Peter Rhodes on hunting the Mr Bigs, a curious museum and how losing a finger saved a life

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Jay Blades in his workshop
Jay Blades in his workshop

By the time illegal migrants are crossing the English Channel, it is too late to turn them back. All the threats made, and the millions paid to France by our government should be spent tracing the money paid by migrants to smugglers and then to the Mr Bigs running this unpleasant trade. Some of these characters are sure to be living as eminently respectable businessmen.. We're spending a fortune chasing sprats when the sharks swim serenely by.

Jay's Yorkshire Workshop (BBC1) sees Jay Blades running a training centre where amateur woodworkers produce professional-quality items as rewards to unsung community heroes: tables, picnic sets, sundials and suchlike. The team have been struggling lately with that essential part of traditional joinery, the dovetail joint.

My grandfather was a Yorkshire joiner and about 100 years ago he made an oak chest of drawers which has passed to me. It has six drawers and each drawer has eight dovetail joints at each corner. So that's 32 joints per drawer or 192 in total, all chiselled and cut by hand. Grandad must have been turning out dovetail joints as fast as shelling peas, so how hard can they be?

But the most momentous thing he ever did was as an apprentice before the Great War when he accidentally zipped off one of his fingers in the circular saw. As a result of this infirmity, when he joined the Army he was sent to a second-line battalion which spent the first three ghastly years of the war in Britain before being shipped to France.

Grandad survived unscathed until the last few weeks of the war in 1918 when he was gassed and hospitalised. He died in 1955, having seen nearly 40 more years of life that so many thousands of his ten-fingered comrades were denied.

A reader takes me to task for suggesting the Italian Lakes are a better bet than our own beloved Lake District. On wet days, as she points out, “at least the Lake District has Derwent Pencil Museum.” It certainly has. If you're not up to speed on this establishment, Derwent Pencil Museum is billed online as: “A journey of graphite and pencil discovery . . . Home of the world's first pencil!”

It makes you wonder what other items on the stationery shelves might inspire a museum, or even a theme park. I'm looking forward to Felt Tip Adventure and The Land of Paperclips.

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News