A secret treehouse hiding in the woods of Whistler

When Canadian Joel Allen’s career as a software developer came to a sudden halt in 2006 he decided to retire. Without sufficient funding that idea fell flat and so, at 26 years of age, he decided to change direction.

But… where to? A timely meeting with an old man inspired Joel and gave him a new and exciting vision for the future. With no practical experience he became a carpenter. His first project was a shed for his parents – built solely for the experience gained. His second project was The Hemloft, an egg-shaped treehouse clinging to a tree on a steep slope in Whistler, British Columbia. He built it on Crown (public) land, in his spare time, and with as many free materials as he could lay his hands on. At first he worked alone, but for the last few months of the project he and his new love toiled on it together.

The result was a beautiful building in an amazing setting with wonderful views.

When asked – much later, when the project was complete – “Why?” Joel eventually responded, “I guess… I just wanted to build something cool”.

He writes,

It seemed too simple, but it was true. The driving force behind the whole thing was a simple, yet inexorable desire to build something cool. There were no practical motives or profound meanings. The fact that it was hiding below some of the richest properties in Western Canada wasn’t a political statement, it just happened to be where I found the perfect tree. And building with free materials wasn’t out of some principled ideal, it was just the only avenue I could afford. In the end, I was mysteriously compelled to build something cool, something beautiful… and apparently, I was willing to go to maniacal lengths to make it happen.

Joel’s website chronicles the whole story and includes great photos of the loft’s construction and of it complete. The video provides a good introduction to The Hemloft.

Kids with the right idea

Kids are the future, and I love hearing about kids who are making a difference – whether to their own lives or to other people’s lives. It’s even better when kids show responsibility and initiative that’s sadly lacking in a lot of adults. These street kids in Old Delhi, India, have taken it upon themselves to do what adults/authorities were either unable or unwilling to do for them.

In Child’s play: Indian street youth develop model banking system RT tells how a group of kids in a shelter for homeless children in New Delhi run a branch of the children’s development khazana (Indian for ‘treasure’) that serves around 9,000 street children across South Asia and has 77 branches. The bank provides a safe place for their earnings and allows them to take out loans. The kids have a monthly meeting where they review applications for advances; based on clients’ track records of saving and earning, they decide who will receive an advance and how long they can take to pay it back.

“In a time when many people would argue that the global financial system is on the brink of collapse and that the system itself might be fundamentally flawed, it seems like these teenagers from the streets of New Delhi have the whole thing figured out. They hold everyone from the account managers to the clients accountable for their financial decisions,” says the RT report.

An RT reader, commenting on the report, said, “We are so aware of all our flaws and all the things that could go wrong in our lives. These kids are such an inspiration. We can truly be anyone and anything we want to, if we’re ready to accept ourselves and embrace life the way these kids have. This story brought a smile through the tears.”

In a blog post, Down and out in Delhi, on UNICEF’s Voices of Youth website, Andy Brown describes a visit to the shelter and the bank.

Read more about Butterflies, the charity that runs the shelter, here.

A very funny man

English comedian Eric Sykes has died at the age of 89.

He has a long list of film and TV roles and appearances, but I loved him best for The Plank, in which he not only played the lead role, but which he also wrote and directed. He made three versions of the film I think; I much prefer the 1979 version which co-stars Arthur Lowe of Dad’s Army fame and includes a cast of other greats of British comedy, including Charlie Drake, Jimmy Edwards, Harry H Corbett and Frankie Howerd.

Eric and Arthur play two builders who find that local kids have purloined a board they need to complete the floor of the house they’re building. Rather than disrupt the kids’ game they set off to the timber yard to get a new one. The journey there and back turns into a cross between a comedy of errors and a slapstick movie, and they leave a wake of mayhem and confusion wherever they go. Here’s a clip:

The Sykes/Lowe version of The Plank is available on a DVD called The Likes of Sykes which includes four other Sykes shows.

SBS includes a video tribute to Eric Sykes in their report of his death.

Michael Palin, in paying tribute to Eric, said he “was one of the nicest, most decent men in the business and one of a kind. No-one else could do what Eric could do. To me, he was a great inspiration, both as a writer and performer.”

Great praise, indeed.