Living and Working in England
Abingdon, the small town where I live, is just 8 miles from the centre of Oxford City. Many of you have asked how I like my move from North Wales to the centre of England––I love it! Of course making new friends takes time and sometimes means accepting even major differences. In the beginning, so much was going on I did find it difficult because living in the south of England is very different than the north. That said, I have made many new friends and I am enjoying living and working near to Oxford. Oxford itself of course is unique. Each street you walk down seems to have a college and the buildings are unified by a continuum of stone structures exemplifying an intention that there would be certainty for generations through the century. I think I am safe to say the University began around the early part of 1,100. The complexity of unique and characterful buildings have remained unchanged and they are fascinating to say the least. One day I hope to spend months inside them. I cannot begin to tell you how much woodworking exists that’s never seen.
I live in Abingdon on Thames, a small town of 36,000. Oxford is around 159,000 with 32,000 of that number being students attached to two universities. I am not sure how the two rivers connecting in Abingdon unite but Abingdon is made all the more beautiful by them. Abingdon nestles on the river Ock which is a tributary to the Thames itself and which also passes through Abingdon.
In the morning I usually have my coffee and breakfast in town at 7.30, so I cycle through the streets into town and lock my bike next to one of the cafes. My habit of morning coffee is a legacy from the life I loved when I lived and traveled in the USA. I do miss American cafe coffee (not Starbucks). In the evenings also I enjoy cycling around town and country for half an hour to an hour , mostly before dark. I bike along the Thames as part of one route I take. This is where I get to enjoy my camera. The narrow boats and barges, boats, canoes, sail boats and so on colour my life quite differently than when I lived in North Wales where most boats I saw were used on the sea.
The house we live in makes a lovely yet simple home. It’s private enough yet not isolated and detached from life. I enjoy buses, people, bike and most cyclists. 90% are OK but then you get the arrogant posers who flash by recklessly at high speed silently and you don’t have time to move if they come from behind or across you. Pedestrians beware. There is a violence on multiple levels and this is just another part of British culture and one of them that seems all too often out of control.
I’ve enjoyed the workshop now cum studio, well who wouldn’t? It’s important that we all connect as much as possible to jointly progress everything because we are all part of the big picture. It’s been quite the steep learning curve for me, when I think of developing curriculum, writing books and how-to’s, blogs, and then working online to teach instead of my just being the maker I’d always been.
So here it is, when I thought I might be retiring I discover a whole new world in creative spheres that for me never existed before. My mostly personal creative space expanded quickly to shared space, better space. It ties us all together true, but more than that, working so directly gives added, valuable input from everyone, so that what might seem peripherally linked actually makes the creative processing all the better.
I do love my garage at the house to though. It’s uncluttered and easy to keep orderly. Throughout the spring and summer I have enjoyed evenings and weekends making things that are not filmed or much photographed either. I still like making shelves for bedrooms and then stools and tables too. Here I can design new pieces, prototype uninterrupted and sketch new ideas I want to create some time in the coming years.
I am careful about making noise but my neighbours seem to enjoy the fact things are being made nearby. I don’t think people know makers of anything any more and especially someone, well, well known I suppose. Liz makes cups of tea and we sit at the garden table now and then. When I lived more remotely in south Texas we built our home in what seemed then to be the middle of nowhere. Reagan Wells, Texas. Google it and you will see how remote it is. Sitting outside under the live oaks using tree stumps for tables became a way for the whole family as we built the house. Once the house was built it just carried on. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. No TV out there.
Such a beautiful country.
I have spent time with family in Maldon and Hertfordshire and visited York and the south coast, Dover and vicinity. I always enjoy the atmosphere, the scenery and the history.
You are a lucky man, Paul
There are actually three rivers meeting in Abingdon, the Stert joins the Thames upstream of the bridge. It goes right through the centre of town in a culvert – see http://www.abingdon.gov.uk/feature-articles/river-stert-culvert-abingdon
And then there’s also the Swift Ditch – which you’ll probably have cycled over many times now – which cuts through the meadows on the other side of the Thames and is supposedly the original course of the Thames. Before the current ‘modern’ lock was built, it was the navigable course of the Thames https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swift_Ditch
Thanks for this. I was hoping someone with more local knowledge than me would dive in here.
What beautiful country, I can see why you so enjoy it. It has been probably 40 – 42 years since i have been to England, France, Italy, and Monti Carlo and what I remember was absolutely astonishing. My heritage is Irish in fact my Grand Parents on my Fathers side came from Dublin and one day would love to visit that Country as well.
Thanks for sharing this !
Hi Paul, like you i came from the north just down the road from you in Hyde, also like you i have moved around from the UK to France and now the west cost ofIireland, unlike you though my woodworking journey has only just begun, but i also love my garage come workshop where i hope to spend many great hours where with lessons from your great site i may hope to create some passable items of woodwork. Keep up the good work and good luck with the future. regards Karl
My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Oxford and the surrounding area. We love the area–so different from Texas. I would miss Texas but probably would jump at the chance to live a good part of the year in central England. One of my favorite places–the Kilns where C.S. Lewis lived.
Wow did this blog/photos bring back some memories! (You may not remember but I attended your 9 day course in N Wales in May last year.) Abingdon; I used to live there in the ’70s. I loved the place. Played rugby for the local club; fished on the river and worked at Heathrow. Great beer by the way … Moorlands… try some if you haven’t already….
I am so glad to hear that things are working out for you and your family after what must have been a ‘big’ move…. N Wales to central England. Worlds apart in some ways…. I hope that life will continue to be all you could wish for……
Hi Paul, glad you’re enjoying your new life in Abingdon. As a resident of the town myself since the late 1950’s I love the history of the place. This small town was once of great importance of course, growing up around a huge Abbey and later becoming the county town of the Royal County of Berkshire. The building of the county hall in the market place, pictured in your blog, was an attempt by the town I think to try and retain its status as an assizes town, but eventually Reading took over as Berkshire’s major town. After county boundary changes in 1974, Abingdon found itself not even in Berkshire, but instead In Oxfordshire, a sore point for many of townsfolk at the time (and since for some). Much has changed In Abingon over the years that I’ve been here, some good, some bad, but overall I still think it’s a great place to live.
All the best to you,
Beautiful town, altho BBC Masterpiece Mystery Theater depicts local constabulary’s valiant attempts to solve rampant murder rate in Oxford. As Brother Sellers will recall, Texas still has constables… and they use guns more than Inspectors Lewis and Hathaway.
Thanx for enabling my wannabe woodworker dreams!
Very nice pictorial essay. You are a great example of “the harder I work, the luckier I get” as witnessed in my own life!
Are You still moving forward with your plans to re-start your school in your new base?
I’m sure there are more than a few of use who are eager to know when we might be visiting you and your team in Abingdon.
Paul, what a beautiful area you live in and the atmosphere of learning in and around the area must be wonderful. You must fit right in. I live in South Louisiana, USA born and raised here and I don’t think I will ever move. However if the opportunity ever came up to live in the Oxford area I think I would be mighty tempted.
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