Our friends the Landscape Gardeners

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Somehow when one writes a blog, one’s friends consider they can get a lot of free publicity on the back of it.  I’d love that to be true yet doubt more than a handful of people have even heard of my blog, let alone take any notice of it.

However, I made a promise that I’d try and I’d write a short article about my friend Tony’s landscape gardener Horsham business called Horsham Decks and Patios.

This Horsham business undertakes all types of landscaping, from building little paths through a pretty back garden to constructing a large patio or terrace.  At the moment it appears composite decking is a popular choice for keeping feet dry in the winter and at the other end of the spectrum, expensive york stone paved patios are also coming back into fashion.

Tony and his team are very good at their job and have done some wonderful garden construction jobs over the years. I’ve personally seen several and been most impressed.  One of the gardens I visited was built on a slope and required a huge amount of work to build level platforms. The result was astonishing as a sloping rubbish patch was turned into a series of three level decks.  That particular garden featured in a well known magazine and won Horsham Decks and Patios a prestigious award – I can’t remember the name of it or I’d print it here!

So all I can say is if you need any sort of Horsham landscaping done, please feel free to say I recommended the company.  I’m not much good at marketing or selling, so forgive the plug.  I do thoroughly recommend Tony though.

Here’s their website:


Life now

Learning Surprising Skills

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Over the years we’ve become the owners of multiple businesses alongside our real passion for violins.

At first our problem was how to attain skills to do a great job at whatever we wanted to undertake. But in the end it happened by accident that I met a man with a love to rival our own for his business.

Guy inspired me from the day we met because he built and nurtured his fencing business much the same way that we grew our music business. His Horsham fencing company started as an idea when he was just 10 years old, helping his Dad on the family farm. He loved to hammer the posts into the soil and over the years he decided he wanted to build fences for a living.

It doesn’t sound like a labour of love because any kind of work in the great outdoors can be laborious and hard. But Guy relished the elements and with his father’s help he set up his own company.

I loved his story and his passion, and how that 10-year-old knew just what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So much so that I asked Guy to take me along one day to learn some of his skills.i

Much to my surprise I loved working outdoors, though I freely admit I like to choose when I work and prefer the warm inside during the winter months. So we became informal business partners as I set up my own company and subcontracted to him. We still get along like brothers and it’s been a great friendship. When I need to burn up some energy or destress, I help Guy with the work. It might be a closeboard fence for a small town garden or deer fencing measured in kilometres around a farm. I don’t mind and we make a great team.

When I’ve had enough hard labour, I return to my precious violins. It’s a wonderful contrast working with delicate instruments one day, ensuring a perfect finish and using a light touch. Then next being out in the fields with a club hammer and landrover, getting dirty, hardening my hands and getting blisters. But somehow it works and I love it all.

In some ways though it’s not so different. Both skills demand a degree of accuracy and precision. It’s readily apparent when it comes to violin making, but not everyone would appreciate that a fence needs to be accurate too. After all, it’s no good fencing a pretty garden and ending up with a wonky fence, or one that has panels of different sizes. And it’s almost an art to make a fence look pristine.

So maybe they have more in common than you’d first think.

Violins and fences – who knew?



Life now

Our Passion and the Bills

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So you can see I’m a sentimental soul and perhaps that’s what my wife fell in love with, although I sometimes maintain that she loves the music and my violins as much as I.

We opened our wonderful shop and I have to say it has been more of a labour of love than a way to make our fortunes. But we worked hard enough to start another business alongside that would bring in more money and keep the wolves from the door. Our carpet cleaning business is a huge departure from our passion, of course, but we take pride in doing a good job and you can see our website at www.horshamcarpetcleaners.com

violinsIt was strange at first to make such a giant leap but we were aware that we could never bring in enough money every month to start a family and have a decent life. So we wracked our brains and wrote a list of all the things we could do and ways that we could make extra income.

