Friday woodoorkers No.13 13 3an., 1989
It is New Year, and the first meeting since the Christmas party. There are seven of us in first thing, and I am a mere 5 minutes late. Before I've even opened the door (and through the glass!) Vi is telling me; "we've had a hell of a Job with this," pointing to one of the gas-fires. Vi threatens to go on strike from time to time over the heating. "You don't have to work if the temperature's below 60 degrees," she tells me every so often, "Why don't you tell Frazer you're not willing to work till it's fixed?" She has a point, I suppose, but I like By class and the others don't seem to mind. One day I suppose we will strike. Then what?
Myrtle is not in, and before I've even got my coat off Peter informs me that she has phoned him to say that she can't be in owing to acute bronchitis. She wheezes like hell even when she's well, so it really must be something. Peter tells me she could hardly talk:-
"Pet er--wheeze--I can' t --wheeze--come--wheeze --in. I've got--wheeze--bronchi--wheeze--tis" etc. I'll phone her up if she isn't in next week.
Everyone's opening their new toys they got at Christmas. There are electric jigsaws, sanders, routers, pump screwdrivers, sets of chisels, fancy hammers and much excitement. "Does your one.......", "Nine has a thing on it that.........", "That's a useful thing.........." The place is alive with ironmonger talk. I've brought in 6 cramps which I managed to get for 99pence each, and even though they are only 2" in size they are in much demand.
Last day of last term the kettle broke down, but I notice Victoria preparing to make tea. On close scrutiny it turns out that it is not in fact the original kettle but one of a very similar design. We experiment with leads and the class kettle and blow the fuse on her one, and are obliged to use an ordinary kettle on the glue-pot gas ring. Lucky Myrtle isn't in. She finds that sort of kettle so alarming she can't work. One must, however, get one's priorities right, and a cup of tea is where it's at.
The planes and chisels are getting worse and worse. I was able to keep on top of them last year, but this year there is a furniture restoration class who seem to know little about tools, and leave things covered in French polish, use chisels to lever out nails and all the other things guaranteed to wind up a proper woodworker. I'm sure it's not all of them. But even one is enough if that one is active. I have sent word via the caretaker. They also seem to put things back and take another when blunt, leaving me with the Job of sharpening. And then there is someone who sharpens at the wrong angle. That makes almost endless work. Sandra persuades me to demonstrate the marking out of her mortice and tenon joints. I do one, she does the rest. That seems fair. Whilst we are playing about with the bits Peter comes over with a `waney edge` offcut, which he describes as a bra mou1d. We are taken back to the sixties, when you could buy paper underwear and throw it away after use. It would be very easy to cast bras, I am saying. But Sandra points out that in fact the 60's stuff didn`t catch on. If it had, they would probably still be making it. There's no reason to suppose it would catch on now, so down the plug goes another good business idea.
Patricia is making a lid for her water butt. All it is, is a circle of water-resistant ply with a hole through for the rainwater pipe to go into. I persuade her to affix 3 blocks underneath with waterproof glue to keep it in position.
I have bought some water-based gloss paint. I once put some on a front door in Wales. That was 18 years ago and it is still OK. So I am using it on my bathroom cabinet.
There is only Victoria and myself for lunch. She won't stop, and somehow seems to drive me along with her. Eventually I stop with a vengeance. I stop walking about eating, and sit down eating. I then start playing my saxophone. She doesn't like it and so keeps asking me questions so that I have to stop playing to answer. She acts like she wants to get into an argument about anything and everything. "Why are you trying to push the instrument beyond it's natural limits?" "Becauss I feel like it." "It's not designed to do that." "No. But I'm trying to make it." "You don't have to. It's range ends lower than that." "Yes, but I want to see how far I can push it." After each sentence I try another. But she won' t give up! Does it hurt her ears or something? It being a baritone I am playing today, it is not in fact going very high. Anyway, she could tell me. Or does she just feel like a bit of aggro? After all, we argue about everything else. She finally succeeds in stopping me, and then asks me how to get the rivet out of her scissors. So that's it! I recommend filing the end of the rivet, and she goes to the grinder and grinds half the scissors away because she is grinding at the wrong angle. I did say file. But there we are. My, what a mess. Never mind. She has got the rivet out and is enjoying herself. There is now the strange contrast between the peace of an empty and resting workshop and the jolly yellings of the kids in the playground outside. This contrast between age and youth, and the odd bits where the two brush against each other is one of the things I particularly like about this class.
Jim I comes in. His wife died Just before Christmas and it is the first time we have seen him since. A few of us know, and people are being supportive. Just exactly enough to let him know he's amongst friends, and no more. No one is straining themselves to be compassionate, and no-one is avoiding him because they don't know what to say.
Jim II (Lyrical Jim) comes in. I got a very fine cap over Christmas, and now I am looking at what other people are wearing. Jim's is like a pancake. Someone flipped it and it came down on his head by mistake. As it was nice and warm he kept it on, and decided to have it copied in something more permanent. And there it is. I am so intrigeed by it that when he takes it off I have to pick it up and look at it. It is just a plain piece of (pancake coloured!) woven wool with a peak and an elasticated band. How does it stay on like that? Jim I wears his pulled well down, and Victoria has a kind of deer stalker. I look around. There are all manner of hats and caps, but I like mine the best. Nine is in patchwork tweeds with quilted lining. Perhaps a little over-trendy.
I`m walking about in my oily mechanic's overalls I've had the last 18 years because I'm painting my small cupboard. The Scottish Davids come in. "Aha. Hugh's dressed up." "Yes, I'm going for an interview." They want to make a magazine rack each and we plan one:
This is quite a good design to make with the particular equipment we have, but a bit of a sod for ordinary hand making.
Cholly has forgotten to bring the string he needs to go on with his project. There isn't a lot he can do, so he goes round talking to everyone. "Good, innit?" he`s saying, when I trun round to see Victoria cutting the top off the milk carton by using a mallet and chisel against the end of the bench. Talk about macho!