Meet Repair Café volunteer Graham Ellis
In the second of our series of interviews with people involved with Transition Stroud and with other local sustainability initiatives, Transition Stroud newsletter editor Josephine Murray (JM) talked to Repair Café volunteer Graham Ellis (GE).
GE: I trained as an engineer, and I have worked mostly in engineering manufacturing companies; electronic components at STC, which later became Nortel, aeroplanes at British Aerospace, and printing and bookbinding at Letts Filofax. I have always been keen on DIY and fixing things – for example, I am still running a 60-year-old electric lawnmower. On retirement in 2016 we moved from Edinburgh to be nearer to family, and now live in Cambridge, near Slimbridge, and having heard about Repair Cafés I thought this would be a good way to keep my mind and skills active. I get a lot of personal satisfaction from seeing a repair through to completion.
JM: Why do you think Repair Cafés are important?
GE: When something doesn’t work correctly, often our first reaction is to replace it and buy new. The Repair Cafés can give it a new lease of life, and stop it going to landfill. Even if that particular item can’t be repaired, it can be used for spare parts for other things. Sometimes there is a sentimental attachment, which is lost if the item is not working or dilapidated. One lady brought in an anglepoise lamp which she had used at college, but which had been abandoned in her garage for a while. She was delighted when it was fixed to bring back happy memories of her college time. Even if someone no longer wants something, it is often the case that other people will be pleased to make use of it.
JM: Can you tell us about the sorts of repairs you do?
GE: I work on anything that I can use my skills to repair, including wood and electrical. For example I recently re-attached the base of a cane chair, removed a broken plug from a radio’s earphone socket, and rewired a hedge trimmer with a cut cable (we see quite a few of these!). Lights are a regular repair item.
The most complicated thing I have repaired was a steam cleaner. It had lots of tubes to check, and eventually I found a small nozzle inside a tube that had become furred up with limescale. There was also a stand mixer that required a new motor – fortunately, spares were available. Sometimes, even getting inside the thing can be a challenge!
JM: What do you do in your spare time?
GE: Gardening – my speciality is fruit; we grow quite a few of our own fruit and veg, and we are members of the Slimbridge Gardening club. Recently I have been welding plant supports for the garden. I have led walks for the Dursley Walking Festival, and am helping to monitor the condition of Slimbridge footpaths for the Parish Council.
I lead the science and engineering group and the family history group for the Cam & Dursley u3a 1 and maintain the website. I have also done a lot of research of my family history, keeping in touch with distant relatives around the world, and I sing with Stroud Choral Society.
1 University of the Third Age, a world-wide network life-long learning and stimulating activities for retired people
Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers
If you would like to share your experiences of sustainable living and working in Stroud district, or would like to suggest someone for us to talk to, please email newsletter editor Josephine Murray via firstname.lastname@example.org