Name: Making It: How Love, Kindness and Community Helped Me Repair My Life
Author: Jay Blades / Ian Gittins
Making It is the autobiography of TV presenter and furniture restorer Jay Blades, the presenter of BBC1’s The Repair Shop & Money For Nothing and was one of the books which I had for Christmas, even though we are now in May and I’ve only just got to reading it, which I shared on Instagram (If you would like to follow me on there then click here).
As I know I have a few visitors who aren’t in the UK I think I ought to start by explaining what The Repair Shop is. The premise of the TV show is a member of the public brings in an item of sentimental value to them which have become worse for wear, such as a childhood teddy bear, an old bike, a favourite armchair of a relative of there’s who has passed away. Jay and his team of restorers bring the item back into use and gives it back to them. It is usually emotional and teary but is also pretty much a lovely warm hug when you watch it. I believe for the US the show is available on Discovery+ though it used to be on Netflix.
Just briefly Money for Nothing is similar in that it is about furniture restoration but instead they collect items about to be thrown away at a rubbish dump and they retrieve it and then restore it or create something new out of it to sell and the profit goes back to the person who was going to throw it away. It’s an interesting show and I admire the creativity but The Repair Shop is my personal favourite because of the human interest (something Jay himself says in his book).
Anyway Jay Blades presents both shows and to be honest before then wasn’t really known as a presenter in the UK and his autobiography details his childhood in Hackney, East London raised by a single mum with an absent father. He talks about the change between primary and secondary school where he first encountered racism and bullying because of the colour of his skin which turned him into an angry young man who was regularly involved in fights and occasionally low level drug dealing.
He also describes the racism he experienced at the hands of those in positions of authority – with teachers turning a blind eye to the bullying, even though he regularly got into trouble for fighting back and the police, including a scary incident where he was pulled off the road into a police van and beat up by a particularly sadistic PC.
He also talks about his struggles with severe dyslexia which meant he left school with no qualifications and in the first few years after school basically going from job to job, becoming a dad at a very young age before eventually finding a passion for helping people in Oxford with homeless people.
In the later chapters he explores how he went to university and finally discovered his dyslexia, as well as his partner and wife Jade who he set up numerous community projects with in High Wycombe such as Street Dreams which encouraged young people who were struggling to reach their full potential, and Out of the Dark which was their first furniture restoration project.
Jay also describes how the constant on the go nature of running these projects ultimately lead him to have a mental breakdown when he realised he no longer loved his partner Jade.
This led him to drive all the way to Wolverhampton and to lived in his car in a car park for a week with no where to go. It was only the help of a local businessman Gerald Bailey who bought him back onto his feet by starting a new furniture restoration project in the West Midlands called Jay & Co. Finally the book details how he was contacted for Money for Nothing and The Repair Shop.
The book is a very enjoyable, thought-provoking but also inspiring read as Jay has obviously had numerous setbacks in life throughout the years but has managed to overcome them, from an absent father, racism, dyslexia, homelessness and even a mental breakdown. As Leigh-Anne Pinnock from Little Mix puts it on the cover it is a story of triumph over adversity and there are parts of his story that can touch everyone and anyone.
The parts that spoke to me the most were his experiences with dyslexia and mental breakdown. Though I’m not dyslexic myself I do know people who have the condition and how crippling it is for them and I have also heard people say that because people struggle to read or maybe aren’t academic they are dismissed as being thick or that they won’t provide any value.
I remember actually a colleague who was despairing at their son who was not doing his work at school and he really wanted his son to go to university and I had to say to them that university wasn’t the be all and end all (plus also tell him that I didn’t go even though I did have the grades to do so). In the end his son took an apprenticeship in construction but my colleague later told me his son took to it like a duck to water and that through the apprenticeship he actually still could go to university to get his degree so I do understand where Jay is coming from that people who aren’t academically gifted seem to be dismissed in schools.
The other area is of course mental health which has been a bit of a buzz word in the last few years since the start of Covid which I think has made everyone more aware of their limitations and their mental health as we all experienced (and continue to experience) the full effects of such an extreme situation. I certainly can remember the first few months of 2020 and actually feeling quite optimistic as I had a new job with new friends then in March it all went wrong and I think at different times it has affected everyone I know. Jay’s mental breakdown was a few years earlier than this but it does show how anything can cause that tipping point.
There are also some great bits at the end for fans of The Repair Shop as it’s lovely to read the camaraderie on camera does continue off camera and they aren’t immediately in their own corners or worse at each others throats!
However what is also striking is Jay does talk about the issue of racism and that it still rears it’s ugly head even today and he actually takes conscious attempts to rebuke it when he is presenting the show, talking about how he dresses and conducts himself so he seems less threatening for viewers. He also mentions the Twitterati (my name for twitter trolls) who go on there to ask why he is not fixing anything when he is clearly the host of the show and I don’t think people would say this if Jay was a white man presenting the show.
I have given the books 5* but I will mention one thing which is when Jay talks about his time working with homeless people he goes all in with the descriptions so expect that part to be a little gross out but I’m glad that he has told his story with warts and all rather than airbrushing it for the reader so it hasn’t affected my overall score.
I would love to know what you think? Are you a fan of The Repair Shop? Let me know in the comments down below!