A Change of Tactic

I am in the process of making an oak notice board for the local Parish Council to be erected outside the Council offices, to provide information for the populace of the village.

And part of the specification for the board is that it incorporates two headboards, each with the name of the village carved into the oak board.   The notice board will be positioned so that it can be viewed from the road, by passing motorists.  And from the pavement, by the pedestrian village residents.

Now, those of you who read my blogs regularly will be acquainted with the fact that I have a neighbour friend, who lives across the road, who often calls into my workshop to see what I am up to.  And today, as almost every other day, was no exception.  Except that today, having been over during the course of the morning, he expressed his interest in the matter of me carving the lettering in the headboards.  Contrary to his usual, occasionally subtle, but more often blatant sarcasm, he seemed somewhat impressed by an activity which was obviously a new experience to him.
I offered him a cup of tea; it being close to eleven o’clock, which he graciously accepted, as he does every time he visits.  Whilst this is a relaxing break from whatever I happen to be engaged in at the time, it often results in the loss of an hour of work time.
Most days, I don’t mind as I don’t work to a tight schedule.   Unless I am in the process of working on pieces which I have promised clients will be complete and ready for collection by a specified time.  But normally I have time to chat.  I can always make up the time later in the day, if necessary.
However …………

The result of his interest was that my friend returned in the afternoon to see how I was progressing with the carving.  That was his purpose.  Though he heralded his second appearance of the day with a quite different, but obviously trifling reason.   And, of course, following a brief chat about the carving, the invitation for a cup of tea.  Again, which he graciously accepted.

So, that is two hours gone.

I’m going to have to revise my tactics about offering refreshment, whenever he appears in the future.
Either that, or I’m going to start being particularly rude about his sarcasm and supposed wit.

It’s costing me a fortune in teabags, milk and sugar.
To say nothing of the time taken to sit and drink it.   :-)

It Would Be So Nice ….

On a Sunday morning, I go shooting.     At a club local to Northampton, called Sywell Range, which accommodates clay shooters, full-bore pistol and rifle indoor and outdoor shooters, and outdoor airgun shooters.  And it is the airgun rifle shooting that I participate in.  Not at anything live, I hasten to add.  At ‘tin-chickens’:  which are silhouettes of live game, but with a kill-zone within each profile, which if you hit, the target falls over.  It is a sport discipline called Field Target shooting, or FT for short.  It is very popular in the UK.
I am, admittedly, a very poor shot.  In fact I am probably the undisputed most crap shot in the whole of the airgun section of the Sywell Range.  But that means that I am under no pressure to perform to a particular standard.  Or indeed, to any standard at all.  I am free to just turn up; and enjoy myself amongst a bunch of like minded people, whose company I enjoy enormously.  And being out in the fresh air on a Sunday morning, whatever the weather, makes it all worthwhile.
In fact, according to Neil, the clubs possibly longest serving member, and Range Officer, and one of the hardest working amongst all of us, in terms of keeping the club operational, I am there for everyone else to ridicule, and delight in, at the appalling results of my shooting. (I generally reckon that if I hit half or more, of the forty targets, I have had a very good day.)
Which, you may consider as being a fairly harsh and unnecessary thing to say to anyone.
But I can assure you that it is not either said, nor intended, in a derisory manner.  (Well, not very derisory, anyway.  :-) )
Good, wholesome banter is an essential part of the clubs ethos.  Though admittedly not mentioned in its Articles of Constitution.   Most of the stick which I receive, I probably deserve:  and what I don’t deserve I receive anyway – because it is always so graciously provided.
Neil, Phil and a number of other notables within the club, are also incidentally, some of the people who have helped me most in terms of my transition from an utter novice with no idea, to the most crap shot in the club, with no idea.  So I have much to be grateful for, from Neil and his fellow proficient members, who have been so instrumental in my dismally appalling progress. :-)

I have related that because, this morning, I was talking to Phil, a good friend at the club, who told me that he had been reading some of my latest blogs.  And he stated how much he enjoyed reading them.

