If it wasn’t for my Father’s for his job, I would never have enrolled at the QE Academy.
For as long as I could remember my Father had always wanted me to follow in his footsteps and enter into the family business.
His passion for joinery and woodwork rivalled our church’s vicar for unerring vitriol, his diatribes on the importance of well-sourced materials was well known and one that he frequently subjected us to – he felt that that his analogy of ‘one quality tree furnishing an entire house’ was something that could be applied to any scenario, regardless of how tenuous the connection.
In the middle of the 1960s Britain was still reeling from the effects that the Second World War. There was still work to be done rebuilding the country, on the long road to preparing Britain for a glittering future prosperity that had been promised whilst my Father had been fighting in France and my Mother had been toiling away in a munitions camp.
Despite the progress that we had made in the time since September 1945 the country was still in tatters and, although the government had promised that there was a bright future for the sons and daughters of those who had given their lives for their country, that ‘bright future’ seemed to mostly involve the kind of manual labour that my family had done for generations.
Sure enough, by 1965 I was learning the business under my Father’s tutelage, spending days in the van driving out to far-flung corners of the country who needed a door hanging here or a skirting board fitted there. That’s what brought me to the QE Academy for the first time.
My Father and I were hired to fit the entire school building with contemporary internal doors that would reflect the austere nature of the ex-hospital, whilst exuding a modern charm that would withstand everything a school would throw at it. We worked throughout the Summer holidays, pulling down the existing doors and fitting the new doors that my Father had lovingly crafted for the last month.
The memories of fitting those doors with my Dad that summer are ones that I will always look on as formative. I remember that it felt so strange to be returning back to a school so soon after leaving my own one. The halls were empty throughout those dusty months. Light streamed in through bay windows and I found myself often wondering what my life would have been like if I’d enrolled at an establishment like this one, instead of following my Father into his business.
Gleaming cups, awards and certificates drew my eye. During our lunch break I would wander through the eerie classrooms, reading poetry on the walls and peeking in abandoned desks, marvelling at the work books lying within them. It was during one of these snooping sessions that I was interrupted by a knock at the door. I glanced up expecting to see my Father calling me back to work, but a different man stood there. I’d seen him striding through the halls, nodding as he’d passed. He always seemed full of purpose, not rushing but committed to spending his time wisely.
Now he was looking at me, with a mixture of curiosity and incredulity.
“We’ve always got room for one more, boy.”