20 years ago I put a law degree on hold and moved to Spain to teach English as a foreign language at the University of Murcia - despite being unable to speak much Spanish. After a few months, I'd exhausted every English language source I could find - I'd read all my books backwards, watched all my videos to death, and all those of my British friends nearby. When I wasn't working, I had nothing to do. I was bored out of my mind.
Murcia is not much of a tourist city, being as it is (a) inland and (b) hotter than the sun. But it had music. It's a city big on holidays and festivals, and it wasn't unusual to see and hear flamenco guitarists in the street and squares. I’d messed around on guitar in my teens but had never really taken it seriously. Passing a music store on my way home from work one particularly hot day, I wandered in, as much to take advantage of the aircon as look around. An hour later, I walked out with my first classical guitar - a pretty basic, nylon strung, laminate Admira.
Playing the guitar became my thing: it helped me unwind, to relax my mind and focus/not focus on something that didn't matter to anyone but me. It relieved the boredom in a way I could never have predicted.
A year later I flew back to the UK to finish my studies, and the guitar came with me. At Alicante airport, they refused to let me take the Admira in the cabin. "We carry loads of guitars" they said, "it will be fine in the hold" they said. Having never flown with a guitar, having never discussed the idea with anyone, like a naive idiot, I believed them. And guess what? They crushed it, putting a dirty great hole through the top and cracking the lower bout. One dead Admira, RIP.
But I still needed a guitar, so a few weeks later I trotted off to my local guitar shop, insurance money in hand. Still naive and easily persuaded, the acoustic I'd been eyeing up was left swinging in its hanger and I left with a strat in my hand.
Strat or no strat, I couldn't give up on the Admira. It had been a good friend to me and deserved a second chance at life. A local luthier openly mocked me when I asked if it could be repaired - so I decided to do it myself. Bit by bit, it went back together, horrifically scarred, but now un-dead.
That was my start. Over the next two decades I began to do more of my own guitar tech work, more for friends, more for friends-of-friends. I built an electric guitar, then some more, then ukuleles, before tackling the 'big game' - building an acoustic guitar. At some point along the way I had decided to take it more seriously, actually studying guitar building, reading and researching all I could, taking courses and classes.
And now I've taken the big leap. Working with guitars, this guitar thing, has become my thing. It is my job and something I love to do.
Thank you, British Airways.