But he didn’t leave a comment.
And I do wish he had.         It Would Be So Nice ….  to hear his thoughts.
And the same is true for everyone who reads my blogs.
It really is very easy to post a comment  (please do ensure that it is reasonably civil and well mannered – you may never know who else will read your comment)

When you view the LEAVE A REPLY box of the blog that you have read, you will see that you are required to be Logged In.
Click on this, and you will be provided with a dialogue box which asks you for a User Name & your password.    If you have not yet registered, at the bottom left hand corner of this dialogue box you will find :-


Click on it and enter your proposed User Name & email address.  The webmaster will then send a password to your email address, which you enter into the appropriate section, then  you Log In: and submit your comment

Give it a try.  You may find that you enjoy it.
Your comments may be as honest as you wish, but please do respect the necessity to be well mannered.
Offensive &/or bad mannered posts will be removed, without exception.

I Want It Before ……


Today was not by any means the occasion of the first exclamation ‘I want it before Christmas – it will be a present, you see’.
But the enquiry, and to be fair it was a politely expressed enquiry, even if the request did appear to be bathed in a coating of sincere supplication, was made only three days before Christmas Day.

My immediate response was that it was extremely unlikely that the work, three newly completed oil canvases, would be available in time, given the amount of work I have taken on, to which I have already given assurances that it all will be ready in time to wrap up in paper and tinsel before the
Big Day.
The gentleman enquirer said that he understood the situation, though was naturally somewhat disappointed that his request could not be accommodated. He asked for an approximate price for me to stretch and gallery wrap his three pieces of artwork. Which I duly provided for him, explaining that the price I had given was dependent entirely upon his estimation of sizes and description of the artwork and that I would need to view the work to provide him with a firm price. He ended the telephone conversation by saying that he would discuss the matter with his partner and then, asked when he could call around with his artwork. I provided the information, thanked him for his enquiry, and honestly anticipated that being the end of the matter.
I often receive such enquiries at this time of the year for no other reason than potential customers have trawled around all of the shop based framers and have either been appalled by the prices given for work to their artwork, and/or have been bluntly told that their request is ludicrously late in terms of completion before Christmas. So, they explore the net. The www.pleasehelpi’mdesperate.com Their last ditch chance that they may find something/someone/anyone who can get them out of the somewhat disordered position that they have managed to get themselves into.

And of course, they find me. Lucky people.
Little old me. Who is just sitting in my workshop, drumming my fingers on my bench, waiting for their telephone call. Just wishing I had something to do. Ready to immediately leap into frenzied action on their behalf.

Now if the estimated cost of the work which I provide them with doesn’t immediately illicit a “You have got to be joking!! You can’t charge that much. I want the piccy framing, not a bloody en-suite/five bedroomed house building around it. C’mon pal. Get real. It’s only four bits of wood slapped round a grotty picture”, you know very well that your estimate is nowhere near as exorbitant as those they have already received from the High Street shops.
So given the opportunity to do so, the customer is likely to stick with you. Unless you blow it, of course

But no matter how smug you feel, you still have to maintain that you can’t possibly fit their work into your busy schedule before Christmas. Which is perfectly true. You can’t. November and December are manic times for people like myself, who produce decorative (as opposed to functional) woodturning, picture framing, photography, pen sets, light pulls galore, etc. We become inundated with enquiries from generously minded potential customers looking for something ‘a little special’ to give to a friend, a family member, a loved one at Christmas.

In much the same manner that gymnasiums are inundated with the mildly, through to the extravagantly, fat/unhealthy/unfit individuals during May, as their intention is to slide their potentially rejuvenated form into the smallest of swimwear, or less as the case may be, and relax on the Mediterranean beaches during June, July or August.
And that, Beluga my little whale, no matter how hard you work, is just not going to happen. At least, not this year it’s not.