It wasn’t a big list yet we were both healthy and strong so we looked for something that would be simple but not too taxing physically. In fact, against the expectations of our family it has turned out well and we are able to tailor our carpet and upholstery cleaning around our shop and private lives. We don’t have to work full-time but find that putting in around 30 hours a week between us brings in enough money to keep us going.

The beauty of money is not intrinsic but in the freedom it gives to follow one’s dreams. So tcleaning carpets has allowed us to build our violin shop and the workshop we run alongside. Our violin business is really our hobby and it pays for itself with some profit, but without our other business we would struggle to live.

Despite running two businesses, you couldn’t consider us wealthy, yet we have enough income to support our growing family and that’s what is important to us. Our children have learned to play the violin, of course, and they both show some promise in the field. The violin is one of those instruments that needs to be mastered early in life when one’s fingers and mind are flexible enough to cope with the demands of this wonderful mistress.

Although I love to play, my skills are not good enough to pass on to our talented youngsters so we employ an expert to get the best from their young brains. And of course they’ll have access to the best instruments so we hope they will achieve their potential.

Meanwhile we may have to work harder as carpet cleaners in order to provide the extra funds needed to keep our children professionally tutored to a high standard. It’s a sacrifice we will not begrudge.



Familiar Footsteps

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When my Grandfather suffered a stroke in my early twenties, the drywall business with our family name attached died off. None of the children were interested in taking over, and myself, I knew nothing of drywall. I’m sure it hurt him a little to see that no one was going to directly fall into his footsteps in that sense, but he was still happy with a roofer and painter son, and a landscaping daughter to carry on the traditions for him, but he seemed to push even further into me. Wanting me to learn a trade of some sort that could be used to bring more into the world, to build something.

When he passed, I learned that he willed me his violin. Out of everyone in the family, I was the one who followed in these footsteps. I may not have been into drywall, or roofing, or building, but I loved the music, and learned everything about violin making passed on through generations. I don’t know why it became so much more important for me to keep that legacy alive than ever. I never paid much attention to legacy until he died, but I knew that I had to do something to keep this family tradition alive, as I was the only one who could.

So, I followed in my Grandfathers footsteps, laid out years before I was born. I bought a plot of land, and a building permit. It was my goal, to build a violin shop that sold handcrafted violins in our family style. Throughout my life I had made dozens, and only played them myself, and maybe, just maybe I could make a living out of it. It was such an ambitious reach that I was almost certain that I would fail, but I felt I owed it to my family, and to my Grandfather’s hard work, for without it, I wouldn’t be here.

I learned how to dig a foundation, we poured our cement and had the first piece of the puzzle figured out. With my aunts and uncles we began to team together to figure out every last aspect of the place. Framework and building, my uncle up on the roof getting it all laid in and properly installed, myself and my uncles putting up the drywall, talking the whole time about how Grandpa had done this almost his whole life and yet we all knew next to nothing about it.

As the outside work was being completed, and my aunt taking control of the landscaping, I needed help with the interior, so I wound up calling a local design team to bring us a hand as I knew nothing about this part of the build. They sent over a rep to look at the space and to help come up with a design plan, and I have to admit, it was love at first sight. We bonded closely over the project, and I proudly married her four years after the shop was done.


Where you came from

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We had every service you could imagine going at once on that project. Mirroring the work that my Grandfather managed to do with three people, we had our whole family continuing a half century later. The roofing, the drywall, the painting, the cement work, the framing, the landscaping, the design, everything all coming together from a myriad of sources to create one thing, in juxtaposition to the one man who managed to do all those things on his own, it really made you sit back and appreciate all that he did with his own work ethic and determination, and we often found ourselves wishing we were half as capable as he was on his own.

