As I was trundling along a country lane the other day, windows down, lapping up the heatwave, on the quest for a workshop, I heard an interesting article on the radio. Recent research, albeit of a limited sample of the population, indicates that not all men going through a ‘mid life crisis’, dash out and buy flash cars and high speed motorbikes; nor do they go hunting for a younger eye candy, trophy partner. No, the tendency is now to ditch the leather jacket, slightly sleazy, Tom Cruise, Top Gun look and to seek out something far simpler; a quest for inner peace, to go into the wild, to go back to basics. Many middle aged men (not women as they are far more level headed) have dreams of owning a farm, or trekking across Europe, or biking to work or even working with natural materials such as wood and stone.
On hearing this, I thought about the people I know, to see if these ideas were true: I came to the conclusion that I was typical of this new trend. No, no, no mum I am not going through a crisis, put your emergency ‘son’ kit away and stand down, your soothing ‘it will be alright’ words are not needed just yet.
For two weeks in May I had the very privileged opportunity to visit Canada. It was here that I started to see things in a different light. Sometimes it’s only when you are confronted by such awe-inspiring natural beauty that you realize that all the gadgets and 21st century fuss are just unnecessary complications. We (myself and my eye candy trophy) travelled around Vancouver Island and then up to Whistler, discovering forests, lakes, mountains and jaw dropping scenery. For me the highlight was the south coast of Vancouver Island, as we were there out of the tourist season and pretty much had the place to ourselves. Hiking through the endless forests surrounded only by towering giant Douglas fir trees for company, it was easy to find peace and a scale of importance.
It was here that life’s essentials were emphasized, a great example being the way the Canadians use timber. They build with it for shelter and comfort, burn it for warmth, sell it to survive, make the most of it to entice the tourists, and all in an unpretentious way; boats, houses, furniture, bridges nothing is overdone, there are no flashing lights and dancing girls. Wood, like the Canadian people, is such a warm and welcoming material with honest, unthreatening, down to earth fundamental qualities.
Being surrounded by this atmosphere, did indeed make me question my approach as a furniture designer. In my case, unlike the subjects of the Radio programme’s survey, it is not really an age crisis which is now pushing me towards creating more in wood but the overwhelming experience of a great adventure. Watch this space as I combine my love for aerodynamic, slippery, and nautical shapes with the beauty and positive aspects of this natural material in my future furniture creations!
How many people switch off when the air stewards do their safety demonstrations? We all know that the likelihood of an Easyjet flight from Bristol to Edinburgh coming down in water is pretty slim, so we play with our IPods or read the in-flight magazine. I gave the same relaxed attention to the bear warning posters and signs dotted around Canada, “pffff they do it just because once every ten years some poor tourist gets his sandwich eaten by a cute little bear”. Safe to say I changed my tune when we came within 30 metres of a huge black bear. After hiding behind a rock for 10 minutes, we decided the time was right to make our escape only to find that there were now two. The words from the B&B owner ringing in my ears “start to get worried if you come across a mother and her baby”. Oh great!! Back behind the rock, with our backs to the ocean the bear family settled in to a spot of sunbathing on the beach. Sometime later with the tide coming in we decided to get our feet wet and cagily edged past. 30 metres sounds quite far away, just stride it out and guess who will be giving their full, undivided attention on their next flight!