Odd Job Man by Margaret Haig

“Hurry up Molly”, I called to wife who was in the kitchen, “the programme is just about to start.”
“Just coming Billy”, she replied “ Oooh I’m so excited, who would have thought our Tim would be on the TV.”
I’m sitting here in our front room, waiting for Molly to come through and pinching myself again. A bit earlier I was just saying to Molly, “Who would have thought our children would be where they are today through that odd job I got all those years ago.”
Before we had our tea I sat back and remembered how it all started. In my school days if you were not academic you did vocational classes. I chose woodwork, and it was a source of pride for me, even at that age, to make sure I did a good job. The Head Teacher was ahead of his time and encouraged the vocational classes as much as the academic classes. Every year, at the Summer prize-giving ceremony, there was always a display of the best of the art, sewing, cookery and wood and metal work that those of us doing the vocational classes produced. Suddenly at sixteen, I had to leave school as my dad was killed in a railway accident and mum needed to have money coming in to support us three kids. So as the eldest, it was me who left.
My first job was in the furniture department of a large store. I was keen and willing to do any jobs so got noticed and progressed to being a salesman. The owner of the store insisted that all of his staff knew what they were talking about in each of the departments so he made sure we learned our trade from other experts and sent us on lots of courses. Those of us in the furniture department spent time in the carpenter’s shop learning about all the different types of wood, how to remove water stains, mending splits in wood due to too much dry central heating, all kinds of useful chunks of information. Sometimes the boss shuffled us about. For a while, I was in soft furnishings and learned a lot about fabrics, how to look after them, how to dress a room and even how to make curtains. Never thought that would ever be useful.
All the time I was working in the store I was creating, mending and often selling pieces of furniture I made in my small workshop. One day a customer who had seen the doll’s house and it’s furniture that I made years ago for our daughter Stella displayed in a local craft exhibition said to me that she was “looking for a craftsman and would I like to work for her organisation?”
It turned out that this lady worked for a Trust which looks after country houses bequeathed to it. This Trust gathers up experts in all areas and has them doing conservation and restoration work in the houses.
I jumped at the chance and went off for the interview. I got the job which in those early days really was about just doing ‘odd jobs.’ Nowadays we are a select and specialist group of people called ‘conservators.’ I thought I knew a lot about furniture, but since I have been doing this work, I have learned so much more about furniture, what it was made of, the materials used in its construction, and this helps to understand what it has gone through over the centuries. It’s a bit like detective work in a way. Like Forensic Departments, we keep everything and made meticulous records of everything, and take lots of photographs. Two more skills I learned, record keeping and taking photographs.
I’ve been with the organisation for thirty years, and still find the job fascinating. I have travelled all over the country living in the old houses and working with teams of people conserving beautiful furniture and objects. All this travelling and staying away was hard on Molly, my wife, as I was away from home for long periods of time. I missed quite a bit of seeing my children growing up. However, there were compensations for being away so much.
When the houses were closed for the winter, Molly and the children would come and stay in the accommodation provided with the job. They had great Christmas and summer holidays exploring the houses and gardens. On wet summer days the children would tag onto the tours going on in the houses. Phil was happiest outdoors exploring any ruins and old buildings, Stella loved the clothes and Tim loved the old furniture and pictures. Molly and me were happy to be together as a family.
Those times together really paid off as all three children absorbed a love of learning and an interest in old and beautiful things. Phil, my eldest studied Archaeology. He loves digging up old things and finding out their history. Just like the folks on that TV programme Time Team. In fact he even looks a bit like them with his long hair and odd hats. Stella went to Art and Design College and studied fashion. She has a place in one of the big couture houses and makes the most beautiful clothes. She was one of the team of seamstresses involved in the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress. Tim loves antiques, having finished his Fine arts Degree began work in a famous antiques saleroom. He was recently spotted by a researcher who liked his professionalism and easy way with clients, and offered a job on this TV programme advising people about their antique furniture.
So here I am, the ‘odd job man’ who left school at sixteen, watching his son on the telly. The proud father of three wonderful young people who through my my unusual ‘odd job’ have got not just the learning bug, but amazing careers for themselves which all started with a love of wood.

About highamwriters

A group of recreational creative writers and if you ask us nicely we will let you publish some of our work
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