The river Thames flows deep in its current quietness, skirting the centre of the small town where I live. It somehow feeds life to the streets of Abingdon when my morning cycle ride takes me through the town for my morning exercise. Of course, it’s still much quieter than five months ago, and I like that, but one thing I truly prize is seeing old and young alike striving against the tendency to couch-watch to ‘keep up with the world’ whilst snacking and such. The combination of not snacking and exercising for many is less a lifestyle happening whereas I think it is extremely important and without it I fear I would be most unwell.

Currently, I have never seen the town so alive with exercise since I moved here. I might say exercise seems to have increased a hundredfold within the last five months. Walkers, runners, cyclists and more now jog, cycle, walk and run at pace. I include myself in there somewhere. My cycling for a good hour is 10% of my daily self-control where I drive myself to get my heart pumping. This has become an essential and non-negotiable activity for me. A time of reflection and thoughtfulness, planning and objectivity go with the territory. I just designed a floorlamp from start to finish including the joinery and the size of stock while riding my bike. This is what I love about my life!

I wanted to show off the town a little because it does have some lovely spots; the scenes are seasonally nice and combined with my ramblings and forays into nature I feel at home here. I always stop to look down into the Thames where I see small fish teeming below and then a shoal of big guys as big as my forearm including my hand float nonchalantly through. With the only natural predator being men with sticks and strings of filament they just go on growing unchallenged in the cleanest river in Europe. I watch fishermen from the opposite bank lift smaller fish in their landing nets quite frequently. People are indeed filling in the gaps with sporting and hobbies. My life of woodworking is what I do every day, but these other sports are important to everyone in their different spheres.

47 Comments

  1. RODNEY MAGEE on 31 July 2020 at 11:24 am

    Surely Paul you remember the importance of fishing from living in Texas. Very lovely town, thank you for sharing!

    • Paul Sellers on 31 July 2020 at 12:14 pm

      Ah, Texas! My home State of the Lone Star! One of the great influencers of my early life! Very freeing!

  2. Wayne Whalen on 31 July 2020 at 3:13 pm

    I know you are a worker Paul but i just wonder if the fun and play and idleness would have been your view of this quaint little town fifty years ago. Would you have seen the village Smithy and such various tradesmen at their work and industry or would they have been jogging around town to get some exercise. Would fishing have been a sport or way of making a living? Would getting a pay cheque just have been a means to pay for our play and have fun as it is today? Are people today as strong in mind, body and soul as those of by gone years or are they all in therapy and wrapped in security blankets? A great change has taken place in our society since the advent of radio and tv and now all of the social smut sites and it isn’t good and literally leading the herd over the precipice. They have lost their Way, the faith that our grand parents had is gone and now the results are showing themselves true. What has been sowed in a godless society in the last 60 years is now bearing its poison fruit.

    • Mickey O'Brien on 4 August 2020 at 12:17 am

      Steady on, Champ. You should’ve finished your reply before you put down current society.

    • Michael Ballinger on 4 August 2020 at 1:35 pm

      @Wayne Whalen you speak like a know it all when in truth you know very little of what you speak. I am in therapy, and am all the richer for it. It is a fantastic, creative space where I can work out the shit from my past and prevent it from messing up my life today. It makes me a better man, for myself, my kids and my wife.

    • Glenn Tilson on 4 August 2020 at 2:40 pm

      Mr. Whalen,
      The two young people whom replied to your comment are good examples of what you are saying. They seem to know nothing of Godly people from our past or want to block it out. God can save us therapy cannot.

      • David Laurie on 7 August 2020 at 8:55 am

        You’re an idiot, and a bigotted old fool, to boot…

        It’s Nasty minded piece old codgers like you two that cause inter-generational friction..

  3. Joe on 31 July 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks Paul. I especially liked your comment about “seeing old and young alike striving against the tendency to coach-watch.” Any hobby or activity is better than sitting on the couch.

    There is no doubt in my mind that your activity and food choices have prevented medical problems.

    • Paul Sellers on 1 August 2020 at 12:31 am

      I am a very fortunate man, Joe, my friend. Imagine, in 1985 the surgeon gave me 18 months to live. I signed myself out of the hospital, became a vegetarian, and received no medical help or advice. Imagine! And even though I have been diabetic for over two decades I don’t believe I have ever felt this healthy or excited in my life as I do now! The reason? I stopped working for money 25 years ago and I still do not do what I do for money but for the love life gives me every day! Lifestyle is a choice. Do lifestyle!

