Dedicated to @Robert58585858
It was a Sunday ritual as sacred and important to me as the one I had attended that morning at the local church. Where the smells of incense and candles were replaced with those of sawdust and motor oil, and where the hymnals and sacred books were the Haynes Automotive series and hand-drawn blueprints for yet unnamed contraptions. This was my favourite retreat, my Grandad’s workshop. Attached to the side of his house, it ran the full width of their spacious detached village home and was a den full of materials, parts and tools. My Grandad kept everything and saw value in everything and thanks to the constant encouragement from my Nan, everything had its place. There were sections for wood (by type), doors, radiators, piping, screws, nails, nuts, bolts and rivets. There were lengths of rope a plenty of various thicknesses, old bicycle tyres, long-discarded record players – he even kept his father’s false teeth, just in case.
The workshop was fronted by an up and over garage door, manually operated by a pull-chord rope with a toggle attached to the end. The original having long-since been discarded for a new and improved one, made with the finest B.A.C. grade blue rope and an old rubber foot from a chair leg, that you could wrap your hand around with comfort and ease. From this grand opening you would wind your way through his vast collection of materials, to the rear of the workshop where it opened up to reveal the vast workbench, surrounded by tools hanging on the walls or stored in ancient wooden drawers and chests. Each wood-plane and Saw had a story attached, a previous owner, some memory of former creations that they helped to build. Grandad knew each one of these tools intimately, and to him each had a role to play, a particular talent or skill that he would utilise when the time was right. Some tools were used more often than others, there was a hand-drill that should have been long-since retired, but that had been patched up with endless lengths of “black tape”, such was the esteem with which it was held by Ronnie. His was not an attitude of “that’ll do”, but of “let’s get it right”, and each tool had a role to play, a time to be called upon and a time to wait patiently until their services were required once more.
It never failed to astound me how well he knew his tools, a moment of quiet contemplation of the task at hand and he would turn, in one swift and purposeful movement towards the required tool, in some dark and dusty store in the chancel of his workshop. If a tool didn’t manage to achieve the desired result, there was no admonishment of it by Ronnie, just more contemplation and another selected. On those rare occasions when he could find no tool designed for the job well, then he would just design a new tool himself! A couple of lengths of pipe welded together, a rivet here and there and the perfect tool was created. Nothing was based on chance or luck, but upon experience and reflection; the tools of his trade were more than just the screwdrivers and hammers that surrounded him, they were also his his patience, his quiet contemplation, careful planning and collaborative approach to work.
For years I would rush into this workshop as sooner as Sunday dinner was done, to see what my Grandad was busy creating today. From a small boy to a man, I stood beside him, holding planks of wood whilst he cut them in two, fetching screws from the little plastic draws lining the back wall or digging around in the materials for a very specific piece that was pivotal to the success of his lates creation. I am not sure that I ever gained any of the engineering skills that he demonstrated to me each week, but I do know that I have him to thank for my ability to now call upon those tools of reflection, contemplation and patience that were a constant of my experiences with him. In the same way that he cared for each drill piece and each ting bolt, I know the value of these precious tools and the importance of caring for them, of knowing them well and being prepared to use them when life demands it.
When he passed away 16 years ago it was those tools that were handed down to me and that I hope I too will hand on to my children, and along the way, who knows, we may even create one or two new ones ourselves.