Checking out & Dropping In

Wednesday 4th November, 6am.

Squirming under the duvet, I sighed deeply into my pillow with worry.

The ‘tup’ sheep needed bringing down from the fells, before I could shut down my shop for ‘Lockdown Two.’

In that curious, hallucinogenic phase of sleep, where dreams become reality, James Michelsberg – Leeds tailor extraordinaire – had transmogrified into James Rebanks – Lakeland Sheep Farmer and author of my latest bedtime read, ‘The Shepherd’s Life.”

What a wonderful book – touching, poetic and beautifully written.

It’s the charming tale of a man born into his role as custodian of a Cumbrian farm and flock of Herdwick Sheep.

The love for his trade, drips from every page like butter from a crumpet, illustrating a way of life where hardship, angst and struggle is the price to pay for a way of life that, to him, is deeply privileged, bringing great joy, jubilation and deep personal satisfaction.

Substituting his waterproof trousers and wellies for a pair of high waisted flannel trousers and Cheaney loafers, I headed off to the showroom for my last day of purveying fine threads before Lockdown.

Like those rare days on the fells when everything goes to plan, the sun shone down upon me.

My customers, Steve and Dale, glowed with happiness as they took delivery of wonderful new trench coats, and new customer, Mihnea, a young Doctor who specialises in the liver (note to self – he could be of use to me in the future!) was utterly over the moon with a dashing three piece Harris Tweed suit.

There’s a moment when a customer puts on his new Michelsberg garment for the first time, our eyes meet, and we both know, he looks the mutt’s nuts.

It’s truly special, a shared high, much like Mr Rebanks will feel, when he wins The Keswick Tup Fair.

On top of that, I sold a fully handsewn three piece suit, five pairs of trousers, four shirts and a trench-coat, which will certainly help keep the wolf from the door.

Turning my lights off, I looked up at the Michelsberg sign above my shop window, doffed my hat and said thanks to the tailoring gods.

Waking up the next day with an empty diary, I headed off to Saltburn on the East Coast and went surfing.

Covering oneself from top to toe in 5mm of rubber and heading out into the North Sea in November, isn’t everybody’s idea of fun.

Over the years, even the seals have blinked at me, there eyelashes raised in a look straight from John McEnroe, that say’s, ‘you can’t be serious?…’

To me there is nothing that comes close to providing such unbridled joy, as catching and flowing along an unbroken wave.

Time stands still, the world stops.

Dropping in, that initial rush of speed gives way to a melodic rise and fall, along a sparkling face that glitters with gold under the sun.

It’s poetry in motion, the fizz and smell of the salty brine, alive in your head, as you kick out and drop beneath the waves,  utterly immersed and connected with nature.

I can honestly say that those two hours were probably the most enjoyable of my surfing life over twenty years, and I’ve been lucky enough to paddle out to quality breaks in Bali, Australia, Portugal and Devon & Cornwall.

Here is a photo of myself post surf, with one very important thing on my mind – getting a fish butty.

Happy Chappy

Mission accomplished, I sat down on the pier with the sun on my shoulders and tucked in, butter and ketchup dripping down my chin.

Surveying this magnificent view below, I enjoyed a moment of quiet reflection.

Saltburn

Right now, it’s a tough, frustrating time in the world of tailoring.

I’m a positive person, an optimist through and through, and know it’s just a matter of time before my customers darken my door demanding new threads for the good times to come.

Not being able to do something that I love, hurts, but like the seasons on the fells, that will change.

Like he says at the end of his book, “This is my life. I want no other.”