Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tree 71 :: the bridge ::

26th July 2010
Under Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, UK.

It wasn’t an option not doing this set of pictures. The bridge. The great bridge. The equivalent of getting to the moon in its day. What is meant to be the symbol of Bristol. Innovation, ingenuity. A human feat that joins two ‘camps’. A vision to create a ‘miracle’. What inspired this obsession – convenience? – frivolity? Showing off? I’m climbing a tree and from there I could see climbers on the way up the Avon gorge. Why? Is it because we’ve nowhere else to go so the only challenge is facing death. Get food, get sex, then get high? In this case not on drugs but up rocks and trees.

Was this bridge the result of too much time on the hands of 19th century Merchants, not sure of how to spend their (slave) blood money? – Get high building a bridge? The swelling of the ego gratified … Surely something like this bridge wasn’t exactly necessary? Pretty cool but an extravagance? I remember the first time I went to the Albert Hall in London, it was awe inspiring – that man/woman had built something like this. Perhaps we’re trying to impress God. Well … The best architecture is either incredibly impressive as if we are ascended beings with incredible vision, creative to challenge and please the makers and users or has a way of slotting into nature, as if it were designed by something that belongs to this planet – like we do. (Probably). Sometimes it feels like we’re competing with nature, trying to out perform it. Make a statement by chomping out the landscape or … bridging it …So … I like the bridge and I like the gorge too. I wonder if I’d like the gorge more without it(?) The bridge with out the gorge would be quite interesting. Wouldn’t make a lot of sense though. The bridge with no gorge would be a sculpture. The thing about stuff we build is we can make it predictable. A ladder has many rungs of equal distance and height. I thought it would be nice to poke my head out the top of the tree and get a better shot of the bridge but no. This tree won’t allow it. It felt risky enough getting as high as I did. Louis said I was slow (and timid) but I’d rather be slow and timid than dead. I suppose one could grow a tree and sculpt it, shape it over the course of its life – create a ladder out of a tree – one that is more uniform – the best of both worlds. Except what about when you need to move it to reach the guttering on the other side of the house(?) Grow another one? Can you grow a bridge? Or a house?

Serendipitous! … I just spoke to a tree consultant who will take me tree climbing with ropes and he spontaneously talked about growing a house! More on how when I meet him later in the year. Yes! A bit like Paul talking about underwater trees after writing about it … what, is that a coincidence? Sometimes they seem too coincidental. No?


Tree 70 :: the ex smuggler come good ::

25th July 2010
Cotham Park, Bristol, UK.

So what’s it all about? This interview? I could never imagine living in a prison for 4 years. Louis made his choices but it’s good to meet someone who has endured so much – been so close to death and insanity. He climbs like an avatar. I’m not sure how much of the interview will make it into this entry but Louis gave me a brief if not slightly superficial glimpse into another world. This tree climbing is a real leveller. Climbing together – being up high and at the mercy of our wits and solid branches – there’s no us and them. An instinct to help each other seems to emerge – keep each other safe, – look out for each other. Or maybe if I met Louis 6 years ago I’d be writing something different about it. My theory would be less fluffy. So… All part of the rich tapestry – tree 70 and Louis.

Interview to follow…

What I’m saying I suppose with Louis … is things can always get worse … London maybe a gas maze but we’re capable of designing spaces that debilitates the soul and body. Concrete nests that breed darkness. How low can we go. Two trees for 5000 people in a country of jungle. Prisoners yes but … what’s the aim of a prison – punishment or rehabilitation?

Tree 69 :: 44 people tree ::

24th July 2010
Ashton Court, Bristol, UK

How do I beat this as a tree climbing artist? What goes up must come down – the come down after a high. The gathering went amazingly well – I pulled together a number of people and then ran around to the groups of picnickers in the area recruiting to make up the numbers. We didn’t quite manage to cram 50 into the branches – although we could have fitted many more – we got a bit congested in the lower branches with the more timid climbers. 44 isn’t bad and it inspires me to do it again – next time with 75!