So imagine my surprise when the gentleman of this morning’s telephone conversation turned up on my doorstep, complete with his partner and three rolled canvases.
Together we looked at the artwork which had originated in Bali, and discussed their requirements in terms of how they would like the work to be carried out. And during the course of our discussion I sensed a very mild, yet admittedly well disguised, tension beginning to build between the gentleman and his non English partner. It was obvious that she wished to speak to him with some urgency, but due to her lack of fluency in English was not prepared to do so in my presence.
So I made an inane excuse to go out of the room and the moment I did so the lady began to implore her partner with her request.     When I returned he explained, in a manner which I suspect was not immediately obvious to his partner, that she was desperate to have the paintings hanging on the presently very bare walls of a newly decorated room, when their guests arrived for dinner on Christmas Day.
The gentleman expressed this in a manner which carried no hint of pleading or cajoling at all.    Rather it was a reserved and rational explanation of his partner’s dilemma.
I reiterated that I was very busy with work already committed to, and could provide no further assurance in terms of his partner’s desire to complete the decoration of her dining room.
He acknowledged my assertion in a very gracious manner.
And suddenly I found myself empathizing with another male, faced with the demands of a possibly emotional partner, knowing that he has no hole to bolt into. I have been there. I remember how exasperating it is and how unsettling the feeling of almost helplessness is.
As he was leaving I quietly asked for his mobile number and said that, without making any definite promises, if I could, I would ring him during Christmas Eve evening to let him know that his work is ready for collection.

So this evening, long after the workshop is normally locked up for the night, I have been constructing three appropriately sized frames, upon which to stretch the canvases on Christmas Eve afternoon, when everything else is completed.
His lady partner does not know, and probably never will know, that her pictures were hanging on her dining room walls during Christmas 2014, not singularly because of her emotional appeal to her man, but also because I could not stand by and see a fellow male in a predicament that I, with only a little extra effort, could assist him out of.

It is, after all, the season of Good Will.
And even the best of good will is often quite ineffectual without a little action, isn’t it?


Last week a young man walked into my workshop and asked me what I was doing.

I told him, though he actually didn’t seem that interested. I got the impression that he just wanted to chat.      That’s okay. I have time to chat.
So long as this young man is not looking around too attentively; sorting out in his mind what is in the workshop and whether he, and a couple of his buddies, can carry it out during the hours of darkness. His eyes seemed to settle upon the access and the door locks.
I mentioned, just in the course of conversation you understand, that most of the machinery weighed in at approximately half a ton. I also went on to explain my thoughts on the subject of trespass, the police’s lax approach to it, and my willingness to break bones when and where necessary.
I think that he got the point because he relaxed a lot, giggled in a manic sort of fashion, and started asking my views on graffiti as an art form.

I explained that I have no problems with graffiti for the simple reason that it I can’t do anything about it. I suggested that it is rather like me telling a recently pubescent teenager that they must not masturbate because it will result in a lifetime of blindness. Their little hands will become a blur once they realise that they are not actually walking into things any more that they did before speaking to me.

So Grant says, “the government are going to pass a law banning graffiti in public places.”

Is there really any point in plastering private places with graffiti?

Yes, he’s told me that his name is Grant. And if it is, judging by the way he was casing my property and goods, I would only believe him if he then said that his surname was Edbail. But, as it happened, I had also heard a rumour that banning graffiti was part of a government programme.
They might as well introduce a law to stop all crime.
That would be novel.
Make crime a criminal offence.

Is it just me?
Does no-one else realise just how stupid people in government really are?

Welcome To My World

I meet some wonderful people during the course of the day. And then of course, there are the others. You really wouldn’t believe how difficult it is for some people to figure out how many beans make nine, would you?

Well, you are very welcome to my world.

As I have said, I meet some real treasures. Often elderly. But some, certainly, with more youth and vigour than I can even remember having. So funny. Upon occasions, grateful. Predominantly respectful and polite. And so many have become acquaintances or friends.

In due course I will relate some of my more endearing experiences with my buying public. But to start of with, let me tell you about some of those who not only singularly fail to warm the cockles of my heart; but instead make me want to emigrate to Vladimir Putin’s Russian Republic.