      • Ermir on 1 August 2020 at 7:38 am

        Dear Paul, I am happy for you! I am glad you enjoy life and your lifestyle, your work and your choices!

        • Paul Sellers on 1 August 2020 at 11:36 am

          Thank you Ermir. I have only a few regrets in my life. One was forced education, the others, divergences that forced me to do something else other than make furniture — brief excursions from the real world of lifestyle into the fantasy world of promises surrounding commerce, economy and consumerisms of any kind. I am so glad not to retire, take two weeks holiday a year in the hopes of recovery and then too not having daily time for my family and friends wherever and whenever possible. As some idiot said, “Life is too short.” Life is exactly the right length!

      • Mike Miller on 4 August 2020 at 5:34 pm

        Paul
        it is fortunate for you that you were able to stop earning cash at such an early stage in life, you are indeed very lucky. Most of society is struggling and I have been there, on the tools all day casino doorman in the evening whilst the wife worked the same bar and was a medical secretary during the day. In my day joiners were only one paycheck away from bankruptcy. I got a lucky break managed to change career into health & safety became chartered got a job in middle east never looked back. We appreciate every moment now were retired, Nice big bungalow, No mortgage for last 10 yrs, now built a workshop and following you. You are a clever man and I respect you very much.
        Question, when you see the homeless youth on the streets do you ever wonder what went wrong? No apprenticeships no shipyards, collieries, steel works, no factories. Now there is a boost in house building there is a massive shortage in trades such a disgrace. Apprenticeships are like hens teeth these days and kids have stopped looking, turning only to the academic route into work. we have lost touch with the youth so much were like two different species.

        • Paul Sellers on 5 August 2020 at 6:13 am

          “it is fortunate for you that you were able to stop earning cash at such an early stage in life, you are indeed very lucky.” I’m not sure where this came from, Mike. I have worked for 55 years, six days a week, and averaged 12 hours a day for most of that. I take, perhaps, two weeks holiday a year and for many years took none. Is that lucky or fortunate? I am not sure. I wonder if it is because occasionally say I stopped working for money 25 years ago or in fact, I never work for money any more. I was simply stating that my motivation changed, not that I didn’t need to earn my living to pay the bills. I hope that that makes things clear. Additionally, kids are indeed pumped through higher education in the false hope that this will lead to that “good job and a secure future” which is rubbish for most young people. Most people don’t use the degree they got and nor did they find a job related to their degree. But parents want their children to go through the same system they went through and are unlikely to steer their children through channels of education that lead to a calling rather than just a good job which ninety percent of the time is based on how much cash comes in.

          • Rob Ling on 11 August 2020 at 9:15 am

            I agree with regards our education system in the UK, Paul. When I was choosing a career path aged 14 some 24 years ago, they were ‘crying out for engineers’ so I spent my school life studying the physical sciences and mathematics to bookworm level. I did 5 proper A levels and went on to study Aerospace Engineering for 3 years and got a decent mark on my degree at the end of it. Over 100 job applications to engineering companies after I finished university and not one job in my chosen field. That statement ‘crying out for engineers’ was the problem, not enough positions to go around. I took any job I could and ended up on a career path working in IT in the NHS that I’m still on today! As a parent of two boys under 6, I question where there education will take them. The eldest will start his 3rd year in school next year and the curriculum is so different and they use terms such as ‘number bonds’, ‘phonics’ and very round-about ways of doing things that were learned parrot fashion when I was young. I’ll continue to teach them both life skills, how to fix a house, build things, and make for the enjoyment of it. I never got the opportunity of apprenticeship as these were out of fashion in the late 90s but if something similar exists in 10-15 years time, I would be proud of my kids if they chose that path instead of traditional classroom education.



          • Paul Sellers on 11 August 2020 at 4:48 pm

            Rob, Education is indeed in a sad and sorry condition worldwide, we’ve all but handed our kids over to be industrialised from birth to the grave. That said, the young adults I know and meet are the loveliest and kindest where they seem to use the basics of education, to me that means graduates from university can read and write and do math at 50s 15-year-old school leaver but not without calculator or smartphone, can indeed navigate a career based on gut, not science. Watching the sciences aid politicians and healthcare providers only led me to ever greater levels of confusion.
            I am sure with your will to see fatherhood as a continuing influence until they fly from the nest and into the great beyond they will do fine. This is a new era. Here’s something I just wrote yesterday: I teacher doesn’t want to replicate her- or himself but wants to replace her- or himself with something so much better!



