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Nicola Fisher


Day 1: A Woodturning Demonstration

This weekend we are travelling 'up North', to an area where I spent many childhood holidays, the location of this week's woodturning demonstration.

    1. Where it starts

    Usually an email lands in the Inbox enquiring about Chris' availability for a demo. Because of my work commitments, we pared back on most woodturning club demos this year but have booked weekend events and trade shows. This weekend's demo was booked back in August last year.

    I handle the business side of Chris' woodturning (if you're not aware, he's blind), so I respond to emails, agree fees, source hotels, invoice, liaise with event organisers.

    2. The month before

    Chris prefers me to only tell him what's coming up a few weeks before. I know the whole plan for the year but that doesn't work for Chris. We'll sit down every so often and I'll run through what's scheduled, where it is, how long it will take us to get there, what project he might turn etc.

    3. Wood and materials

    Once Chris knows the imminent plan, we talk about what materials he might need, whether he's run out of wood. We arrange to go to Chris' wood guy to stock up.

    Seasoned wood can be quite expensive. Some exotic woods can be around £150 per blank (a round piece of wood). English hardwoods don't cost as much but you can expect to pay between £20-40/blank.

    Chris usually needs sandpaper which I can buy from the local DIY store. And I stock up on kitchen towel. Most other materials last quite a while so we only replenish those a couple of times a year.

    4. D-2

    Chris preps all his tools and materials the day before we travel. He has a method for doing this now.

    His tools include chisels, gouges, air compressor, airbrush plus many others I'm probably forgetting. He'll pack colours, texturing tools, stencils, finishing products, extension cable and his lathe.

    5. D-1

    If the event is a few hours away and starts early morning (the next day), we will always stay overnight.

    Chris will pack the car - this takes about 20 minutes. We usually set off late morning, mostly to miss the bulk of the rush hour traffic. We like to arrive in good time. For same day demos we might take a packed lunch/dinner and we'll eat that and chat, do a recce of the venue, walk Bamber etc.

    6. D-Day

    For all day demos, we'll leave the hotel in good time. We'll have been up since 06:00. Chris likes at least an hour to set up. More if possible. Tomorrow, we'll be there by 08:30 for a 10:00 demo.

    The first thing we do is check out the venue and get organised with the layout Chris needs. He likes the lathe at the front and two tables, one either side, forming a U.

    I bring in the least heavy items. This is generally 4 or 5 trips. Then when I get to the heaviest stuff, including the lathe, Chris comes out to the car.

    The reason why we do it like this is because a) Chris is blind, b) we also have Bamber, Chris' Guide Dog and can't leave him to roam around on his own. Chris will get one of the heavy boxes and carry that, I'll have Bamber's lead in my left hand, with my right I hold on to Chris' t-shirt and 'steer' him. It works! We'll do that several times until we've got all the boxes.

    Usually, by this time, there will be a few club members around so one of them might look after Bamber while we go and get the lathe out of the car. This is the heaviest item and takes two of us to carry it. Chris can pick it up on his own to move it/put it in the car but it's more difficult when he's in an unfamiliar location, and just easier for us to do it together.

    I'll make sure Chris has a cup of tea, and leave him to set up. He has a routine. Bamber likes to be able to see Chris so we sit on the front row. There are usually chairs out by this point. Club members drift over and ask about Bamber.

    Later, once the demo is about to get underway, Bamber and I sit on the back row. I'll get him settled. If I'm lucky, I'll be sat on my own and can discreetly use the time to write or catch up on emails/work stuff, jot down ideas. Sometimes, I'll do some social media for Chris.

    There will be a tea break, then lunch, then another tea break and the demo finishes around 16:00.

    Then the fun begins. Most of the club members disappear at the speed of light, and a handful of stalwarts are left to do the tidying up. They all want to get home ASAP. But it takes Chris a while to pack away - he does it on his own. Helpful club members have, in the past, packed stuff for him and then it's taken weeks for him to find everything again.

    They sweep up all the wood shavings around him. I start taking the light weight items to the car once I know Chris is done with them. I can start packing some of these. In their eagerness to get home, club members will carry things to the car too.

    I make sure Chris gets to the loo (long journey home) and then we say goodbye to everyone. Chris will finish packing the car. Usually we're the last ones there! It pretty much always unfolds in exactly the same way.

    This weekend it's a three hour journey home. So, we should be back between 20:00 and 21:00. We'll get something to eat on the way, decompress for an hour and then go to bed.

    7. D-Day + 1

    The day after a demo with an overnight stay, I'll unpack the bags, sort the laundry, wash Chris' turning smock. He'll empty the car. He might put everything away but, more often than not, he'll do that the day after (D-Day + 2).

    I'll email the club or venue and thank them for hosting us. If they paid us on the day, I'll receipt the invoice. In most cases, it's a bank transfer but, occasionally, we still get cheques so I'll make sure I pay that into the bank. I'll log our expenses, and file the email folder in 'completed' demos.

    And that's another demo done!

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