There are many ways to make it, and I took the long way round. For a while, I was very broken, but for the last thirty years I have mostly been trying to help people make or repair things. It might be furniture, it might be a relationship: it might even be themselves … This is the story of my repair job: of how I made it.– Jay Blades
And so begins the autobiography of Jay Blades. I first heard of Jay long before much of the nation did last year, when The Repair Shop moved to a primetime slot on Wednesday evenings on BBC One. I had discovered him a few years before that in 2017, through Money for Nothing, the daytime furniture restoration show, then subsequently sought him out on social media, and his account is one of my favourites to follow just because of how uplifting and inspirational he is.
But even I was surprised when my copy of ‘Making It’ arrived and I began reading. Born at the start of the 1970s, he was raised along with his brother Justin by his mum, originally from Barbados. Growing up in the Hackney and Stoke Newington areas of London, he sets out from the beginning that his story is neither a misery memoir or that it is a unique one in terms of what he experienced.
And it was a tough set of circumstances; with an absent biological father from a young age, struggling with dyslexia, but also the ugly racism and police brutality he faced, eventually leaving school with no qualifications and how with pent up anger and aggression from years of neglect and misunderstanding, he was homeless at 21. What struck me reading the book was how he speaks with such honesty about it all, whilst demonstrating his own growth in admitting and owning his own personal shortcomings of his younger self.
In fact, it’s his willingness to be open and frank that is the biggest draw with reading his story. It’s humourous, but he also speaks about times when he was at his most vulnerable with such eloquency that it is very moving, particularly when he speaks about the mental breakdown he experienced after his marriage ended.
But the one overriding theme that is conducive to the book as a whole is that of kindness, how others showed that to him at the lowest ebbs in his own life, and how he has subsequently used that to uplift and empower others, be it through social and community enterprises that he has done such as Street Dreams and Out of the Dark, right through to what he does now with The Repair Shop and his bespoke furniture restoration business Jay & Co.
One thing that you’re left in no doubt about after reading ‘Making It’ is what a truly well rounded and likeable chap Jay is, and what a good heart he has, to turn his own experiences and his own need to be repaired into something that has helped others find and repair themselves. It’s a real rollercoaster ride of a book that you will find hard to put down.
‘Making It’ is available now, published by Bluebird Books. Twitter: @Jay_n_Co.
Have you read this book? Do you agree with our review? Let us know and leave your comments below or drop us a message on Instagram.