Sunrising Starts

It’s not really that early but I leave home at around 6.30. With the front door gone but boarded up I’m using the back conservatory door and it is just about coming light when my hand hits the latch. With the mix of rain and showers I take advantage of every opportunity to kick start my day on my bike so most days I bike for a few miles between leaving home and starting work in my shop. This morning began with that early sunrise everyone loves. I snap a few pics on my phone and then search the river banks for my beloved water voles and otters.

The lake was the very calmest this morning and any ripples spread in undulating swells from the source. I reach the river and stand and wait for any telltale signs in the water, hoping it’s more than a coot or a moorhen combing the edges of the reeds. Five little egrets lift off from the water’s edge almost silent but for their dripping wingtips kissing the water to take flight in slow beats into the sunrise. Lifting off into the distance I wait and stand my ground more and then another undulation emanates in sweeps across the surface a few yards away. Now the silhouette of an otter’s head emerges from the slowly flowing Thames as it twists to swim silently on its back. I wonder if a second or perhaps more, pups even, might appear, but not today. I feel contented for what I see and feel that in this case on this morning of this day even a private photograph with my phone would be too invasive. I find it ever more important not to be intrusive is to be less intruding on yourself. This alone means less is more.

I move on and think of the voles hidden in their silent world ever conscious that they are the main and staple food for the raptors circling in the day time and then at night too in the form of owl eyes that so readily penetrate the darkness. The early morning is a good time to catch such glimpses as the barn owl sweeps over open meadows and along the edges of the woods. Raptors work hard to survive and all the more so here with the Red Kites in peak performance all day long. As they seem to ever increase, at least it seems that way to me, after almost losing them to the point of near extinction, I see far fewer of my favourite bird of prey the kestrel. That minuscule of raptors is feisty though. When you see that most unique of hovers in still frozenness high above your head, the intensity of every muscle, tendon and sinew in action, you become as hooked as the hidden victim, but yours is on the raw excitement. One false move below and down the kestrel plummets like a stone, claw and fur unite and it’s all done.

So I park my bike at work and settle down to answering questions, both with my friends at work and via emails and comments. I like a clear desk before starting work at my bench so that I am free to become creative. Today is one of Jack’s two apprenticing days so Hannah and I coach him as needed on and of throughout the day as he learns about various things woodworking. He’s proven to learn very quickly.

Hannah has just about finished her table design and is putting in the very final elements.

It is looking very nice. Pictures of the finished piece very soon. It is extremely well made and the hand cut joinery is to the highest standard.

Between us our additional intent to work towards a new curriculum that embraces output for autists feels like it has at last taken legs. We have been training support workers to work on a one-to-one basis with the autists as each of the specialist support workers knows their autist better than we ever could.

Also, thank you to those who have sent in their dovetails for critiquing so willingly and for making yourselves vulnerable, if that’s the right word. We are filming the critique so that your submissions will help you as you move forward. Each of the five we were working on had different elements affecting the seating and fit of the tails to the pins. It was helpful for me to share your joints with Jack and Hannah so that we could jointly look through each one to make our evaluations. A critique is not a judgement of good and bad but suggestions as answers to improving the work. One thing I liked in all of the joints is the down to earth honesty and non pretentiousness.


  1. Autumn in the UK was my favorite season. I lived about a mile and a half from the lab I worked in. I would often walk those days along the river to work rather than ride a bike so that I could real savor the foliage. Fond memories. Thanks for making me think of it again.

  2. To avoid plaster coming off around nails when removing picture rails…..Paul’s house would possibly be cement render with seraphite plaster
    I would split and remove wood with an old wood chisel, leaving heads of nails showing.
    When originally fixed to wall with 2″ cut nails the cement render would have been green and therefore not hard. Cut nails are not used so much these days but they were easy to use.
    Nails would mostly rust in wall over time and become really hard to remove……….I would brake off flush by tapping to the left then to the right, then with a cold chisel sink right into wall, requiring a very small amount of filler… no holes
    A possible alternative to replastering is to use ‘Gyproc Easy Fill’ to smooth over small areas.
    The plasterer I used on my jobs told me how he and his mate would be on a fixed price to plaster new houses in 1957 at £12.50 for a semi detached 3 bed …..that’s ALL ceilings and walls 2 coats and float 2″ sharp sand and cement to floors…….I WONDER HOW THAT COMPARES TO PAULS PRICE

    1. I was surprised by the accuracy of the plastering and the walls in terms of straitness etc. From one wall to the facing wall there going in any direction there was no more than 2mm max difference at any point using a laser measuring device. The plaster skim was continuous between lower wall and above the picture rail meaning it was skimmed before not after the rails were fixed. The bricks were plugged with wooden wedge plugs and nails into them held the rails in place.

  3. I could emagine a property of its age would have sound and flat finish. Not being normal to have “blown” plaster i.e. Away from bricks I would test for this by running a coin over, sound would differ from loose to solid finish.
    Plaster would have been from floor to ceiling, I’ve never seen different, but wooden plugs are new to me, I suspect your walls are hard fletons
    with wooden plugs in course work so I don’t see how plaster would blow unless they came out a fraction with a thin skim of finish over.
    All takes me back….good to watch progress

  4. Early morning is a wonderful time, full of Hope and promise, especially on the water bass fishing or heading into the shop. The last few years have been tough, what with surgeries and recovery but the promise and hope are still there. With joy I get into my shop and get some little thing done working toward making beautiful things for the home and family, it will happen.

  5. Hello Paul,
    I savor each early morning as well. My company retired me close to 2 years ago. The morning sunrise followed by a brisk walk gets me going each day.
    It is a true blessing to appreciate a bluebird feeding or my bees taking flight as the sun warms their colony. The laughter of any one of my Grandchildren warms my heart as does a smile and touch from my wife of 39 years. I will say, I also received a special satisfaction today as I worked on my granddaughters first Big Girl bed. The sound of a sharpened hand plane singing that special tune let me know all was right in my world.
    Thank you for the reminder.

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