domingo, 20 de abril de 2008

Parting Company

David Lawes and myself parted company with a disagreement over the amount of VAT he was claiming and the way that he had started to feel that the business was his. I met David for the first time at the Northcott theatre in Exeter were he came to paint a set for Hayden, his pleasant nature and jolly charactor had impressed me and he seemed to be having a hard time to makes end meet, the signs of this where in the manner that he would raid the ash trays to remove old tobacco and re use in rislas. So when I decided to move to London and was working alongside Terry Murphy it occurred to Terry that it would help him and us if we all shared the same space. Terry had got a contract from one of the theatre schools to help the students construct scenery for their shows when necessary. This group had a wharehouse in the London Dock which they shared with the Royal Shakespear company( they using it for storage only), at that time it had just closed with the dock traffic moving to Tilbury, the space was immense with pigeons flying around inside, see the picture with barrels, the summer was fine but the winter saw us all freezing, wrapped up with as many layers that we could put on, working with gloves on and the space heaters, which ran off gas, had to be turned to face the cylinders in order to continue to operate, the frost on these bottles was about half an inch thick so you could whatch the level from its white marker on the outside.
After the split with David i also stopped painting scenery and specialised in scene props and furniture, this also meant that Jacky actually got her husband back at a earlier time and more regular, we could make plans to work at home or even go on holiday, the later was often a weekend trip to Calais or Dieppe, Cherbourg or Le Havre to buy cheese and have a drink, sometimes just aday trip to the super markets in France. Our marriage suddenly became more real and we had more money to spend as David was not able to cream off the VAT . I have no idea what as become of David and his Malasian wife, Billy, he seemed to me to be heading for the same ending as his father, who died young from liver failure. Jacky had lessons from Billy on Chinese cooking, Billy's father had been a chef in China and she did cook very well, for my part I was glad that jacky learnt well and cooked well. Having given up the Job for the ministery, her office was situated to the left of the Tower of London, photo above, she entered into two courses of soft furnishing and upholstery, two and three year courses running one after the other. I think it was my idea in order to help with the furniture side othe the business but was to provide for the future when we settled in Northhumberland and opened a shop jointly with Liz Alston. Liz was selling antiques in Market Street, Hexham and her friend Penny Pearce sold second hand books in the same shop.
I moved from the London dock to Lambeth and then to the Albert Dock and on to Rotherithe where I had inititially the whole of the first floor of an old flour wharehouse. I do not remember how I found the place but rather think it was by accident, I simply travelled along the river trying to locate another workshop.
The area around the Rotherithe tunnel was completly ignored by most businesses since it lacked access and was quite run down, the wharehouse that I found was next to a working lighter repair shop, the neumatic drills and hammers that they used to remove the rust would put off most businesses. It did not put off the potter and his girl friend, who had a 'converted' lighter mored on the river with a gang plank up to the door of the building, precarious if another boat passed as you tried to take the food shopping on board. There was a screen printer and his knitting girlfriend but I cannot remember if others were there at the time I arrived. The main difference that I made was to put in staircases and stud walls, plasterboarding for fire regulations and a rent that was based on the whole area of one floor. The nature of the beast was that with time the socialist attitude of my fellow renters was for us to take in more aspiring and needy artisans, I think at the end we could count twenty odd in the building. There was the potter and his lady, screen printer and knitter, leather worker and a saddle maker, two silver smiths, two fute and bag-pipe makers, harpsicord maker, trumpet repairer, violin and a guitar maker, a reed repairer, shoe maker, another prop maker and myself, a minature furniture maker and I think we had a couple of ladies sewing something or other. I got fed up with the others continually having meetings in order to raise money for other causes in the building and when they wished to install central heating I new that the writing was on the wall and I looked around for another workshop. This was pretty well the time that the theatre started to have financial restrictions and I began to find that shows were getting axed, not just the odd table or gondola but the the complete show so it also made Jacky and myself think of making the move to a rural life style which we had wanted from our Exeter days.
Just before we left Exeter, the Open University had opened and were looking for designers to work in East Anglia or some where I cannot remember, Jacky wanted to take a job with them but it was not going to suite my plans for a move to London so she decided to abandon the idea and go to London with me, I think she must regret that now! The strange thing is that when I married Susie I found that her uncle was Lord Walter Perry and the founder of the Open University, sadly Walter is another of the folks that have died in the last few years.
The significance of the ferry boat is that it operates from Woolwich and was the main crossing for me from South to North, every day and the small glazed tower was the entrance to the footpath tunnel which I also used from time to time.

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