I cannot knock a nail in straight. If I put up a picture, either the hook comes out of the wall with a lump of plaster, or the picture hangs squiffy, or I sustain an injury that leaves blood on the paintwork. Usually, a combination of all the above, plus a great deal of bad language.

But I am beguiled by the thought of being able to make things. I spent my entire childhood bodging and inventing things, puppets, painted owls, weird little figurines, peculiar clothes and costumes. Making things feels sort of essential to me. Quite often, at the end of writing a book, I’ll have a clothes-making day and turn out some badly sewn item that would only fit the hunchback Notredame, but I’ll have satisfied my need to make an object. 

Which is probably why I allowed my dear friend Jackie Morris to sign me up for a chair making course, with legendary wood-worker and chair-maker extraordinaire, Mike Abbott. It was far on the distant time horizon when I agreed to it, but as the date of the course approached, I became more and more convinced that I would come home with fewer fingers and nothing more than a doorstop.

In Mike’s garden the night before starting work on my chair

Well dear reader, that’s most definitely not how it turned out. I have a chair! It’s not squiffy or rickety, it looks rather nice and YOU CAN ACTUALLY SIT ON IT. Of course I should have known that Mike is a skilled enough woodworker and genius enough teacher to steer even bodging idiots like me, successfully, through the whole process.

  Mike Abbott demonstrating how to shape chair components

I found it all fascinating and entirely (well almost entirely, slight sense of humour failing during the  process of weaving the chair seat) enjoyable. We,( me, Jackie Astrid de Groot and Jackie’s partner, Robin Stenham) worked in an open sided workshop in Mike’s wonderful sloping garden, immersed in luscious leaves and trees, so that at all levels were were in conversation with plants and wood: with our hands, as we split and shaved and shaped and sanded; with our ears and eyes as we looked at the hedges and apple trees around us and felt their shade and heard the breeze speaking in their branches.

The workshop

Cabinet maker and wood turner Astrid de Groot splitting logs with great skill

Writer and bodger Nicola Davies failing miserably to split anything (maybe a fingernail)












spoke shavers for small shape adjustments

everyone’s favourite tool, the draw knife

No body’s favourite, the push knife










Mostly, we made this

I loved this bit, wood wedged in the shaving horse to be shaped

almost everything was collaborative, especially making sure our drills were straight

drilling for a bodger is very stressful…

…and very hot










Mike’s skill is what did it. Here he is manipulating the chair as it is squeezed together. The natural flexibility and tension of the wood makes the chair strong

I could hardly believe it when all the bits really made a chair


Jackie and Robin sharing the delight of an almost finished chair


I got sooo grumpy weaving the seat that I didn’t take any pictures. But here we all are with our finished chairs at six pm on Friday evening. From the left, Astrid, Jackie, Mike, me and Robin

It was a beautiful week. Huge thanks to Mike and to co collaborators in chair creating Astrid de Groot, Jackie Morris and Robin Stenham.

The experience of turning recently wild ‘ tree’ into  useful and attractive ‘object’, is profoundly grounding, humbling and empowering. It’s an experience I’d like all young people to have. It’s an experience that I think would be wonderful for young people who have been through the trauma of losing home and family and coming to live in a new, and sometimes unwelcoming place. I’d like young refugees to do Mike’s course, and feel the calming touch of trees and wood, learn new skills that might open up new opportunities, whilst creating that great, simple symbol of human kindness, help and sharing, an empty chair, on which to rest. Mike is keen to teach such students so I’m going to see if we can make it happen.

My chair finished (except fro a little bit of carving as decoration) at home in my garden with The Day War Came

In the meantime,  The Day War Came will receive its official launch at Foyles on September 3rd. in collaboration with the charity Help Refugees (whose slogan is CHOOSE LOVE). Rebecca Cobb and I will be talking about our work for the book and pictures of chairs done by writers, illustrators and artists of all kinds (including Astrid and Jackie but also Sean Tan, Peter Horacek among many others), will be exhibited. Some of these artworks  will be available on the night in return for a donation to Help Refugees, other will auctioned on line later in the month, with all profits to Help Refugees. If you’d like to come on September 3rd please get your free ticket here.    And there will be an auction for my chair, which will by then have some little additions carved into it. Feel free to bid large amounts.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

Worldwide shipping epivir 100mg Where to buy requip 1mg online in Denver Buy bactrim from Saskatoon Namenda generic side effects Generic casodex 50mg from Albany Where to buy kamagra 50mg in Virginia online Does celexa cause weight gain or loss Buy eldepryl 5mg online from Maryland Winnipeg shipping farxiga Namenda free trial coupon