I have always envied those people who have the ability to use their hands to play a musical instrument or to carve whistles and toys from odd pieces of wood. When I hold a tool I know what I want it to do and I am certain that I send the correct instructions down to my fingers. But somehow the instructions always seem to change subtly along the way. It's a bit like that old Chinese whisper game where the first child is told to repeat the message "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance", only to find that by the time the message has reached the end of the line it has changed to "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance". I've just realised that anyone aged under about forty-five will be quite unfamiliar with the old pounds, shillings and pence so perhaps in these days of decimal currency the message should be "Send thirty-four pence…".
But enough of this hilarity. I blame it on the fact that I did metalwork at school, woodwork not being an option. Woodwork would have been much more useful – I might even have learned how to use a saw to make a straight cut, something I can never manage. How often does one want to make a toast rack or a garden hoe, which is all I learned to make? Come to that, how many people have the equipment needed to heat metal sufficiently to make it workable?
I needed to replace the prison gates at Les Lavandes and all my attempts to buy ready-made five-bar gates had come to naught. The French don't make them. They do make a wide variety of plastic gates that would fit, but none of the designs suited Mrs S, and none of the prices suited me. It didn't take me long to discover that, in England, five-bar gates come in standard sizes, all of them in imperial measurements. Our gateway was a standard size - for France. It was a metric size. No gate that could be bought off the shelf in England would fit: I would have to design and make my own.
So I made a pair of wooden, five-bar gates to fit a three metre gateway. I even allowed for the hinge brackets that reduced the width of the gateway slightly. I was very proud of those gates. Indeed, they were such beautiful gates that I thought of offering them to the Design Centre to be put on exhibition. After all, most of the supposed right angles were pretty much ninety degrees and most of the saw cuts were nearly straight.