And we all go the same way home…

It’s 20:22, English time. This is the earliest we’ve been home from the pub in half a fortnight.

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John, Barry, and Chris waiting for Justin’s skittle throw. Score one for the Englishmen. On a Somerset junket, the Yanks were laid to waste by both the locals and the Barrow Hill cider, made just down the way.

Greetings from Mapledurham!

Our hosts couldn’t be better.

We’d like to thank you for the perfect hewing weather. The countryside is impossibly beautiful.

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A Teletubbies vista. Nature generally seems somehow less-inclined to harm mankind here.

I have never heard such sweet birdsong.

And Hobbits live here:

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Just another 14th-century cottage dotting the countryside. You know.

Culturally, things are just a little different. There’s the whole left-side driving thing, of course. And faucets are sneaky, the way they turn on you suddenly and splash your trousers.

And there’s this:

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Well that explains a lot-

Nigel, our furry little friend lately come from the West Country, does his best to be an ambassador between nations.

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He is succeeding.

Mind the gap

This is a story about collaboration. We have come to England to work alongside our English brothers to rebuild the stairs at the Tower of London. Specifically, the White Tower stairs.

We visited the very place yesterday to get a sense of where our hewn timbers will be framed up.

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Present stairs built c.1970. When you see an icon for the first time, it almost doesn’t seem real.

The English oak of the new stair frame wants hewing. Lots of hewing.

Graham and Josh do a top job of sawing out tapers and squares on oaks from the estate, using a saw of great vintage and quirky disposition. We then lop off the remaining portion to hew each timber to a size.

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I can’t help but think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I see Graham climb into the cockpit of that saw. He is brilliant.

 So began our work at the yard of Miles & Company.

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We were slow to get our sea legs. Jet lag followed us like the chatty red kites above, and it seemed we may not have enough North American hockey tape to keep our barked knuckles from bleeding on The Queen’s timbers.

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This would not be the first blood The Tower has seen…

But we all began to hit our stride soon enough. And even as Johnny Cash led to The Who in our queue, so together did The Yanks and the Brits keep their lines and hew their flats with sharp axes:

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Ant, a surfer, and Chris from Nantucket. Hewing buddies.

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Michael and Graham going over specs.

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Justin and Andy working at right angles.

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God save the Queen!

It’s a special thing, this work. On a personal level, it feels as though my entire woodworking life has been leading toward this opportunity. The work is bone-wearying, back-breaking, and wonderful.

In a larger way, the work is sacred. We are hewing out timbers which millions of people will see, will touch, and which will carry them. We are part of the rebuild of a little part of an icon.

But more important, this is a confirmation of a long friendship between nations.

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All of this hung in the very air around us on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. This morning, a formation of English planes flew over our heads as we geared up for the day. Likely  they were on the wing to France to honour the fallen. We all paused to watch them. Then we continued with our work.

At tea that day, the subject of verge-trimming came up. It gave us Yanks no small pleasure to hear the Brits laugh with delight when we told them that we call a strimmer a weed whacker.

Friendships old and new.

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15 thoughts on “And we all go the same way home…

  1. pfollansbee says:

    Great to hear about your jaunt in OE. Sounds like fun. Now where’s the blog post about all the oak carvings? ….
    PF

  2. Linda Master says:

    wowww I’m more than a little impressed!

  3. John Wolf says:

    Hi Rick, remember the discussion about Matters? This does. Besides which, it’s way cool.

  4. jackbaumgartner says:

    …”it feels as though my entire woodworking life has been leading toward this opportunity”… Congratulations Rick!

  5. sally says:

    “half a fortnight”…is that a thing? I don’t think that’s a thing.

  6. Really wonderful opportunity, congrats and hopefully the first of many great blogs on the work.

  7. Tim the miller says:

    As an aging molinologist, I recall a visit to Mapledurham wherein methinks there is a windmill? Or some mill?

    Tough enough to drive on the left side of the road, hewing on the left with a right handed axe…that’s why the knuckles are bebusted withall.

  8. Tim the miller says:

    I remember it now. The mill has two water wheels, one on each side of the mill and the Thames flows around the mill as though the mill is a tiny island. The manor house beyond the mill is quite grand.

    I visited there with J. Kenneth Major as my guide; he being a well respected molinoligist with a specialty bent toward animal powered machinery and former president of the International Molinological Society which office he occupied while I was on my visit in the early 1980’s.

  9. graemeu says:

    Nice work, lucky u’s.
    Totally agree, working hard until you’re knackered is most satisfying.

  10. Shelley-Jo says:

    I’m in love with this story…

  11. Rick,
    Give my best to one and all. Wish I were there in some capacity. I enjoyed the blog post immensely. Funny you mention Normandy. I am just back from leading a group of 50 folks over to France for the 70th. I had a first wave Omaha Beach veteran on my trip. Back now and trying to remember how to blow up my pipes again and remind myself how to cut dovetails. All the best from Charlestown.
    Fast eddy winslow

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