I’m Cool Enough . . .

. . . . at least on the outside! Confronting doubts and fears can be for outward appearances when inside something is churning away and you’re not altogether sure why. I slept well, opened my eyes at my usual; 5.15 A.M. start to my day, but it wasn’t to be in my usual direction for the day’s start. My bags were packed for an overnight stay in Derby tonight but what was this unsettledness I felt? Was it the journey? a mix of car, walk, bus ride and train ride followed by taxi at the other end or was it the procedures to take place on my hands tomorrow morning? Perhaps it was a longer-term consideration post-op in the days, weeks and months ahead. And could this be how I might feel if someone eventually tells me I will have to give up woodworking as age has caught up with you? That I should put away my tools forever now because the days of using them are over? An age-related surrender I needed to consider. Well, I really did not feel that at all though that may well not be in my own hands down the road from here. Today was my day into an unknown future. In the morning my hands would be in the hands of another Let surgery commence!

Oxford station has but four platforms and I arrived in good time for coffee and a snack lunch in the cafe.

I resolved that it was a mix of many things ranging from feelings to emotions to expectations and then too the unknowns. I had so many mixed feelings over the last 24 hours that stemmed from years and even decades of influences on my life. Thoughts of considering how brave my father was when he alone went for surgery to remove parts of his feet due to poor diabetic information and knowledge 40 years ago when he was diagnosed back in his early fifties. Repeated eye surgery ending in blindness, things like that. The mixture of travel with the possibility of cancellations due to rail and hospital strikes and such. I needed to go ahead the day before rather than leave at 4 A.M. for my 7.30 A.M. surgery

In Oxford we were told not to board the train arriving at platform four: the one we were supposed to get. It seemed that a fault had occurred on the train and the train’s journey would therefore terminate in Oxford now. Not sure whether the train would be cancelled altogether at this announcement, I was relieved when another tannoy announcement told of this train’s replacement arriving in a few minutes. In the waiting room, three scousers (Liverpudlians) within two seconds of opening their mouths had us in stitches with jokes and accents we could no way ignore. It’s a scouse thing, the ability to turn tragedy into humour. The sighs from the woman sitting next to me were transformed into deep belly laughs as those of us from the North roared with laughter, eyes streaming as the joking poured out so naturally from our Liverpool travellers.

On the train, my seat to Birmingham faced forward, a great preference for me. I am three stops now to Derby and travelling through the countryside I grew up with. As the train reversed out of the station I got a close look at Birmingham, a city of ever-changing faces. Someone leaned in on me and said, “Hey, you’re not…? You are. Are you? Yes, you are! Paul Sellers! Wow!” Slightly embarrassing when no one else has a clue who you are and they are all wondering what they are missing.

The winter colours on the trees are stunningly rich as they flash by even though it’s otherwise overcast. Bright leaves hang from the branches of different trees as back-lit domes to the sides as we flash by at speed. I feel completely settled now. My responsibility in having my hands done is to prevent or at least slow down the rate of deterioration. My work is not yet completed and neither is the happiness I get from it. Passing on everything I know will be ongoing for a few more years to come. Every day I say to myself several times, ‘Oh, I must remember to pass that on. Mustn’t forget. Mustn’t let it die with me.’ I am now 17 hours away from the scheduled surgery I need. The passing fields covered with winter cover crops transport me back to times when large flocks of lapwings were commonly seen lifting off and circling on floppy wings and sheep grazed in adjacent fields alongside cattle grazing the pasture and horses in their paddocks. Is it the light that seems so different to me? Something welcoming me back? A homing thing, perhaps?

The driver just announced that we were now approaching my destination Derby Station but then apologised because we had yet to stop at Burton on Trent. More humour as everyone laughed at his premature announcement. I’m enjoying the gleaming tracks we’re riding on and remembering the train tracks that were once my playground. The rust below shining and cambering steel strips with the wild invasion of Buddleia thrusting up from chinks in the stones seems so natural to me. I am ten minutes to my destiny of Derby. so not far now.

It’s 2.30 P.M as I leave not taxi for the hotel. I’m settled in my room and ready to chill. All anxiety, if that is what was, is gone.


  1. Paul I would like to wish you the best in your surgery and recovery, as well as thank you for all the insight and knowledge that you have so unselfishly shared with the world. Please take your time and heal properly and we all look forward to what comes next from you, be it your videos, books or blog entries or whatever else you decide to share with us.

  2. Good luck with your surgery, Paul. These days doctors are a lot better at their craft than just a couple decades ago. I’m undergoing my own anxieties over a knee replacement surgery I’m scheduled to undergo on Tuesday. Deep down I have trust in the surgeon and know it’s now routine, but that doesn’t stop me fretting about it.

  3. Paul, I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving yesterday. I certainly thought of you as I owe my woodworking skillset to your generosity amd willingness to share your own. It heartens me to hear your positivity going into surgery and I am hopeful that you will have many years ahead to keep passing on valuable information to all of us. You can not know how youve impacted this woodworker and recpvering addict. I owe more than my hand-tool skills to you, Paul.

    Wishing you and yours the best.

  4. Hi Paul, I wish you every success with your hand surgery and your recovery. Just like your thicknessing a board by hand, your recovery will progress at the healing speed your body determines is best, and cannot be hurried. Patience, which you already have, is the key.
    All the best, and please update us as you are able.
    Michael O’Brien
    Alabama, USA

  5. Paul thank you for all the wisdom and inspiration you share with us. I hope everything goes well and you take a rest and make a full recovery. My own workbench came from a well known surgeon and just this morning discovered that the regards from Perth man is indeed a surgeon. I am sure you will be in good hands.

  6. Wishing you all the best. You have been a wonderful part of my life for several years. My prayers for a wonderful outcome.

  7. Recover well, Paul! I’m looking forward to read about your recovery journey! Thank you for all you do for woodworkers at all levels across the globe. I’ve just started to explore your tutorials everywhere. You are an amazing instructor. Gratitude to you and the Paul Team.

  8. Paul,
    By the time I am writing this, I hope that you are well on the way to complete healing. Please keep up the great newsletters and articles on woodworking. Love your work!

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