      • Steve Powell on 5 August 2020 at 1:27 pm

        Thanks Paul for the beautiful pictures of where you live and the words of your wonderful outlook on life.

      • Chris Perry on 9 August 2020 at 7:04 pm

        Hi Paul, from one diabetic to the other I’ve just moved away from pin pricking to test my blood. Have a look at the Freestyle Libre system. I don’t advertise, I don’t work for them, I just wanted to share that what is a wonderful piece of equipment for diabetics.

        By the way, I’m an ex-pat now living in Canada only a few minutes drive from Lee Valley. Having followed you for some years, and having given me a kick-start into returning to hand-tool woodworking, by ‘eck Lee Valley is a wonderful place for tools, so much choice, so much variety, I just want to go in there and say…”one of everything please!” 🙂

        • Paul Sellers on 10 August 2020 at 12:29 am

          Actually, you just did advertise, but kindly so and with kind reason. I have heard and considered these and may one day try them out. Pinpricks are nothing bothersome to me and so, when compared to the hundreds of splinters I get throughout any given year, they are mosquito to an elephant hide. If there was an alternative to at least the shock value of those, now that would be something.
          I may give the patch a try for a season. I think it might work out cheaper. That would be the only reason for me changing.

          • Christopher Perry on 10 August 2020 at 2:45 pm

            Thank you for the reply Paul, and good luck, stay safe, stay well 🙂



  4. Rich on 1 August 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Paul – your posts inspire me.

  5. Stephen on 1 August 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Paul, like many people, I have been through an extended period of ill health culminating in reevaluating the things that are important to me. It was during the latest period of convalescence that I discovered your videos and blogs. I stopped hankering after a planer/thicknesser and all the other gadgets that I thought were necessary to produce precision work and have spent the money buying old hand tools instead. I have never been happier and now take pride and satisfaction in making things with my hands. I feel I have more control over the destiny of my project this way. Its been the best therapy ever. Whatever the future holds I am more content now doing the things I am passionate about, because as someone told me once, ‘Life is not a rehearsal’. Thank you for your input!

  6. Mike Towndrow on 1 August 2020 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Some lovely pictures of historic Abingdon, but then I’m biased! I’ve lived there nearly all my live, so clearly not as adventurous as you’ve been, but I too have no regrets about that. I love the familiarity of the town where I grew up and its history. It is sad though that local industries, such as Carpet manufacturing, the leather works and the MG factory, have disappeared. Also how the town centre has gradually declined from its once bustling days of local shops and the cattle market.

    However, as you’ve found, there’s still plenty to be joyful about. The river Thames, with its lock and weir. Walks and cycle rides that quickly lead you to the beautiful surrounding countryside; perhaps along the the old railway line, now a Sustrans cycle route that runs past your studios to Radley lake and eventually on to Oxford. As you say, these are wonderful opportunities to gather ones thoughts, plan or reflect on the day’s activities. I’m so glad you’re enjoying life here.
    Mike

    • A Different Mike on 3 August 2020 at 2:26 pm

      @ Mike Towndrow

      Sadly, that’s the way of things. While I no longer live there, Abingdon is my home town as well, and in recent years, the business my grandfather started, which had served the town’s hardware needs well for many years in many locations, was sold to a chain. All things come to an end, I suppose, but it was rather sad to see the name disappear.

  7. Stephen McGonigle on 1 August 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Lovely coloured stone, perfect in the English sunlight. Abingdon, to those of us who love old cars, means MG sports cars.

  8. Joystick on 1 August 2020 at 9:31 pm

    My links to Abingdon don’t go back more than to the 1980’s (So no MG works). A Saturday or Sunday hired coach ride from Hendon or Barnet Squadrons of the ATC (Air Training Corps) to Number 6 AEF (Air Experience Flight) at what was RAF Abingdon at the time. A half hour “flip” in a DH Chipmunk gave us air cadets splendid aerial views of the town and surrounds. Later both my sister and mother took up residence in Abingdon so family visits to Abingdon were quite regular. A lovely Oxford market town. We avoided the motorways and used the A and B roads from our home, beautiful countryside but then most if not all of the “Home Counties” are beautiful in their own way.

