Tales of Ray

19 Jul

I once tweeted some stories about Ray Mears. I don’t know why.

A Tale of Ray

There, out at the ice edge. Talking, occasionally laughing, with a little bunny made of moss. Ray Mears.

The crew, they say they felt rather than saw it coming. Points gradually accumulating to build a case. A case history.

Point one. Ray, usually eager to show and tell, becomes ever more secretive, back turned,cradling his close-work. What you got there, Ray?

Kindling. More kindling, Ray? Practising. The close-work whisked away. So, point one. Hardly a point at all, on its own, except… Point two.

Ray starts talking about his ambitions. I wannado kids TV! he says one day. All this stuff, there’s got to be an audience, I’d have loved it

Kids these days would love it! More to life than street corners, steaming, gang-fights [who’s your audience, Ray?]. But. Fair point. Kids.

So, still hardly a point, so hardly a point two and therefore hardly a point one. Except… this: point three.

One night, round the fire, spooning tinned rice pudding into his face. Seen that Harry Hill TV Burp? says Ray. Mears, on his months off, …

watches a lot of telly. Love that Harry Hill! he says. All those characters he’s invented. Adults love it – and kids too. The crew exchange

glances. We can sense he’s going somewhere. He seems peculiarly animated, in a sort of fug – no, a fugue. He sits for a while, fixed grin.

Puts down his tin, his spoon. Tilts his head slightly, eyes, yes, they’re moist, we can see in the firelight. I’d… love to have a sidekick.

A sidekick Ray? No one laughs, god knows we want to. Yes, a side kick. Like the knitted character! Someone I can bounce off, a… character.

What did you have in mind, Ray? It’s so quiet out here. We are 15k from the nearest road. I can feel lead in my belly. What are u thinking?

Something like this… He pulls from behind him a small bundle. It looks like a childs toy – a small rabbit. He holds it out to us.

This is Bun-Bun, he says.

Say hello to Bun-Bun, children.

Another Tale of Ray

I sit and look out across the estuary, and I can’t help thinking of another body of water, sitting there by the camp fire as my father…

told me tales of Ray Of The Wild. As the sun set over the loch his thoughts would inevitably turn to his time with the great Mears.

Ray lowered his great bulk onto the throne. If there was one thing that would bend to his will, it was a willow switch. And a bundle of them

made a comfortable, regal seat. Ray’s thoughts turned to the word, “fascist” that has its roots in the Italian word for “bundle”.

A single stick can be snapped, he intoned – and as he did so he cracked a dry twig in half – but together, we are strong!

He surveyed his “crew” ranged around him. On his left, Bun-Bun, his factotem. Bun-Bun seemed able to articulate thoughts beyond Ray’s grasp.

Faithful Bun-Bun. This was an early incarnation of the little, mossy figure. Around the circle: Lord Pest – a badger’s skull on a tripod of

beech limbs. Hecate, a clay ball bristling with feathers. Dangling along the branches by twine of woven grass at least a dozen more clay

balls, each with crudely drawn features in berry juice, pigments and tiny bloods – the Andrews Sisters Ray calls them. His arch enemies in

the school playground, here they do not call him fatty, they do not pinch and kick him. Here, he is the king. Ray Of The Wild.

My father had stood a way off, hardly able to hear the mutterings of young Mears. A twig snapped beneath his feet – Ray turned his head,

sharp as a fox. Turned his beady eye on my father. On their own they are weak! he called and waved him over. “Not a bad audience” said Ray.

Further Tales of Ray

Ray has spent the morning showing us how to caulk a coracle with resin from freshly cut pine boughs. He’s about ready to test it, to camera.

He has carefully placed Bun-Bun in the boat with him. You can clearly see it on camera, but luckily he doesn’t talk to it. This is good.

He’s superbly professional, hardly ever needs more than one take, knows his stuff. After it’s in the can, he paddles out, right out, into

the lake. He just sits there for quite a while. We zoom in with the camera, he seems to be talking – to Bun-Bun we presume. It’s silent but

You can see him getting increasingly animated in the frame. Suddenly our attention is snapped away from the monitor to the real scene.

Raised voices out on the lake, the coracle rocking. We hold the camera steady on the tiny boat, fearful. We witness Ray pick up Bun-Bun and

start pulling it apart, we hear his distance shouts carry across the water. The disconnect between sound and image is familiar but unnerving

After a while, Ray paddles back to the shore in silence. He seems quiet when he gets back, but not unduly upset. Would you mind clearing out

that crap? he asks me, gesturing behind me to the little round boat. There are a few fragments of torn moss and something… fleshy there.

No problem, Ray. Good take, earlier, by the way. Really good. You go and rest. Fishing this afternoon. He smiles and walks to his bivouac.

Ray Mears – a postscript

Not to be missed: this afternoon, in the woods, Ray will be demonstrating how you can make a bunny out of moss and woven grass.

He will show how the heart of a rabbit (which you have trapped, skinned, gutted and eaten)

will animate your creation with a vital force.

Two polished black stones will sparkle in the head. A heart embedded in clay will be just audible on nights when you can see the Milky Way.

Ray will show how you can breathe life into its tiny mouth, hold it up to the grasp of rosey-fingered dawn, invoke the atavistic spirits.

Tea and biscuits will be available and a chance to talk to Ray about his killing techniques and hair-stylist.

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