Work

By on June 17, 2010 in Amlit, Diary, Thought

A long time ago in a town far away (well 80 miles) I came 28th out of 29 in Woodwork at my grammar school. This didn’t bother anybody too much, as my Dad’s life experience up to that time told him that working with your hands was to be avoided if at all possible, since it meant low wages and being treated badly altogether. This he was keen to tell me, so as to encourage me in more “academic” pursuits which he hoped would lead to a world he knew very little about, but he knew was desirable – anything where brain work was involved, something called “the professions” and it looked like I might make it there if I kept working at the school work that wasn’t Woodwork or Metalwork. His observations were based on a career which started at 14 in the workhouse, (still operating in 1926), through french polishing furniture and spraying cars, coupled with the odd encounter with a solicitor he had to visit to put a deposit down on our house and a dentist for whom he did some french polishing. Such programming against manual work was supported by the school, with its public school pretensions, so what years later came to be called Design and Technology was dropped from the curriculum for clever pupils. Fifty years later I can knock a nail straight in a piece of wood fairly successfully, say 9 times out of 10 and saw a pretty straight line if I concentrate really hard. The shelves I build don’t wobble. The quiet thrill such achievements now create equates in a funny sort of way to the non-manual work high points or “achievements” I sometimes reached working with rebellious adolescent school pupils for many years (after a disastrous stop-off for 2 years in accountancy training).

I have so far read the first 40 pages of  The Case for Working with Your Hands or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford and am liking what he is saying very much indeed. I loved my non-manual, “professional” job most of the time and I don’t think Crawford is so much arguing against such jobs as campaigning for a shift in middle class attitudes towards manual workers that is a bit more respectful than the commonplace “We’ve found a marvellous, plumber and he’s so cheap…!”. I may return to this theme after completing the book.

Leave a Reply