  9. Thomas Angle on 1 August 2020 at 10:00 pm

    I love looking at your pictures. You have a eye for the camera. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Steve P on 2 August 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I also noticed many more people out here. I have been mountain biking on some mountain trails nearby for 30 years. In the past I would at most see 6 or 8 people on any given hour ride. thesr past couple months I am seeing 80-100 people out there. i often have to stop for groups of 4 or 5 people or whole families hiking. Sometimes several groups in one area where the trails get restricted. I want my old trails to myself.

    Also thanks for the beautiful scenery. I love the old buildings in Europe. Where I live an OLD building is 100 years old. I like the small town in europe that have been around 1000 or so years.

  11. John Payne on 3 August 2020 at 11:36 am

    Hi Paul,
    Do not forget the ‘forced education’ you refer to was paid for with the blood and sweat of the trade unions etc. I am a Brummie (the centre of the second industrial revolution), and I enjoy your comments and common sense. I am a carpenter and joiner (the 5-year apprenticeship) and after my training from several (top class people) tradesmen, I wonder why chisels/planes have two bevels? I only use one, and have never had any problems?
    Oh, and by the way, my wife had her learning from Our Lady’s Convent, Radley Road, Abingdon as a boarder (military parents).
    Take care

  12. Kathy S. on 3 August 2020 at 1:33 pm

    I would love to see more of these pics of the UK- the pics you took are so Beautiful! I live in TX now but when I was living in FL one of my first woodworking pieces that i sold was to a curiosity shop keeper from Brighton. He had some beautifully crafted furnishings he brought from England in his shop. I ended up purchasing an antique telephone stand to refurbish (one mans trash is another ones treasure). It brings me to thinking of how you use what is around you and turn things ending on the skip into something useful and beautiful. I love seeing those things happen too. Thank you for all you teach and do.

  13. Jeff D on 3 August 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Ever been to San Angelo, Texas? The goat capitol of the world, San Angelo is a desert scrub city about 8 hours drive from anywhere. I really enjoyed my brief few months at Goodfellow Air Force Base there. And the goats were far out!

  14. Gary Egbert on 3 August 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I so enjoy your thoughts, experiences, and photography. Also many of your tips I have included in my hobby woodworking projects…and they are much improved for your advice. I am retired from education and technology which required 60+ hours a week just to keep up. Now my “work” is a relaxing pleasure and time seems to fly by when in the shop.
    Gary

  15. Frank F. on 3 August 2020 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I was fortunate to spend a few days in Abingdon many years ago and found the town and surrounding areas to be a beautiful part of the world.

    Of all the places I visited it would have to be one of the few where I could happily settle down. Thank you for reminding me, and thank for all the great stories and woodworking information.

  16. Stephen McFadyen on 3 August 2020 at 10:36 pm

    Mr. Sellers, what a lovely place Your pace of life and insights into ways and workings of human nature, fishing, and not least, woodwork as well as your important contact with family and friends has a tendency to inspire and encourage others. Abingdon reminds me of my home town of Myrtleford Victoria Australia, with its winding rivers and town in the middle. Thank you for sharing

  17. Jeff Chavez on 4 August 2020 at 1:08 am

    “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

  18. Nathan Jones on 4 August 2020 at 1:26 am

    Glad to see you so well and alive enjoying a good life.
    You have been an inspiration for me to ride again. Stay fit and live better.
    Not to mention, you said ‘floor lamp’ which is AWESOME. I’ve studied many floor lamps in lighting shops and just where I ever I could observe them. Many store bought ones are poorly designed.
    Thanks Paul.
    Best,
    Nathan

  19. Brian on 4 August 2020 at 5:47 am

    I have always wanted to go to England. I am so happy the Thames is clear, and this gives me some hope for the Charles River in Boston, which is also a big exercise location, or was when I was there.

    Also, and this is a digression, I once looked up how to make a floor lamp on the internet. It was a harrowing trip with the following informational comments:

    1. It is easy, just put a wire through a tube.
    2. That wire in a tube will kill you.
    3. Not if a certified electrician installs it.
    4. You don’t need an electrician if you follow these simple rules *link to sixty pages of electrical codes*
    5. Those codes are all expired.
    6. Just thread a wire through a tube.
    7. It can’t be done.

    Suffice to say I’m interested to learn of Prof. Sellers version, despite that I no longer desire a floor lamp. I do wish to hear Paul slice through the fibers of the internet to teach us that it is not that complicated if you put your mind to it.