The funniest part of the whole project, looking back anyway, was how much I appreciated working with my hands. I don’t know if it unlocked part of my ancestral genetic code hidden away, but the drywall work was actually some of the most fun I had on the project. Which I suppose is what got me into eventually working manual labor despite what I thought I would have happening throughout my life span. But, back to the tale at hand. It took us about five months to have the place completely finished and ready to open. It was no grand scene, but it was quaint, beautiful and filled with handcrafted pieces that were born and bred form the minds of my family.

My mother eventually quit working in the restaurant industry and went on to operate sales and lessons bookings at the shop. I went to work with my uncle in roofing, and then branched into my own handyman service, doing everything that I had learned to do throughout the process of building that shop, and turning it into my own second business. Now my uncles come and work for me on occasion, which is great. My wife still works as a designer, and often helps with projects that I may be working on at the time, only my one uncle is the long lost holdout still working in service, and he may get ribbed for it, but he’s happy.

Nearly a century after what started over in a new country, our family follows in the footsteps we walked for as long as we can reach back through the generations. Working with our hands, and bringing music and violin into the world. And I suppose that’s kind of the lesson of this whole blog that I want to get across, that it doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re in drywall, roofing, painting, building, landscaping, design or anything else, what you do matters. It impacts the lives of those around you, and it carries on in legacy throughout your life. You are not a product of what you do for a living, but what you do while living, what you bring to the world. And whether that’s swinging a hammer, or drawing a bow across strings, you will live on if you leave something beautiful behind.


Passing Pages

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You see, one fact about my Grandfather that I hadn’t mentioned, and essentially through the whole lineage of my family was music. He was a trained violinist under his dad, and his dad, and all the way back through life. And though construction and trade was the name of the game when it came to our family’s careers, violin in all forms was the passion. Our family had been hand crafting them for generations, and my Grandfather’s first, right from Latvia had always been a focal point on the mantle of their home, which he would break out after a long day at work, while my Grandmother and the family danced.


My Mom’s generation followed in the manual labor footsteps, my two Uncles becoming a roofer and painter respectively, and my one Aunt found work in her own Landscaping company. The other two members, including my mom went into the service industry, and yet none of them followed with the music. When my mom was still relatively young, she became pregnant with me. This was not a good thing, and something my Grandfather reacted terribly to. Old fashioned standards, even in the last few months of the Seventies, were to be adhered to, and being out of wedlock and pregnant was a no go.

This caused a rift in the family for a while. With my Grandfather pouring himself into his drywall, the other family members into painting, roofing, landscaping, and serving. It was something that took quite a few years to mend, and it wasn’t until I was out of toddler phases in life that my Grandfather actually took more than a passing interest in me. Not my own fault, but those times are passed, and we’ve all since moved on. The reason we started to bond though, was over the music. I was fascinated with that violin from the first time I heard it, and seemed to be the only member in my family who actually paid attention to it.

Through my childhood, teens and into young adulthood, I learned everything I could from him about it. How to play it, and eventually how to craft them myself. I started to lean towards my mother’s work approach, which my Grandfather always tried to correct. In our family, you work hard. An honest days work for an honest days pay, and when my Grandfather spoke of honest work, he meant work with your hands.

Either in drywall, or painting, or roofing, or construction, or building of any sort was the path that our family had travelled for years, and already two of his children were diverging from that path, he needed to correct that lean with the next generation, and by being the oldest male in the family, that essentially meant me. So when I began to work in coffee shops, and restaurants, the rift between us started to grow again. It was another time that took a while for him to come around to, but it is what it is.

Early life

Striking a Chord

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After working in the construction business for a while, my Grandfather caught a bug of entrepreneurship and decided to strike out on his own. Though he didn’t have many skills, drywall was one that he knew inside out, and he wasn’t afraid to learn any of the other skills he needed along the way. So in his twenties, along with his brother, they dubbed their drywall company after our family name, and began offering his services. It started out slowly, but this was also the post-war economic boom, so there was a lot of families building houses and getting work done, so more work quickly came.

