“I love timber and wooden things,” says George Gardiner, in fact he feels blessed to have been ‘given’ hands that can make, build and fix things.
George ‘officially’ retired twenty-eight years ago when he was sixty, at which point he added a descriptor to his name and became ‘George the Carpenter’. But George has always been a carpenter, a proud one at that, who partly attributes his love affair with timber to the man who apprenticed him many years ago – “my deceased and wonderful boss, Charlie Marshall”.
George can usually be found beavering away in his shed at his Coffs Harbour home, “making, building and fixing things” – dog kennels, for instance.
“I’ve built about 300 dog kennels, of all different varieties, it became a specialty,” he says. “They come with flat or pitched roofs of galvanised iron, with hardwood or pine bases and wall frames. Discarded Corflute real estate signs are ideal for insulating the walls and I always fit carpet to the floors.”
There’s more to George’s kennels, though: external walls could be clad with a multitude of materials, there will be a “polished timber piece” on which to print the dog’s name, “three coats of attractive paint”, and a “funny chimney is added to some of them”.
George was practising his hobby when still in the workforce, but ‘retirement’ from working would amount to retirement from life as far as he is concerned.
“My motivation is to keep the mind and hands active,” he says. “I don’t want to be one of those sedentary types of people. I love working in my workshop, and using my hands and brain to solve a problem of restoration, or making something good for a child or an adult.”
Barriers to physical work, like knee and shoulder reconstructions, – symptoms of his “right-handed building days and ladders, concreting and gardening” – have luckily been low hurdles for George. “They’ve healed up well, I’m just bit rickety kneeling and getting up; I’m in no pain at all,” he says.
Building children’s cubby houses, restoring old rocking horses (“I get wonderful satisfaction when they are purchased for children’s pleasure.”) and old pedal cars and, more recently, wheelbarrows, combine to constitute George’s life-enhancing fuel.
“I’ve got a bit of a passion for restoring old wheelbarrows,” he says. “I entered the recycled wheelbarrow, ornamental garden feature era accidently. You can pick them up for three to ten bucks and I paint them a garden flower design – I’ve done seven now.”
And that’s where the beauty lies for George, giving life to ‘found’ materials that have been discarded by others … it’s “very much so” a source of personal satisfaction.
“I use old pallets a lot that are left lying around the industrial estates,” he says. “They have excellent timber in them – good hardwood or the pine slats. They’re good for building the dog kennels. I acquire timber everywhere – bought, scrounged or gifted.”
George has some advice for fellow retirees, too: “I would recommend that men keep active. Don’t get involved in watching TV and staying in quiet places; join clubs and do things they are able to do, keep active, keep walking, use their hands and ability … keep active: absolutely!”