Almost Christmas!

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Anthony Bailey

Friday, December 20, 2013

Here in the ‘woody’ office at GMC Publications we have been busier than usual trying to compress magazine production cycles so we can get as far ahead as possible and beat our printers extended holiday deadlines. Not easy but we’ve done it as we always do, with a little time for reflection and how to improve our magazines in the year ahead. It is now time, of course, for some last minute Christmas shopping.

The other week my wife and I visited Steyning, a West Sussex village, or should it be town? It’s size is deceptive, but it dates back to Anglo Saxon times when it was once a trading port on the river. Not surprisingly, the charm of this place is down to the mixture of building styles over many centuries and its accrued history. Thatched roofs and oak frame with wattle and daub panels sit easily alongside newer georgian and victorian properties with their own charms, plus a healthy dose of 1920-30s buildings curiously attempting to emulate the much older half timbered ones. I am a fan, if not a student, of architecture and I find the building techniques used and the drunken charms of oak framed cottages that hang over at improbable ‘Disney-esque’ angles quite fascinating. Here in our very own town of Lewes, the apparent painted stonework found running up the corners of many buildings is in fact made of timber - a rap of the knuckles will prove this - although a gap between it and brickwork is a sure indicator, too.

Last night we went to a carol concert in a late 19th-century chapel with amazing exposed cruck-shaped oak members supporting a high clerestory-windowed structure. You can imagine that, while singing my little heart out, I was in fact carefully studying how many scarf joints were used in each cruck - crooked - frame and how all the components had been bolted together for security. Walking around and observing all the details of building constructions can be most instructive and enlightening. I always look above the line of shop facades to see the buildings above, which are much more interesting. However, I have to avert my eyes one more time and push through the pre-Christmas crush and get those all important presents bought…

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and successful New Year.

Until 2014, Anthony

P.S. If you are taking a Boxing Day stroll around town for a bit of exercise after a festive blowout, then issue 89 of Woodworking Plans & Projects should be on sale in your local newsagent!

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