Age: 37 | Location: Cheshire, UK
In the time between now and when I called up The Carpenter, the week before last, he’s had another baby. Well, his wife has. Now he’s a father of five.
About six o’clock in the morning, he tells me, that’s when his alarm usually gets him out of bed. I imagine it’s probably his newborn which woke him today.
‘I don't sleep a lot ‘cause I've always had the idea I'll sleep when I'm dead. Yeah, life is for living, not for sleeping. I probably get five or six hours. I get up, watch on, put my clothes on, phone in my pocket, go downstairs, fill the kettle up, make two cups of tea.'
'I like to have two cups of tea at the same time: big cup, small cup. You can drink the small one quicker and then the big one follows it up.’
I wonder if there’s a specific type of tea he insists on having. PG Tips? Tetley?
‘I'm a bit of a tea connoisseur. I like Ribbons, which you can only get mail order.’
And after the cups of tea? For breakfast?
‘I have four Weetabix and I have two slices of toast. I like the toast to go cold so the butter doesn't melt.’
As we chat, it becomes clear that The Carpenter needs this kind of fuel. He works long hours, ticking boxes for his boss at his day job and then getting on with his own projects when he gets home each night. He builds furniture: tables for his friends, shelves for his family. When I ask him what the best part of his job is, that’s his answer.
‘Oh, it's definitely gotta be the creative aspect of it. Being able to express yourself. I'm in the process of doing a YouTube channel, well, been on it for a bit now, and I’m planning on doing like tutorials for building cabinets and all that sort of stuff.’
He’s an expert in his craft, certainly, but he’s also humble. He shrugs off the idea that there might ever be a point where he’ll stop learning how to make things.
‘I'll never be a master of it, to be honest with you. There will always be something I can improve on. Because it’s that vast and varied. The minute you stop doing something, your ability to do it becomes less, because you focus on something else. So it's like a constant merry-go-round.’
Maybe that’s the reason he keeps buying new tools. Or why tools keep being advertised to him. He tells me his Instagram feed is full of saws and screwdrivers and other things he doesn’t need.
‘I've spent quite a bit of money on tools. Obviously it's my job, but there's been some that's just been utter shit. I bought a really, really big circular saw and it's too big to use. It cost like 350 quid.’
Now the saw lives in the back of his van.
‘Occasionally, it comes out for a walk’.
But The Carpenter is saving up for something more serious. To clear his debts.
‘I’m on a debt purge at the minute. It’s a few debts.'
'I'm just trying to relieve the pressure that I need to earn a certain amount of money, because with everything going on, it's just getting harder and harder to live.’
He lets a thick cloud of vape smoke out of one side of his mouth.
I ask him whether he used to smoke and he nods.
‘To be honest with you, I'd rather smoke because it's a case of having a ciggy and then you’re done. Whereas with this, it's constant. I hate it.’
Regardless, it’s clear to me that The Carpenter is a glass-half-full kind of person.
‘Given that the times are very tested at the minute, I have an incredibly positive outlook on life. Some people say I'm irritatingly positive.’
That’s not to say he doesn’t get overwhelmed at times. Last August, he found himself in tears over money worries.
‘I know I said that I'm a positive person, but sometimes you can't be positive all the time, and it just compounded itself. I was bottling it up, bottling it up, bottling it up, and then I let go. It was nice. It was a nice cry because it sort of relieved the pressure and it let people know that I was struggling.’
I ask him what he thinks of the outdated idea that men shouldn’t cry. That men should be tough, hard, not show their emotions. He admits he feels the pressure, now more than when he was younger.
‘It’s weird because when I was really young, I mean like, in my twenties, I used to cry when me missus shouted at me, because I was a right wimp. And I think I’ve used up all my tears. They just don't come anymore. I’m thinking things, stuff like that, but I’m still sad, there’s still instances where I’m sad, but it doesn't sort of just come out my eyes. It's locked up in there. And it isn't good.’
Often these kinds of macho expectations are passed down father to son, but The Carpenter insists that he looks up to his dad, who had an admirable attitude about everything.
‘I used to get really upset when people didn't like me and my dad turned around and said, it's not you that's got the problem, it's them that's got the problem, and that's stuck with me for life.’
I wonder if his dad was the one who inspired him into carpentry, but he tells me that he was actually an engineer. It was his uncle who made carpentry seem appealing.
‘I just remember being about eight, nine years old, at my grandma’s, where my uncle lived. And he walked in one day with a big wad of twenty pound notes and just put them on the side and I thought, ah I fancy a bit of that.'
'I'm still yet to see that big wad of twenty pound notes by the way.’
That isn’t to say that he hasn’t achieved the things he wanted to.
What’s he most proud of? Asking out his wife out on a date.
‘Without that all the other proud moments would not come. Obviously, there’s having the kids, but you can't pick one because then the other four would be like, what's going on there? Yeah, I'd probably say the moment that I met my wife. I was nineteen years old.’
Success, for The Carpenter, is a daily goal, not some distant point years in the future.
‘Success to me means all my kids clothed and fed. And being able to have a can on the weekend.’
He’s distracted, the site manager of his current project peering over his shoulder, so we wrap things up quickly.
Where would he live, if he could live anywhere?
‘Three places: Alaska, Canada, or New Zealand.’
And why would he live there?
‘Because they make a lot of stuff out of wood.’