Being the hard working immigrant that he was, this translated into long hours, lots of travel and essentially working every moment he spent awake. There was hardly a drywall company with so few employees yet so much experience time between them as our families. It was during one of the trips to a surrounding city, that my Grandfather met a woman at a hotel. They were in the lounge, and my Grandfather was listening to the music playing on the radio when this young woman came by, my Grandfather being the brash and bold man he was, asked her to dance. For some reason she accepted, and there’s not a whole lot to say about what transgressed, suffice to say that a year later they were married.

My Grandfather knew that his small apartment wasn’t enough space to have a wife and eventual family, so through his earnings, he bought a small patch of land and a permit to build. He and my Great-Uncle proceeded to build their home from the ground up. Learning every aspect of construction along the way either on their own, or through the help of business friends he had made along the way. From digging the foundation to putting up the frame, roofing, drywall, electricity, you name it he did it on his own, or with a little help from other people he knew. The house is still standing today, and as solid as ever, as a testament to what he could accomplish when he put his mind to it. house

If Grandfather had been born today he could perhaps have built a prosperous business with that work ethic and passion.  But it seems the skills stayed in the family genes because my half-brother, who now lives in England with his lovely wife, runs a very successful building company to this day and his children have followed in his footsteps.

But I digress, back to the story.

There was a sad note in the building phase, as Grandfather’s brother, who battled depression for many years, committed suicide part way into the construction, which caused a lot of grief for my Grandfather, that he channelled into building the house. From all accounts that I heard it took just under a year and a half for my Grandfather to build the home, and essentially the moment they moved from his small apartment into the house proper, they got to work on filling it with children. Resulting in two aunts, two uncles, and my mother over the course of about six years. At this point you may be wondering where the music comes in, and I assure you that it plays a significant role in the story, but not till my generation came along to pick it up.

Early life

First Flight

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violinistIt’s hard at times I’m sure to see the juxtaposition of a man who spends his days wielding a hammer and shingles, to the music of Tchaikovsky emanating from a handcrafted violin at the end of the day, and maybe in those regards, I am an entirely different kind of person. But to really get into the heart of the matter, we should probably start at the start, and end up at the intro line to provide a little more context. Perhaps there are those out there who have the same kind of story as I did, or perhaps I am alone in my world, but no matter how it turns out, I feel that it’s a story that deserves to be shared after all it had to endure to survive.

This tale begins long before I was born, in Riga, Latvia. My grandfather was a scared 13 year old boy living in the beginning stages of what would be the Nazi occupation, but one more in a long line of takeovers in the region dating back to my ancestors. I didn’t get to learn much about life in that time, or glean too many details about what the country was like at the start of the war, mostly because my Grandfather refused to talk about it, right up until his death about half a decade back. But eventually I heard stories of escaping on boats across the Baltic as planes were steadily trying to bomb them out of the water, so I guess I can see why he decided not to get too much into it.

My Grandfather and Great-Grandparents, like many immigrants at the time, wound up landing on Ellis island, and going through the process of trying to get into the US to start a new life. My Great-Grandfather came from some form of police service, and my Great-Grandmother was a seamstress. Somehow, they got fairly quick passage into the country, and quickly took to starting a new life in this new land. My Great-Grandfather wound up working in some position in the NYPD, and my Great-Grandmother worked in a shop making uniforms for soldiers overseas.

My Grandfather though, took a different route. After being sponsored by a family deeper in the country, he settled in Oklahoma and proceeded to go to school with his brother. That venture didn’t last long, and with having no schooling, barely speaking English, and no discernable skills, he wound up needing to look for work in what he could do. At this time, it meant mostly general labour, and he got his first job working for a construction company sanding gyprock. It wasn’t a glorious living, but he made enough money to get by, and learned some skills along the way, one of them being how to speak proper English. Though he still got ribbed by co-workers for his Latvian accent, his sense of humor quickly won him over with some friends, and he was a hard worker, which mattered most.