A reflection upon the present day pre-occupation with all things electronic and computerized, is the manner in which people will happily accept any price for framing their beloved artwork, which is determined by the pricing programme on my laptop. They request at least an indication of how much their torn, folded and wrinkled 1903 sepia print of great aunt Myrtle is going to cost: to be finished in an oval double mount with elaborate washlines, with low reflective UV protective glass, and in a corresponding elaborate oval guilt frame.

I enter the details into the programme, add a couple of pounds to cover hanging fixtures etc and press the Result button.

“Oh” they exclaim. Maybe with a slightly bewildered expression on their face, but ….

“Will it really cost that much?”

Er ….   No, I’m only pulling your leg madam. I’ll tell you what. I’ll do it for a fiver for you.

Of course it will cost that much. Or, at least it will if you take to the guy in the posh shop on the High Street.   That’s what I think. What I say is – “Yes. I’m afraid so. Your artwork is obviously very precious to you and of great sentimental value. So to enable me to do credit to it …..   etc etc.”

And their response?

“Okay then, if that’s what it will cost I suppose I’ll have to pay it.”

Now, they have just stepped onto their ‘Winning Streak/Today Was a Good Day’ joyride.

Because my default rejoinder to their acceptance is –  “ Actually, I can save you a little money. Because I have no aspirations to be a millionaire, and I’m happy to cover my materials and services costs, and in addition, only sufficient to ensure that on Friday evening there is a bottle of Glenfiddich to hand. So how about …… £*** ? “

Everyone is a winner. They go home delighted because they believe that they have struck a bargain. I have something I enjoy doing, to occupy at least part of my week. And Friday evening sees me embarking upon a Happy Hour with the content of a bottle of golden splendidity.

However, if they even attempt to start to barter, the price remains where it is.

But 98% of people accept the computer generated price without a word.

The alternative scenario is one where I have generated the price from my own calculations, because the laptop programme is not available, for whatever reason..

Then the fur really begins to fly.

“You’ve got to be joking!! You can’t charge that much. I want the piccy framing, not a bloody en-suite/five bedroomed house building around it. C’mon pal. Get real. It’s only four bits of wood slapped round a grotty photo”

Now, at this point the gentleman is always facing the door. I don’t know how that happens. When he started to red-mist, he was only inches away from the end of my nose – but by the time he is taking his second deep breath, he is always facing the door. It must be the physics of the thing. Something like negative polarity. It seems to affect his blood pressure too.

Occasionally he will try to negotiate. But most often it is with the following statement.

“But …… but, the guy on the High Street will do it for £** ”

And he will look at me in a thoroughly bemused fashion when I ask him, “Why are you here then, wasting my time providing you with a price? Go to the fella on the High Street. If I could do it for that price I would have given you that price.”

At this point in the proceedings the gentleman may storm off in a fury. That is unlikely though.

Because he wants Auntie Myrtle framing. And it’s not his Auntie Myrtle. It’s his wife’s Auntie Myrtle. So he knows very well that to go home with anything else but a done deal, doesn’t even bear consideration. Not if he wants the ‘usual’ on Saturday night, it’s not. And if she had heard him describe Auntie Myrtle’s relic as a grotty photo, he would really find out how monks cope with celibacy.

He only came to me to get a price because he has already been to the guy in the posh shop on the High Street who would consider my price ‘derisory’ and ‘just for starters’; and who had offered his “You have got to be bloody well sodding joking !! price.

So, the more likely event is that he will capitulate. Albeit, reluctantly and with poor grace

Now. You will almost certainly remember the lady who ‘just stepped onto their ‘Winning Streak/Today Was a Good Day’ joyride’. For no other reason than that your short-term memory is so much better than mine.

Well this young man (whatever his age) is about to step onto his ‘Life’s a bitch, and then you die’ treadmill. Which, as it happens, is where he does seem to spend most of his time.

Because today, he is paying top-dollar. And I’m laughing all the way to the bank.