Friday Woodworkers No. 11. 8th. Dec. 9 1988

This morning I`m late. Furthermore, when I`m almost there a light goes red against me, so, turning down the backroads I come up behind a dustcart blocking the road and no driver. Then a man comes and moves it, then it reaches a minor jam, and really it would have been much better if I`d gone along the main road.

Myrtle is not in, so I feel slightly as if the show is incomplete. Vi (back from Scotland), Sandra, John and Peter are in. I`m only quarter of an hour late, and being kindly people there is no complaint from anyone.

They all appreciate the great improvement of the new storage shelf, and I point out that I have also fitted coathooks. I get hold of what looks like Frank's coat and hang it up, saying to John 'There you are Frank. Shall I hang it up for you?`. It is not until I reach the other end of the workshop that I realise the misunderstending. It is amzing what a small thing can do to one' s pattern of response. 'Sorry-I mean John. I thought it was Frank's coat, and so I thought you were Frank.' I'm tired (again) and so I make some tea. The traditional and pointless English solution to all things.

Sandra tells m she is fed up with making housings, and I get out an electric router to do the next-it hadn't occurred to me to do that before! 'I thought you liked to save people's time,' she says. I do, of course. Setting up the router for an individual cut takes a long time, so I can Justify myself that way. Lots of teachers seem to look for ways of making a Job last longer, which seems to me to he both dishonest and an absolute nonsense. So when I offer help, it is almost invariably to try to make sure the person is doing the thing the easiest my.

It's very quiet this morning. There are only 6 of us.Peter says that Myrtle phoned him to say that she has to take her husband for an X-Ray. She will be in about 11 o'clock.

There are times when I burst out whistling. I whistle less than one full chorus of 'That's a plenty' and Sandra complains that I have stopped. She likes things complete. I tell them about my preparations for a Palm Court Jazz gig on Saturday night, the new PCJ R and B Dept., and what fun it is to play Rock and Roll and Blues with 50 to 60 year old players who really know the material and how it works. Sandra's son is singing at the Albert Hall on Saturday night. He`s a one of a vast choir of schoolboys who are singing with an orchestra. That might be good. Perhaps we could get them to do a 200 person chorus whilst we play some gospel music? That could really swing.

Bill arrives. Now, Bill has made the end bench his own, and anything on it that is not in immediate use is swept aside for Bill's activities, so I make a rush for the bench to stop my things being distributed around the workshop. He is quite ruthless and sometimes I speculate on whether he thinks about it or not. Does he realise what he is doing, I ask?

Peter, now we have reached 10.50 without Hugh arriving, starts to colonise Hugh`s side of the bench. There Is in fact plenty of space, and plenty of time for me to sit about, and I am half listening to conversation between Peter and Bill about property developers. This is a pretty fiery subject with this age-group, and in no time at all the whole workshop is at it. It's the Sam story here as everywhere............. "bought the ones at the end for 250,000 - too much - but that put them in a position where the others could be forced to sell-just as dishonest as lawyers - dropsy in the Planning Dept. - everywhere`s the Sam in the end - Just boxes - no gardens - decent garden gets flats built on. Our way, this firm turned our Rectory garden into an estate of detached houses. They have 20" between them.........etc."

Vi has not asked for any help, and she is still doing something. Is this the looked-for change in her self-image? I keep a low profile and wait to see what happens.

Elizabeth comes in. She is full of fluster and is only stopping by to see if end of term is this week or next. Must get on... see you later...gone. Did she stay long enough to find out? They are planning drinks and food at 1.30 on the last day of term. It all sounds a bit elaborate. Jim II says he has volunteered to make the punch! We can cook it up on the glue-kettle gas ring. I wonder if It's a black tie do.

An ex-patient from one of the mental hospitals I have been teaching in phones up the school to ask them to ask me to phone him (plenty of room for multiplication of error there - ever played whispers?), so that his friend can come and collect the guitar he was making in hospital. I have brought it here because I stopped working at the hospital just about when he was discharged, and he thought he'd finish it in my classes here. I listed half a dozen or so other classes, some of whom specialised in guitars, and some in musical instruments generally, but he wanted to finsh it with me (that's a compliment). The trouble is he now has a rather high-powered job and would have difficulties coming in on a Friday. He was a drug addict, and when I asked him if he was managing, he said "just." Enough is plenty, of course, and it can only get better with practice.

