My father loves wood and he shared that love with me. As a little girl I showed an interest in doing what daddy was doing. For probably my fifth or sixth birthday I asked for a toolkit for a present, rather than give me some toys my dad took me to an ironmongers and together we selected a set of real wood tools – a small saw, hammer etc. I can remember just being able to look over the counter at the selection. He encouraged me to use them too, one day when I was having trouble sawing a piece of wood, rather than do it for me or tell me what to do, he said to me that I should think how he would hold it still and left me to get on with it. When he returned I proudly showed the sawn wood, the other end of which had been kept firm by nailing it to the lid of a nice wooden box of my father's. Rather than be angry with me for ruining the box he was delighted, the inventor in him beamed at his little girl coming up with a workable solution to a problem. He still tells this story with pride forty five years on.
I never fulfilled my wood-filled promise. Going to a girls' grammar school we learnt domestic science not woodwork. Now all those years later I am planning to rectify this omission. I have decided to learn woodworking. I want to learn how saw and fix, to use the grain, to smooth and release shape and pattern. In the Czech Republic with its vast forests wood is plentiful. Here in our Czech home there is space to work – why I could even use the barn as a workshop. The house has need of such work, if my skill proves good enough. There are doors to be made and shelves, and even furniture. But I am getting ahead of myself, first I must relearn the basics and more besides. It is part of a need I feel at this time of life to go back to basics, to use my senses of touch, sight and smell. I have told my father of my plans and he is delighted. He wants to give me his tools, some handed down from his father, which he had thought he would be unable to pass on as no one was interested and in such a case how can I let him down.