I’ve been struggling all week with how to write this post. And I want to dedicate it to everyone who’s ever inspired anyone.
Most people have had a teacher who inspires them, or someone out of school – maybe at work, maybe a friend or someone you’ve met. For me there was Mr Wallington, my Physics teacher in sixth form who turned a fairly academic subject into something real with impact everywhere around me, who inspired such questions as ‘how fast would you have to go for a red light to look green and could you use it as an excuse when caught speeding’ and ‘what exactly does 10 to the power of -23 look like’.
Then there was Toby, my line manager in my first ever Saturday job who was never afraid to muck in if we were short staffed, who always had time for people and always listened to what they had to say, yet was strong and strict and fair. With whom you always knew where you stood and you always knew where the line was and exactly what would happen if you crossed it. So you could get on and do your job without worrying about anything.
And more recently there was Andrew Bristow. The teacher at my first ever millinery course. The man who took ‘I wonder how hats are actually made and if I’d be any good at it’ and turned it into a passion for headwear and for couture sewing techniques. Whose enthusiasm for his work seeped into all his students, who challenged those who needed it and who supported those who were struggling. Who when he couldn’t understand my description of something I wanted to try said simply ‘well, you’d better make it then to show me’, giving me the belief that if I can see a hat I can make a hat (even if I can’t draw it).
And that’s where the tale becomes sad. I was searching the internet last weekend to see what sort of work the people who have taught me my millinery skills have produced, wondering what the styles were that were produced by the different characters when I came across this website, telling me that Andrew died on Boxing Day. Do have a read – the messages left by those who knew and loved him are beautiful. I’d like to leave my own one day, but I’m not sure what to write yet.
I always dreamed that one day I’d be making beautiful hats and I’d have some success as a milliner and I’d catch up with Andrew and tell him how he inspired me, how he was the fan that turned that spark of interest into a roaring fire. How at 25 years old and in his class I finally answered that primary school question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’, a question I’d never been able to answer before.
But I will be a milliner, and it will still be thanks to the inspiration of an amazing teacher, and I will never forget him. So raise a glass tonight to whoever it was who inspired you at any time in your life. Contact them and tell them. For these are the people who make our lives what they are and if we don’t tell them, how will they know the impact they had?