After school I initially thought my future lay within the motor industry, after all mechanical engineering and all things metal had obviously been shown to be my forté, and I had been decorating my parent’s kitchen table with brake shoes and cylinder heads for the best part of a year, but my enthusiasm for adjusting tappets and changing spark plugs, accompanied by permanently skinned knuckles and oil ingrained hands, waned very quickly. A practical career that didn’t involve oil filters and rocker-cover gaskets was what was required and at that point I had a brief dalliance with the building industry, commencing with a ‘thick sandwich’ course at the North East Surrey College of Technology, followed by a very happy time looking through theodolites and being constantly entertained by the many Irish comedians who worked on building sites. I ended with a spot of project management, building a cardboard factory in an industrial wasteland just down the road from Belmarsh Prison. Having reached this pinnacle of success in the building industry, which had resulted in me spending most of my time behind a desk or arguing with men wearing yellow hats with Wimpey stamped across the front, it was time for a change!
A rather delightful view of the Bow flyover
My professional woodworking adventure started about 25 years ago. I loved wood as a material, I had always enjoyed design and drawing and I felt the desperate need to work with my hands if I was to maintain any sort of grip on my sanity. A year’s intensive training in deepest darkest Kent near the most haunted village in Britain was followed by my first workshop, a large unit on the 3th floor of a rather tired looking Victorian, red brick industrial building in the East End of London, with a rather delightful view of the Bow flyover. If I were there now I would have a rather nicer view of the Olympic Park, although my veneer supplier, who had his warehouse just over the road from me, now claims that his desk would be on the finishing line of the main stadium. The old building has gone now, which is probably a good thing, but it seems to have been replaced with a McDonalds, which probably isn’t! It was in these salubrious surroundings, shared with five other woodworkers, that my career in cabinet-making and furniture restoration made its first faltering steps. I was in the East End in a workshop next door to a sweat-shop, my commute every day involved that obvious joys of the Northern Line but I was surrounded by exquisite pieces of furniture, there was the smell of wood and glue in the air and I was loving it………………………..!