The Men That Don’t Fit In
by Robert Service
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
There are indeed a race of men who don’t fit in, a race that can’t stay still, but if we break the hearts of kith and kin as we roam the world at will it’s hardly because we set out to do so but because, as the Robert Service’s poem so eloquently sets out, we simply cannot resist the lure of ‘the strange and new’. And so it is that I find myself here in Pietrasanta, City of Art. And I do hope I am not breaking anyone’s heart back home as I settle in to three months of wanton wandering through the Tuscan countryside, fleeing the things that are in the vague hope of finding my proper groove. But the truth of the matter is that I really don’t give a damn who wins the lifelong race, or that my prime has passed, and if I stand one day with a hope that’s dead at least I’ll have had a damn good time getting there!
I sure had a good time getting here: Florence ↓ was indeed quite magnificent, splendid – a most wonderfully open city for the on foot explorer indeed.
So here I am, lodged at the wonderful Da Pia B&B (click here, it is really quite splendid) poised on the very cusp of an adventure full of promise, full of the unknown and full of potential. Whether or not the doomsday scenario outlined by my fellow Prestonian Robert Service in my intro is the fate destined for me remains to be seen, but the lure of the great unknown has long been my greatest weakness. Not for me the steady quiet plodding way… which is why I made no attempt whatsoever to investigate the situation on the ground over here before heading out from my Woody Creek log cabin home in search of a haven in which to carve the world renowned Carrara marble.
All-in-all though I’d say that was a wise decision because if I had known the reality on the ground over here I might perhaps never have headed out here in the first place, which would have been a shame. Beautiful as the place is though its clearly not for a rogue carver such as I. The studios that looked so enticing when I stumbled across them on line last summer are in fact composed of legions of distinctly second class citizen “artisans” toiling away at work created for a jet set of elite “sculptors” who, having gathered their corporate, governmental and private commissions, simply waltz in from time to time to perhaps check on proceedings, attend a few well-heeled parties, then promptly bugger off, only to return once their over-sized “monumental” sculpture is complete; to duly accept and bask in the hearty congratulations of one and all. Add to that the propensity for computer driven robots to do most of the roughing out and it all adds up to quite a soulless scene.
Gone are the visions of streets flowing with enthusiastic carvers drawn like a magnet from all parts of the world to the Jerusalem, the Mecca, the Hollywood of marble carving. Vanished are the projected images of warm friendly people sharing and professing their love of carving to one and all; completely missing is the camaraderie and joviality of the banker mason shops in which I learned to carve; these ‘studios’ seem to me to be as cold as ice.
Then so be it. Money is the name of the game here and I suppose that’s fine, I’m glad they are making money, but money can’t buy me love, and I love stone, and so I’m off… off in search of a place where money is not the be all and end all. Where people are happy to share their passion… where people actually have passion. I don’t know where that is but I know its out there, somewhere, and I aim to find it. Whether I will or not, well, we’ll know soon enough.
I have been absent from the internet for quite some considerable time due to one thing or another; firstly I had the 1314 Winter Collection to finish, then there was the little matter of packing, travelling, and landing on my feet, but tonight marks my first full week in this country, which leaves around 11 to go, plenty of time to find my perfect little carving world.
So, utter folly, or life-changing epiphany? Hmmmmmn. We’ll see. I’m up for anything.
UPDATE: Friday, April 11, 2014
A week and a day have elapsed since I first lodged into Da Pia Bed and Breakfast and already I’m having trouble recognizing the tired, stressed, emotionally shot person who wrote the words above. True, I had just been put through the wringer in just getting here, never mind the frantic ordeal that involved tying up the huge workload I had given myself prior to departure, plus the exhausting ordeal of packing, journeying for days on end, combined with the not so subtle effects of acute sleep deprivation – the result being the emotional outpouring of a man approaching the end of his tether; clearly I was in a bad state both physically and mentally. But what wonders a week in Tuscany can do for a poor jaded soul such as I was, for after just one week I feel utterly revived.
What an amazing, enchanted place this is; just one week but already I am quite in awe of the place; the people; the culture; the food; the landscape… even the attitude which my priggish Northern soul mistook for hostility. ‘Rogue Carver on the Loose’, an ‘Idiot Abroad’ more like! But the good news is that I, the patient, am convalescing well and learning to play with others, a path that should just about have me back up and running as a human being hopefully well before the three months is out.
It was with all this in mind that I purposely set the tone for this post with Robert Services’ seminal poem about men like me – we really don’t fit in, but as events of the past 7 days have come to make me realize, we don’t have to be bitter about it. And just as I didn’t fit in in America, or England, so I don’t fit in here, but how could I? I don’t fit in anywhere. Who am I to demand the rest of the world march to my beat? True, I really don’t like the Artist/Artisan arrangement but that’s as it is, a matter of fact that I nor anyone else are going to change anytime soon. But to voice my opinions in the way I did was foolish, and I offer my apologies to anyone to whom I caused offense. In fact I could have simply deleted the entire thread and pretended I had never written it but that would be to miss the point; I need to leave it there as a reminder to myself just what this whole Tuscan episode is all about: I thought it was about carving – now it turns out it was about healing all along, for the frustration vented in those words have their roots bedded in deeper soil than that found in Tuscany.
For now that I have seen the sheer scope and size of the marble industry I feel chastened by my vainglorious assumptions. I don’t know what I was thinking would happen on my arrival here, and besides, who am I to cast aspersions on a trade as noble, cultured and steeped in history as the Cararra marble industry? It was unbelievably arrogant of me to write those words and I leave them there only as testament to my own folly.
So now that I have made my confession hopefully I can receive some sort of absolution from one and all, move on and make a full and complete recovery. The places I have seen, the things I have witnessed, the sheer awe I feel for the culture into which I am now plunged has left me humbled and determined to mend my ways. I will always be a Rogue Carver, there is no way to change this leopard’s spots, but hopefully I can return to the world from which I come a changed and better man, for if this past seven days is anything to go by the next seventy or so should be quite a revelation.
Thank you for reading this whoever you are and wherever you may be.
ps Just to shed a little perspective, I’m still waiting for my bags to be delivered and so am consequently reduced to wearing the few travel clothes I flew with. But the good news is that I’m told they are due to be delivered today, just as they have been due to arrive every day this week.