‘Designer’ why designer? a story with lots of twists and turns, with some what might seem completely random career choices. But no I had a plan, and it’s just coming together!
I can still hear the whispers as I skulked away from the results board at the end of the final year. “How the hell did he do that?”, “the guy was never there!”, “pfff it’s not fair he hadn’t finished any of his furniture!”, ”the jammy bastard!”.
The first day, whilst everyone was checking each other out and trying to make the right impression, listening intensely to the teacher, I was looking beyond; outside at the weather, dreaming of cycling (ok so yeah I might have had a quick look at the girls). Learning the wind direction and how the rain might arrive is quite important. And then there were the hills, surrounded by them, which way to ride out on a recovery day or to attack for the pre-season race warm ups. One thing that had already shocked me was the lack of chairs in the huge workshop, I mean this was supposed to be a bloody BA honors in ‘Furniture Design and Craftsmanship’. Sitting down is vital, just like getting at least 8 hours sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating well, avoiding unhealthy people, oh boy what had I done!!!
High Wycombe, just 20 miles west of London, was a melting pot of different and sometimes conflicting cultures, poised in some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever had the pleasure to ride in. Getting lost deep in the hills on a cold winter’s day, crossing villages with the smell of log burning fires, not seeing another soul for hours was a far cry from the concrete jungle where the Bucks Uni sat. The first night at campus accommodation, we were all ushered into a cinema where they informed us of the areas we shouldn’t go – scare tactics! “Hmmm, yeah whatever, that’s not going to be possible” I thought to myself, “I gotta ride through there on a recovery ride (like any good student I’d already done my homework)”. “Not sure if Nike do a bullet proof cycling jersey, ah well, I’ll take my chances”.
The first year flew by, like Lance Armstrong on performance drugs, whilst the woodworkers were learning the art of joints (illegal and dovetail) I had met the Crooks. The Crooks were my adopted Uni family and had nothing to do with the world of chairs, nor did they sell video players off the back of lorries. Jeremy, Paul, John and Val were like the local cycling Corleone family. I was Robert Duval, being taken to bike races, introduced to the right people, learning the ropes under their protective wing. I was also flying high. My year head was forever trying to put a name to my face and I scraped through to year two.
My second year was pretty straightforward and uneventful, I kept my head down, swerved the ‘on your bike’ jokes from the workshop head and again just made it through. Uneventful, what am I saying, Christ! I had one of the most exciting experiences of my life and it didn’t involve taking advantage of the fresher girls. The Ras! 9 days of 750 miles racing around Ireland in the biggest stage race I did in my time, racing. I left a lot of leg on the road, shed a tear on a wet and windy stage to the west, hit the wall, crawled in with the laughing group and came out the other end a bit more of a man. To be continued in Part 4.2…