Lego House or Lobster Pot Bay ?

The Secret Life of the Mind

The entertainer James May — an eccentric who could only be
English — was inspired enough to create a house made entirely of
Lego bricks ( not surprisingly it was a little fragile in the British
climate, and did not meet certain building regulations — an area
of little concern in Georgia! ) . Shabbily treated by Legoland, who
added the insult of stealing his idea to the injury of not accepting
the original donation (on the grounds that it was not built by
specialist model-makers, and would be too costly to transplant ! )
James May was forced to witness the loss of his masterpiece,
which, in the picture above, we see being destroyed. . .
It also strikes me as what the medievals might have called a ‘type’
for the deliberate destruction of another person’s tenderest
emotions by the cold tyranny of logic ; and as such deserves to be
commemorated (to James May’s eternal canonization!) in the
stained-glass or sculpture of some new Romanesque cathedral of
the spirit, yet to be built. It makes the recent filching of a
Hepworth sculpture, from Wolverhampton, by the Royal Bank
of Scotland – not usually noted for their esthetic interests ! – a
matter of mere quotidian curiosity. . .

Let us remember this precedent when next we visit Billund. . .

…or even (albeit unlikely!) Wolverhampton. The maritime
abstract sculpture was perhaps the of the peregrinatory ‘type’
football team of that ilk. . . Who is to say ?
But even more tellingly, let us remember the friability and
unsustainability of living in a world of ideas built only of Lego
Such is the world of international relations at this minute, which
cannot even contain an eighteenth-century style war; such has
been the world of schooling since Summerhill and Bryanston
went out of fashion. . . It can be found at every street-corner.
The idea of the miniature model is a ludic one which we see all
around us, for example in children’s play.
Recently I watched with rapt attention as my four-year-old
neighbour, Nata, concocted an imaginary supper from wood
shavings and splinters – rubbing various pieces of wood together
to process the meal, and (in her imagination) stewing and boiling
the sawdust in some old, wrecked, plastic dishes her mother had
let her have. Ideas from the minds of babes and infants which
might surprise Stephen Hawking . . .
Conventional schooling and academy-based learning might also
be interested to know that it seems to assume that we are all
James Mays with our own inner Lego house; and that there we
will infallibly store, order, and process there all the Gradgrindian
facts which they have no hesitation in continuing to serve up,
almost as if the micro-chip revolution had never happened…
Not so, says the Hawkingesque, quantum part of me. . .

Below are more photographs of the beautiful interior of James
May’s now destroyed house…

Marvelous as this now lost domain is (The Lost Domain is the
English title of Alain-Fournier’s wonderful, mysterious book) — and
it compels me to believe that there is something lurking here which in
ideal conditions (although possibly only dreams!) we might even be
able, in a certain sense, to recreate — I cannot but think that the ideal
learning scenario (for languages at least) equates more to the humble
placement of lobster pots at low tide, and at high tide examining the
contents. It’s less subject to interference from corporate finance and
the vagaries of bankers; and depends more on the natural rhythms of
life and mind. . .

I can’t help thinking, too, that the older scenario, where
knowledge was dredged carefully from the library (from the town
library, or even inter-library loans, if the school library could not
help out!) then reprocessed, like so much nuclear fuel, into the
homework essay: then presented in class, then marked — graded
even (there was even a BBC boss called Michael Grade!) then
allegedly worked into one’s preparation for an exam whose aim
was for a brief second to show full command, full knowledge (like
facing one fast ball from Trueman at Lords) — I can’t help
thinking that this era has gone forever. And that what it meant, if
it meant anything at all, is now just Eliot’s ‘husk of meaning’.
Here is an image of what I mean:

Cowdrey is out, caught brilliantly by Benaud in the gulley. . . Today,
knowledge and facts are invisible until you log on and click. And all
our attention spans are far shorter these days; so that – obviously –
the learning product needs to be honed to match. . .
It’s not so much that there’s not time for all that grammatical study
and hard work which in earlier eras guaranteed the firm knowledge of
a language for life: I am not even sure (given the Einsteinian
equivalence of time with space) that, if done, this work even
meaningfully then exists at all . . . It somehow burns up; it somehow
enters an unsuspected black hole . . .
I’m sure, too, that as soon as possible our brain moults; and we
become another person speaking the languages we know; thus freeing
up for learning valuable memory resources for the mind of the (first)
person whom (briefly) we are. . . I’m temporarily this person – and
for people like me, I’m trying to create meaningful language courses.
In my experience, the chief maestro of lobster pots (I briefly knew
him well enough to say hi to, and respected his charm and unworldly
charisma) was a fisherman on the Isle of Bryher, Scilly, John Pender
– universally known as Johnny Potts – on account of the lobster pots
he tended night and day, to catch succulent treats for the tables of the
great restaurants of these fabled islands. . .

He was softly spoken, when he spoke at all. But his dedication to, and
rootedness in his sea and island craft told me all I needed to know
about finding a true and durable intellectual centre for our no less
durable, but equally hazardous, intellectual undertakings.
Those countryside testimonies will not go away. They reflect rhythms
which the city only dimly remembers; and which it ignores at its peril.
Our speeded-up life needs to slow down and perceive things which
would have been obvious to our grandparents; even to our parents. . .
As we yet inhabit, for yet a season, the Lego house, let our minds be
distracted by the call of the seagulls in the harbor and thus to some
philosophical search for constants which still make sense in our world
of sophisticated machinery and constant communication. There
could – just – be another way.