on International Women’s Day
Helen has been a member of ETL since September 2015. She is a huge supporter of the tool library, and one of our greatest advocates, so we thought it might be interesting to do an interview with her to find out her story, what she is making, and what she thinks is so special about the tool library. Chris Hellawell, our founder, caught up with her on February the 25th, in the run up to a special day for her. We thought it would be appropriate to celebrate this most special of people on International Women’s Day.
Helen – we salute you!
Hi Helen, and thanks for chatting to us today. Firstly, just tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came across ETL.
I live in Saughton Mains. I moved there two years ago when I downsized because of my health. It’s a single persons flat, tiny, but absolutely beautiful. When I moved in, I loved the peace, the quiet, but I wanted to decorate. I’d left my tools at my old home as there was no storage at the new place. I got some help to decorate – general help, but the hands-on decoration I wanted to do myself eventually.
I go to the library in Wester Hailes and I sit with one of the girls, and I was saying to her that I desperately wanted to hire some tools, and I thought at my age, what’s the point in buying them anyway? And I thought there must be somewhere that hires tools reasonably so I can start thinking about getting things together for the flat. So, we did a search engine on the computer, and eventually we noticed “tool library”. It was just so simple. She said to me “It’s in Leith”, and I said “Leith’s got everything!” I mean, Leith is a community, and it has things like this! So she wrote it all down for me, and on the Saturday morning, lo and behold, I came down to this police box, and I realised I used to go to the dancing at the club behind it!
I went down to the police box, and met yourself, Chris, and I went home thinking I was walking on cloud 5, 9, 6 and 7 – I felt great, because I had found somewhere that had all the tools I needed, and I could afford it. I absolutely loved the idea.
You have become a bit of a champion of the tool library so we hear…
I told them back at the Wester Hailes library, took some fliers in there. Even when I was on the bus this morning I was telling the lady next to me. She is in an army veterans house and is finding it difficult to get everything done in the house because some of the work isn’t in the job description of the maintenance people. So lo and behold I went into my ‘tool library spiel’ as I call it and told her how she could get things and where the police box is, so she wrote it all down.
You’re a one woman marketing team!…
Well I am really. I know that some of the people I know have family that can help do DIY and such, but some people are like me and they don’t have anybody to help them. I know that the one thing that it has done for me it to make me feel confident about myself and make me feel like I’m still worthy. When people come into my house and they say “Oh, who’s done that? It’s lovely.” I feel great because I’ve done it, not a painter and decorator.
The money I’ve saved – it’s hysterical! I got a quote for some people to put blinds in the house and they were asking for £340. Because I can come to the tool library, and I know how to put the blinds up, I could do the whole job for just the cost of the blinds, which was less than £150. I bought them, measured them, mapped them all up and did it myself. It takes me a bit longer than it used to, but I just take my time and work hard one day and then rest the next one.
You’re too kind Helen! So what have you been borrowing?
Mainly drills and drill bits, but I knew that everything and anything I could think of, I could come and see the tool library.
And you also needed help from an expert too?
Aye. I was trying to get a handyman to change the light fixtures in the house. I’d bought each of the fittings and had set about trying to find an someone – God they’re expensive! I was being quoted £200-£250 and I’m thinking “Hello!!!!”
Because of my age, my lights are never going to get changed again – it’s a one off situation, so I need to be able to justify the spend. I had one young laddie who said he could do this, that and the other, but he let me down, and never turned up. So I was wondering who I knew who might be able to help me out, and I was coming down to the tool library, so I thought I’d ask then. So I went down on a Saturday morning and I asked if they knew anyone who could help, and they did! And you know, I left that police box again on such a high, cos you told me you knew someone who might be able to help. Two months I’d been trying to get someone out, and I should have asked at the tool library.
So this young man Mo, phoned me, duly made an appointment, turned up – absolutely fabulous, and I had the job done in two hours, and he was brilliant. You know? I went about that house for the rest of that day turning lights on and off! In a day and a half, the tool library had helped me sort something out that I’d been trying to do for weeks, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.
So where’s the fire Helen? What’s the rush for all this DIY to happen?
Well it’s my birthday next Monday (February the 29th), and because I only have a birthday every four years, my friends and I are having a ladies cocktail afternoon on Saturday! So I’m 17 on Monday… I’ll be six years younger than my grandson, so that’s what all this is for. Since I joined the tool library, I’ve not let anybody visit me, I’ve visited them but I’ve not let them come, and Saturday, 1 o’clock sharp, my closest and dearest friends are going to be there, and I’m going to open that front door with pride.
Stay tuned for another member interview in the coming weeks. In the meantime, happy International Women’s Day.
The Tool Librarians