I’ve been reminded of physics … by a friend. 15 people weigh approximately a ton. So we added an extra 3 tons to the tree … 75 people would be 5 tons. But I anticipate finding a bigger tree. I may have been lucky – not one got hurt. It would have been a horrific end to a magical event.

One of the nice things was bringing together several groups … going up to people and asking them for participation, and their willingness and eagerness to join in. One high-light was definitely the tree of 44 people singing happy birthday to a guy who’s 40th it was that day. Great! A sweet sense of community. A guy with white hair appeared – drawn to the commotion and drew our attention to how our tree was two. A large section of it was another variety that had been grafted on. I hadn’t even noticed. But how amazing is that! Amazing that some trees will support the growth of another.

They have essentially become one without losing their own identity. I suppose that’s what Khalil Gibran was on about on romance / marriage. (need to find the quote).

I just realised there was spontaneous  singing  in this tree two days in a row…

More photos available on facebook… You don’t need to be a member to see them.

(audio recording and film to follow).

Tree 68 :: Hotwells School – Year 5/6’s ::

23rd July 2010
Ashton Court, Bristol, UK

What a brilliant twist! I went looking for a tree for tomorrow’s 50 people tree and ended up interviewing a class of 8/9 year olds in it. They were having a party to celebrate their end of year before the summer holiday. A cool bunch of kids. I’m a bit gutted actually – there was a moment when they were all crawled around the microphone – a brilliant picture – all eager faced – shining and young. The picture is in my mind and it glows. Stupid but I can’t seem to get over it. Could see a double page spread of it in the ‘book’. Anyway – has inspired me to contact them again … maybe work with other schools … My favourite is this one kid’s description of all the colours. A classic excited husky voiced boy with a dirty t-shirt and shorts. I won’t be able to recreate the image but I might try. You can’t win them all.

I’m not going to publish all the images here yet as I need to get further permission from some of the kids parents. So here’s some others I took that day.

So I trundled around Ashton Court studying for suitable trees and found a brilliant oak. Would have needed ladders to get into, and involved people perching  on branches like birds … well … but I started thinking it would be nice if people got to climb a bit themselves.

Which led me to the year 5’s/6’s tree (they were quite adamant that they were now year 6’s). I was up there at the top having a drink and a chocolate when these kids started climbing up. They hadn’t seen me so I began climbing down – thought I’d let them have the tree to themselves and I got chatting to them… so that’s how I ended up having 13 8/9 year olds singing how they love trees to at me…

The parents insisted they were still year 5’s. I’ve compromised). So I’m naturally really pleased with this tree. I love the fact that people have climbed it. It’s so inviting and makes for an easy and satisfying climb. There are a number of love carvings up here too. It’s nice. You don’t really see abuse graffiti carved into trees do you? Or swastikas, or nobs wrought into the bark of trees … Maybe I’ve been climbing the wrong trees and missed that kind of thing. I’m glad though. People are less willing to labour over abuse – it’s more of an impulsive thing? Where as carving your name and your lovers name and a heart is an effort. Jim seems to have been pretty keen on his Gal – I’m assuming it was him (?) he’s made several dedications/declarations for his lady/girl.

Feels like publishing someone’s private letters – photographing their carvings. They’re tattoos in the skin of a tree. The next best thing to a tattoo on themselves? I had an idea for a story. Just an image – a scene. Children play in a tree – grow up with it. They become sweet hearts. The man carves his and her names into a lone tree in a field. He proposes to her in the tree. They make love under the tree – conceive there. They have a son. She is tragically taken ill and dies. The man is so angry and hurt by the universe/God/fate that he chops the tree down with an axe. Sweating and screaming. It falls to the ground with an almighty crash scattering it’s seeds. The man is devastated. The boy grows up. Of course the scattered seeds grow into a glade. When the boy is a teenager he begins to climb the trees … (will finish this story another day).

The girl afraid of spiders … I refrained from mentioning how a tree could look like a spider on it’s back. – that we were climbing on a spiders legs … hmmm?

Recording with Hotwells school to follow…

Tree 67 :: fall into a tree ::

22nd July 2010
Fiddlers, Bristol, UK.