It’s been just about three weeks now since I left for the U.K. I had two incredible weeks in Scotland including a visit with one of my oldest friends, Jan, and my newest, Hannah and Paul.
I can’t truely describe what it means to return to the Cotswolds, where I write today. In some ways, this is where my life began…I lived here in this picture postcard place in the years 1978 and 1979, working first at the Guildhouse where I taught pottery to senior citizens and handicapped children. Although I didn’t know much, if anything, about the Winchcombe Pottery then, the Guildhouse was full of their glorious pots. Everything we ate from, cooked in, served in was made there and it wasn’t long before I made my way there for the first of many visits until I wore Ray Finch down and was offered a job. The rest, as we say, is history, and 35 years later it is a place that I still hold very dear.
The pottery was a vibrant place then…in addition to Ray and his son Mike, the team was full of brilliant makers and serious characters! Eddie Hopkins, Toff Milway and Nori DiMontigny all added hugely to my knowledge of pottery making and the world in general. There were other craftsmen working on the site who made life (especially tea time) even more quirky and exciting. Steve Marchant has been turning wood since I was born and watching Will Hall’s exquisite furniture making skills was a real treat.
If you were to ask any of these lads what my most important job was they would say that it was to make the tea. Every day at precisely 10AM and 3PM I was to provide tea for 9 or more hard working people and any visitors who happened by at that time. It was a ritual that caused me great stress at the start…imagine me, a very hairy young American making tea for an army of Brits! Everyone had their own special mug (of course) and each wanted their tea a particular way…the first cup poured or the last cup poured or diluted by half or one or two sugars…I needed a flow chart to keep it all straight and i could repeat the entire thing even today… that’s how serious I had to take it. We had precisely 15 minutes before everyone jumped up and returned to their work, so it was a major crime if I ever I was late ringing the bell to summon everyone to the tea room.
I will remain here at Toff and Georgie Milway’s Conderton Pottery for the remainder of my stay and it seems a good time to record more of these reminiscences. I am in charge of the garden, the shop, the cats and the parrot this week while T and G are in holiday, so it seems like a perfect time. I will also give a little review of my travels since my arrival. It seems a great indulgence to have time to look back. I hope that you’ll find it of interest…