Yup! I binned the other three. Too politically driven! international jingoism just got too much for me! Then I realised that those of us with our feet firmly planted on the ground seemed somehow apt to just keep going. A year ago today we saw the COVID roll itself out with a seemingly unstoppable force. Today, we face our world filled with new opportunities. We can welcome the future with an open mind to accept the changes and never return to what everyone seems prone to call normality. Riding my bike to work I recalled the January start in 2020 when I decided I would not be using my car except for necessary trips. Well, COVID helped me with that one that is for sure. It’s a year today since the Prime Minister told us to stay at home. This of course followed our world leaders actually thinking and even saying we will be through this in a few short weeks. Today, I heard that there are so many variants coming from abroad we have imposed a travel ban on flights with a £5,000 fine for those who breach the ban.
It saddened me to see the EU take unprecedented steps that might well thwart our UK effort to reach our goal of inoculating a million adults a day and to make the AstraZeneca vaccine available to struggling countries worldwide. We were so close at the weekend when we hit 900,000 per day here in England but, hey ho, there you go. It is what it is. We’ll make it anyway! Working together is the only answer and of course, we have to slough off any tendency towards self-centered self-protectionism, which of course is designed to undermine inclusivity. But a swift and clear report countered the EU’s fakefulness and fear-mongering–I was grateful that the USA gave the incredible results of a trial that proved the efficacy yet again of the AstraZeneca inoculation. In direct contrast to EU leaders, who for no apparent reason were highly disparaging about the vaccine, AstraZeneca is more than merely passable, it’s really good. Why was I grateful? Because I am ready for my second dose in five weeks, yes, but I am also glad that the spirit with which our scientists developed this Oxford vaccine is being upheld:
“Approval of this vaccine was an important turning point for the pandemic because it has been deliberately developed to have global impact that includes people living in the most fragile and poorest regions of the world.” Professor Helen Fletcher London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
As I rode my bike I felt successful! A year ago before the official lockdown, we decided to start working from home. I couldn’t. Not without shutting down what we’ve worked towards for almost three decades. I decided that my best effort would be to batten myself down at work and self-isolated so that the work could keep going. My comfort zone was stretched in a positive way. I didn’t plan for it to be so long and neither it appears did anyone else. I made my first series of videos to keep everyone occupied at the workbench wherever they were in the world. I am glad for the technology that enabled outreach. Life became different!
It’s hard to think that we have lost so many in so short a period of time. This vicious disease has robbed us of the best and changed the way we view one another. In the beginning, the deaths were distant from most of us, but gradually the infections and deaths came near to home. We had no idea that the disease could be spread so fast and so widely, but I and others became ever-increasingly more thankful for what our NHS did to absorb the pain of those who depend so much on not just the NHS initials but the people who built it into what it is today. The National Health Service is, and this is only my own view, is and always has been one of if not the best in the world. The people who were trained by it and in it are the outcome that took on the challenge and they never ran from it, though their lives and the lives of their families were indeed put at risk.
Persuasive education needs to replace law-making as the way forward. As we know, most laws are designed to create the possibility of enforcement not to merely enforce it. We all stop at traffic lights because it’s the most practical and safe thing to do. We stop because we neither want to be killed nor to kill someone else. If everyone decided not to comply to laws it would indeed make any law unenforceable, so we volunteer to stop on red and defer to any opposing traffic. Most of us volunteer into upholding the law when no law enforcement is present. So too should we volunteer into our new future despite the stupidity of those making life more difficult for us. We know that we need to vaccinate in the same way we need to take charge of our health by eating rightly and exercising daily. The misinformation seems to have come from some world leaders who should be accountable for what they have done and said. That’s not likely, I’m afraid.
My decision this morning, reflecting on the last year, Is to embrace the unique diversity that is likely to unfold in our future woodworking. Consider this if you will, 300 years ago hand tool working was the existing technology of the era. Amazingly, in 300 years, no new hand tool has come into being that wasn’t in existence at that time. The Egyptians had developed bronze woodworking planes and we can assume that there were other metal-cast tools too. In our day, we continue to investigate new options but the main difference is how we make the tools and the material developments we have made. Beyond that, a little twist here, a bend there, some milling instead of hammer forging, things like that, have enhanced the effectiveness of what already existed. In general, we never needed more than what existed three centuries ago. It’s not necessary to invent a new hand tool if what already exists works effectively and efficiently. This is what has made my job simple. I do not need to reinvent the wheel. What can happen though is I can take what exists and look to reshape people’s attitudes towards the way we work and towards the attitude we have to work. That is what I do best. When someone says how can I use a plough plane to plane a stopped groove in a six-inch length of wood I simply answer, ‘You can’t!’ If it is two feet long, I can give them an answer and a method that works. I work best when someone presents an impossibility with hand tools and says it can only be done by machine. The stars I created for inlaying a few months ago is a prime example. Setting up machines to cut thousands might take me a day to do and the following day I might have a thousand stars. But I only want a few stars. I can make half a dozen completed in an hour. I can do it without a single machine. My world of individual making finds no place nor space for a machine shop. Machining my rocking chairs here would be less speedy by machine-only methods. Even hybridizing the methods would be of little if any gain for me because a full machine setup would indeed be negated by the impact the machines might well have on me, my well-being and my working. So I use a bandsaw for the heavy cuts and cut my tenons and mortises in quick time by hand. Why? none of them are parallel to an edge–so it’s quicker!
Covid stretched everyone, that’s true, but we can see new opportunities that will create more opportunities. I have seen the opportunity to care for others that didn’t exist so clearly before. Science and scientists have pooled resources to replace competitiveness throughout and across continents. I hope that it lasts. Pollution of the environment is lower by not flying to foreign climes for a few days break but there are other pollutions and pollutants to consider change for now. Here in domestic woodworking things seem to be just as equally normal as before. We take the wood from a single tree and make some things designed to last for decades if not centuries. We shun MDF and pressed fibre board, particle boards and plastic covered ones. Let’s leave that material to the professionals. It’s good forest management on the one hand, and then good environmental consideration on the other. Recycling wood and upcycling where we can creates creativity in us and we rise to the challenge positively. I like that!