My father was a butcher and worked all his life for someone else. Like a lot of sons, I was determined not to turn out like my father, but from the age of eight or nine, I got odd jobs to do during school holidays and gradually found myself enjoying the work.
After school, I served as an apprentice with a then large firm in Newcastle five years of hard graft six days a week. I well remember the routine in one of the shops I worked in: Mondays, 7am start, polish the windows, polish the chrome hanging rails, polish the shop floor, clean outside the shop, then skin, eyes out and split 100 sheep heads. I got quite quick at them three in five minutes at my best.
What a different place work is now. I found I loved it then and I still do. When I get a chance to work at the block, I sometimes look down at my own hands, boning lamb, for instance, and think that's a skill to be really proud of. Even though I have done the same thing thousands of times, it is still fresh and wonderful. My hope is that I can instil in my staff the same pride in a job well done.
I find that talking to other like-minded butchers from an organisation such as Q Guild fills me with optimism, not just for my own business, but also for the future of a trade that has given me so much.
The worry at the minute is that poor margins are driving producers, marts, abattoirs and retailers out of business. And the currently high price of lamb will get worse, as more producers hang on to ewe lambs.