About thirty years ago I was privileged to get to know a basket maker called George Frost. George was getting on in years and he had been making baskets since he left school at age fourteen when he was apprenticed to a local firm. Using only his bare hands and two or three simple tools an awl, a file and some secateurs he could make eighteen or twenty top quality bicycle baskets ( the D shaped type) in a day. He made us a dog basket in twenty minutes! Amongst his other products were huge baskets for hot air balloons, although I'm told that today, the requirements of the necessary certificate of airworthiness would prevent this!
George taught me to make my own simple willow basket which although far from perfect survives to this day. He was a simple man with a rare dignity to match his gentle sense of humour and I admired him greatly.
So I am very pleased these days that there are still people making useful and aesthetically pleasing items from simple materials using one or two tools and their bare hands. I've just ordered a new bow fender for Herbie from Mick Betts who lives aboard Nb Agnes Blomfield on the Grand Union at Cosgrove. Although he looks nothing like him, Mick reminds me of George in so many ways. I could buy a fender much closer to home but getting one directly from someone like Mick is much more rewarding. We''ll collect it in a couple of weeks.