While Jim & Co were busy working on the farm I went off to my day-job's Christmas do...
We didn't know where we going but had been told to meet at Waterloo station at 7am, dressed for what was touted as a day in the freezing cold. Now the boss lives in Somerset, so we had our inklings. Hopping off the train 2 hours later at Axminster we weren't surprised by our location but we still hadn't worked it out. And noone was taking my whale-watching suggestion very seriously. A minibus scooted us through Axminster, where we rode past Hugh F-W's River Cottage shop. Aha! That must be it... we're off to make cider with Hugh's lads. Our official organiser Susie kept her poker face on but we were smug in our detective work.
As we drove further out of Axminster we started to um and er... could we be wrong? Susie directed the sideburned Somerset driver past farm after farm. We couldn't see a River or a Cottage. Then we pulled in sharply to Higher Holditch Farm. Now we were confused.
We piled out of the minibuses looking puzzled to be hailed by the boss & his dog who still refused to let slip what the hell we were actually doing here. Wellies on, overnight bags stowed, we duly followed him through a field and into the woods...
... where to our surprise found a teepee and tents set up with green woodworking equipment!
We spent the day with Guy Mallinson (an ex-furniture designer who trained with the RCA) and his expert team, worked with freshly cut sycamore (which cut like butter) using traditional tools. We carved individual pieces of a totem pole, made spatulas and an Aboriginal bull-roarer and were treated to a pole-lathe display in which Mace (tree-surgeon by Winter, woodworker by Spring) made a rounders bat inside 20 minutes.
We ate a seriously good homemade lunch of fish pie & rhubarb crumble in the teepee then drank homemade cider with homemade cake around the fire at the end of the day. Then, feeling the surge of accomplishment, we lugged our creations back up the now lantern-lit path to the boss' house for a boozy supper, an embarrassing office quiz & secret Santas.
Best Christmas work-do ever!
Mallinson's 2009 woodwork course dates are available here.
As there were 20 of us, we had a private booking, which can be organised here.