing stones) had come and dumped more stones on the field. It seemed unlikely. Firstly the way these stones were scattered everywhere was more or less guaranteeing that any vehicle going over them was in danger of getting fucked up and also there are about a billion stones on this field already and my 30 months of work have barely made a scratch on the very edge of the field. I had encountered someone local who had professed to be a fan, but then started leaving slightly weird messages (now deleted) on my YouTube page about how stones provide minerals to the plants to help them grow (a claim that I can find no mention of anywhere else), and that seemed to be a bit too much of a coincidence. I had explained that I was really making no environmental impact on the field in reality and there was no chance of me getting a significant amount of material off the field.
I didn’t mind all this too much at this stage. It was just more stones to clear and they were nice big ones, plus I am never going to complete my task, whatever the podcast Richard Herring thinks. He removes about 50 small stones a week from the periphery of the field and has a maximum of 30 years left in him and as recent events have shown, maybe significantly less. But I held back on clearing in case this was some kind of insane move by the farmer.
The cairns on the left side of the field seemed untouched, but I was still unsettled. But when I got back to the far side I found more rocks strewn on the field and the Dominic Cummings Cairn totally destroyed. The public are fickle and though last year everyone loved him, maybe the tide had turned. It was a bit scary. Someone had worked very hard to undo my work. My main worry now was that the main cairn, the one started by Michael, who sadly passed on last year and which I (and I think others) have carried on adding the occasional stone to in memory of him, might have suffered a similar fate. As this one is at the end of the walk across the field, where the path is littered with huge stones that are a bit of a danger to pedestrians, runners and horses and so are justly removed, it is quite an impressive cairn. Or it was.
Sadly it too had been desecrated. I was genuinely upset about this. I know what I’ve been doing is stupid, but it’s harmless. It’s been enjoyed by at least some members of the village (who have added decorated stones and signs about the mound). But mainly it seemed a shame that Michael’s one stone a day over many months and years was nearly totally destroyed. I could gather up the stones (and doubtless will - they are now a dangerous obstacle to the people who use and work the field), but would this just turn into a battle of wills.
Of course, I had been podcasting the whole thing
, so you can listen to my soul being crushed and my spring turning to winter and my symbol of escape from illness being smashed under a huge testicle full of cancer.
The Stone Stasi was the paranoid creation of the podcast Herring, who arrogantly imagined that his pathetic task might meet organised resistance and that he was some kind of freedom fighter who could beat stone fascism. Yet somehow I have managed to will this imaginary force into actual existence. Someone so disgruntled with what I had done that they were prepared to undo approaching three years of methodical and painfully slow work.Or should that be "work".
I was a little bit broken by it. Even though the attempt to create a wall visible from space is clearly delusional and I am to some extent parodying the vain attempts of humanity to leave their mark once they are gone. I had still hoped that these cairns would outlive me, that people in a hundred years time might see them and wonder who had made them and why.Or that my wife might bury me under the main one. Hopefully in an official funeral, rather than in a dramatically ironic attempt to cover up my murder - no one would think of looking under there.
I love this project so much. It’s my personal favourite of all the podcasts I do, not just because I like the pointlessness of it all (though I do), but I genuinely think it has a lot to say about the human condition and though I joke that it is art, it does have as much claim as anything to that label. It’s an enormous challenge to make the same walk around a field doing the same boring thing into a monologue that is entertaining (even if some of the entertainment comes from its monotony), but I think I have achieved that and also shown the way that religions are created and how we make our own monsters. I know it’s a niche project, but I also get lovely emails from people who really appreciate and enjoy what I am doing.
Ironically this dull walk has had moments of real drama, some created by paranoia and some genuine, like a genuine fire with fire engines and a hail storm with lightning where I could see the storm approaching and felt that I was likely about to be killed by a bolt from the gods (sadly not captured on podcast) and a mysterious disappearing drone and of course, this monumental act of monument vandalism.
But it felt for much of the day that this had to be the end of project as I didn’t want anything to escalate. It’s a mad project and has attracted the attention of obsessive people before (which is fair enough as that’s what it’s about) but none of them knew where the field was or more importantly where I lived. I had good reason to believe I was not in any actual danger from this, but it still felt like an act of violence against my soul.
Has the whole thing been spoiled? I hope not. But my inclination is to back away from it if it can create this kind of reaction. I can attempt to get the landowner’s permission (I imagine they would give it freely), but that’s a weird and embarrassing phone call to make. How do I begin to explain it? And also does the thing work if it’s been given the official thumbs up?
So that made me quite depressed all day. Even though I appreciated that putting the stones back was as equally a valid artistic expression and that both sides of this had no authority for what they were doing. I was sad for myself and sad for Michael and sad for the hundreds of people who have come to rely on this podcast for philosophical stimulation or to send them to sleep. I’d also been thinking that I would be able to raise money for charity (maybe one for the village) from the devotees of this podcast.
We’ll see what happens. The destruction came from a good place or at least by someone who thought they were doing good, unable to see the bigger picture, fixated on their own mission. Which to be fair makes him the perfectly matched nemesis. It’s all the podcast deserves and is funny and apt. But it still hurts and disorientates. And you know, on top of everything else, it’s a bit of a kick in the ball.
I pressed on and tried to prep for Twitch of Fun, but felt deflated so had my fingers crossed that the puppets would be on form and manage to provide the energy and laughs that I wasn’t capable of producing. I think they did pretty well. You can catch up on podcast
on or YouTube