  20. Chris Bailey on 4 August 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Abingdon…. I remember it so well. Used to play for the rugby club. Fished the river(s) round there. Drank in the pubs. Morlands brewery. Enjoyed my life there so much… Even thought of moving back to the area……
    Chris

  21. Ian Hemphill on 4 August 2020 at 4:18 pm

    It’s truly a beautiful place, Paul. Your photos brought back very fond memories to chew over back here in Canada. Before I retired, I was a Spacecraft Engineer, and I had the great good fortune to be in your area for quite some time while we performed testing on a satellite at Rutherford Appleton Labs in Didcot. I was lucky enough to be able to bring my wife (a painter), and we spent many of our free hours exploring the neighbourhoods between Oxford and Didcot. Her paintings of town scenes were favourites of her clients, so unfortunately they’ve all gone on to new homes, but at least we have the memories 😊.

  22. Larry Edmiston on 4 August 2020 at 4:33 pm

    I read what you write, always, with great interest. I’ve also watched many, many of your videos and am learning that often the doing is every bit as important and satisfying as the getting it done. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all. I may even have to take up cycling again, for I’ve been on the couch for way too long. By the way, the photo with the church steeple reflected in the river is absolutely stunning!

  23. Jeff Brown on 5 August 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Paul, you are such an inspiration! I too am in my shop nearly everyday. I think I would go crazy if it weren’t for my projects and plain old puttering!! Now I just need to put some air in the bike tires.

  24. Sandy on 5 August 2020 at 10:29 pm

    Great pictures Paul. That looks like a beautiful little town. Reminds me of my home town a bit.

  25. John Morrison on 5 August 2020 at 11:11 pm

    For a future cycle ride – close to you – carpentry in miniature!

    Pendon Museum, High Street, Long Wittenham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    https://pendonmuseum.com

  26. Andrew on 6 August 2020 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for showing us your beautiful pictures. I like the way you frame the subjects.

  27. Hank Myers in Sussex, New Brunswick,Canada on 7 August 2020 at 3:24 am

    Hi Paul:I am 85 years of age and wood working has been a hobby since I was a child.I still have a workshop in my basement where I love to spend time building things for my children{and myself}.The greatest gift from you is that I learned to sharpen my chisels and plane blades. I could never master this skill before until I discovered your website. Now I have a whole new perspective and am using tools that I have had for years but could never use because they were too dull.I have serious physical problems,being unable to stand for more than a few minutes so am building a stool using your pattern. Thank you!!

  28. Charles Jordan on 7 August 2020 at 5:07 am

    Paul, I truly am amazed at your skills and knowledge as a master woodworker. Your gift for teaching I equally admire. I respect you as a person. You are very “comfortable” to watch in your videos.

  29. BENEDICT O'SULLIVAN on 12 August 2020 at 11:03 am

    I understand why ‘power’ tools have become dominant: is the nature of humans to look for ‘better’ ways to do things. Who fancies swapping the modern sawmill for the log saws of old? No great romance there.
    For me, the point is not to spend my life bemoaning the changes that have occurred in my time (although some are to be regretted), but to celebrate the many wonderful everyday things around us and in the context of this site, to celebrate the opportunity to learn, in detail, the ways of the craftsman of old, whilst not ignoring modern developments that fit, comfortably, into those ways (like this site, for example).
    I didn’t do an apprenticeship, and I don’t regret it. My path gave me many great experiences and a good living. However, I’ve always been a seeker, looking to learn wherever I can. Also, I’ve always had a love for wood and working wood and Paul has given me a gift, in my retirement, which gives me great pleasure, a sense of achievement and self-worth that transcends money or status. It also gives me a world of learning which will not be exhausted in my lifetime. I’m happy and grateful. My thanks to Paul and his team

  30. Mike Z. on 27 August 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you for sharing these lovely photos. Those of us in the states know there is very little scenery quite like this here. While we have a unique abundance of wilderness, our cities and towns are very young indeed. Any thing over 100-200 years old here is considered ancient, especially the farther west one travels. Keep up the good work and please stay safe and healthy.

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  • Alain Briot on A Future PastWhat is the purpose of the stairs?
  • Steve P on A Future PastAlternate ending: Like a boxwood rule, the story will unfold.
  • Mahomed Moorad on A Future PastAs usual Paul, you continue to inspire us, taking us through journeys of life through your perspective which enriches us with the lessons in them. Looking forward to your memoirs o…
  • nemo on A Future PastYour point is very valid. Didn't come across as a rebuke at all (and even if it were, nothing wrong with a gentle rebuke). As I was writing the stairs comment, I half figured it wo…
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