Unusually, there is nobody but me for lunch. Not even Hugh or Myrtle. So I sit with a cup of tea and sandwiches and my saxophone (surprisingly good company) and have a bit of a ponder. I'm very tired. I play a bit, but it's all a bit lacklustre. If there was a day-bed here I'd have a lie-down and snooze. I must get one. My lip is cracking and it makes the saxophone difficult to play.

At 12.45 Myrtle comes in. They queued up for their appointment, and then at 10.30 It was announced the X Ray had broken down. So they were sent to another hospital where, of course, they were at the back of the queue. Then he couldn' t remember what he was being X-Rayed for, and neither could the radiographer, so that there was further delay while they sorted themelves out.

I decide to clear the back of my car. At I o'clock they start coming in. Everyone who comes in the gate (including the school secretary - whose attention I try to retain) says the same thing: "having a bit of a clearout?" Cholly arrives in the minibus from his centre. "Having a bit of a clearout? Oh yea. Umm." "Well, I'm Just making some room to get my amps and things in." "Got 'amsters, 'ave you?" "No. Loudspeakers and amplifiers and things". "Oh yea. I've got one of them on the record-player, only I can only use it at weekends." "Well, I meant something a bit bigger, which is why I've put the back seats down." (It's an estate car). "My dad's got a big one." He goes in.

Zero lunchbreak is alright, I suppose, since it is such a pleasant bunch of people. At 1.15, people have already started. They are well impressed by my having provided storage shelves at one end and coat hooks at the other. Next thing is to complete the 'Kitchen' I started some years ago for tea-times.

Elizabeth comes back. She intends to stay this time. and has brought her Job with her. "Full class this morning, wasn't it?" she says. "There were only five in." "Seemed very full." "That's cos they were all moving about. They were trying to create the impression of a very full class so they kept running round into your field of vision," I tell her. "Oh," she says.

Patricia arrives. "Hello." Patricia departs. Is that all?

Frank comes in with his cheval mirror. It really is very splendid indeed. Peter (who was an engineer once) has helped him to make up the missing parts. They look very impressive. But I realise they will be very difficult to fit in such a way that the screw will catch properly in the plate. The plates should have been fitted and then the screw threads cut in them after fitting.

I'm feeling amazingly tired. Is it something I ate for lunch, or is it Just plain old-fashioned depression? Or what else? All I really want to do is just lie down and go to sleep suddenly. It's a big struggle. The only thing for it is to knock up some tea.

While I've been dozing (almost) Myrtle and Frank have been helping Cholly with some sash cramps. "What's he trying to do?" I say quietly to Myrtle. "Don't know." "what are you trying to do, Cholly?" "Don't know." "Oh. Do you need help?" "Yea." "Right. What do you need help with?" "Don' t know." "O.K. Do you want to know how to go on?" "Yes." Ahaa. So that's it. As long as he doesn't have to make his own decisions he is quite happy. The trouble is that I should be teaching self-reliance as much as possible.

Anyway, he`s enjoying being with the other people. He decides to try the social gambit of belching loudly and repeatedly and saying "Oh dear.Oh dear", but nobody takes any notice. This is probably a realistic response.

The two Scottish Davids are out of varnish, and it is my obligation to supply them with more because I collect 80p. per annum per student to keep the supplies up. But I'm broke and I have to ask them to buy it and I promise to refund the money next term. They seem quite happy with that, and pop out to get it.

David the sewing box turns out to be a science teacher. He took early retirement and a golden handshake at 55 (how nice), and has been doing private tuition ever since. That must be quite remunerative. He wants a moulding plane to make a specific type of moulding, and we have a rummage through the mostly incomplete moulding planes that we have in the cupboard. We decide it might be quite a nice excercise to make one when the time comes (he didn't want it right now, it turns out.) We discuss the subject of I.Q. testing. The main thing, of course, is to have a series of easily understood dymbols to put on a person's notes:

Thin short plank

Medium short plank

Short plank

2 short planks


(illus.) and so on up to 4 or 5 short planks. One could go on then into extra short planks, and so on.

It's 3.30 and I need to go a bit quickly today. But they're still beavering on. I start locking cupboards. They gradually pack. We go at 4 o'clock.