A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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23 June 2016

Days Out.

I've lived on the farm for 32 years and in that time have got to know my landlords very well - as they have me. Almost from the outset of my tenancy, I became involved with school runs for their children, airport runs for their holidays and generally helping out when they were short-handed. So the other day I was asked if I might take them up to London to see some tennis at the Queen's Club, kick my heels for a few hours and later drive them home. I was happy to oblige.

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Having deposited my charges and found a place to park, I headed for the South Bank where the new wing of Tate Modern had just been opened. I don't go to London often and I'm always impressed with the standard of busking. I remember when I was at St Martin's Art School in the Charing Cross Road, I would take time out with a chum to go and busk in Bond Street Tube to raise money for lunch. It was always a bit of a cat and mouse game with the Transport Police who were decent enough to enter into the spirit of the game and not take their responsibilities too seriously.

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So, on to the New Tate Modern. The turbine hall was always an awe-inspiring space and the gigantic ironwork girders contribute to its sense of power. The new extension sports an impressive open lattice-work facade built of thousands of blocks - essentially the civil engineering equivalent of a string vest.

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The view from inside out....

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... was 1000 times more interesting than anything in the free-to-look-at permanent collection.

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I got back on the tube, took myself to the V&A Museum in South Kensington and headed for the jewellery and precious metalwork sections where I was able to restore my faith in the skill and endeavour of the true artist and artisan. We like to think we're clever and, of course, we are; we're of our time and we have the technology to create and do the most extraordinary things but, to see the exquisite work of a late 16th Century watchmaker can never be anything other than a humbling experience.

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Having dropped the ball on the application of the front wings to my Austin, I'm also humbled by the extraordinary speed with which Leon and Awkward get things done. I thought I would call in to the workshop around 10-ish and maybe give a hand lifting or holding something, passing a spanner and whatnot but I was way too late - the job was done - they'd started at 5.30am and by about 3.00pm had the Climax out and the Austin engine in and running.

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I had a quick cup of tea with them and carried on to a small fly-in on a Norfolk farm where I spotted an old friend from Felthorpe, a little airfield north-west of Norwich that my brother and, occasionally, I flew from. The Chipmunk was always nice to fly though I never really liked swinging the prop. It was a lot less hazardous than the Avro where you had to step over the skid on the follow through, but the Warner radial seemed to get going more softly than the Gypsy - probably low compression spread over seven cylinders helped.

Those were the days.

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