Part of the Furniture

"There is not enough space between the walls of the factory to hold all the stories."

The 'factory’ is Reliable Upholstery which has been trading since 1938. George is the proprietor, and  his workshop’ is hidden down the back lane of South Woodbine Street, South Shields. Although it is hard to find it feels as if it has always been there rooted in its late 19th century corner.

There used to be many such workshops scattered around South Shields and in many ways the 'factory' feels like the last one. It is a simple one room up, one room down workshop measuring twenty feet by ten feet. 

Describing the workshop like this does not do it justice. George’s place of work for the last 20 years isn’t so much a factory or an upholstery workshop but a visual experience a feast for the eyes. When I first knocked  tentatively- on the metal covered outside door with its brass gargoyle head knocker- it was mid winter, cold and wet as always, inside was hardly any better although perhaps not so wet but it was still good to keep your coat on.

When you enter the workshop it is hard, to begin with, to concentrate on anything. The walls are totally covered with photographs, small en-prints, some faded and bent at the corners, pinned, glued or even just staying on the walls because they have been there so long they have nowhere else to go, no further to fall.

As well as photographs there are cuttings from newspapers, posters, notes, phone numbers, paintings, clocks - oh so many clock -  some telling the correct time and others telling it only twice a day. Pendulum clocks, battery clocks, some chime and break the silence whilst one small insignificant plastic silver clock, always one hour slow, crows like a strangled cockerel at 4.30 every day for as many times that it feels necessary to do so. There is no logic at all to its timekeeping, very much like there seems to be no logic to the environment in the workshop.

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