A joiner has been delighting children around the north-east through lockdown by building them homemade mud kitchens – after battling and beating Covid-19.
Bob Stuart, who lives near Hatton between Ellon and Peterhead, had to take a break from his joinery business when coronavirus restrictions prevented him from entering his clients’ homes.
Instead, he picked up the tools with his children Mya, 8, and Indy, 5, and started to give them practical woodworking lessons.
“We’ve been doing a lot with them, just making things as well as home schooling,” he said.
“We made some picnic benches, then we made a mud kitchen. I actually fitted a proper sink and tap to theirs, because I had a lot of leftovers before I used them all up, from taking them out of folks’ kitchens.
“People were asking, do you do this to order? And I said, well, I can easily make you one.
“It’s just been word of mouth, but on my business page a couple of days ago I said I’d be making these and if anyone wants a price just message me – and I’ve just been bombarded with messages.”
A mud kitchen, Paul explains, is “an outdoor, small-sized kitchen for kids”.
He makes a variety of designs – the bestseller has a sink at either end and an oven fitted with real kitchen hinges on the door, “so it soft-closes like an oven would”.
Lockdown has thrown some unexpected challenges in the way of the 45-year-old and his partner Alana, 39.
The couple ended up ill with coronavirus symptoms while helping care for a relative.
“During the lockdown we’ve been giving end-of-life care to my mother-in-law who passed away just a few weeks ago,” he said.
“It was terrible, it was one of the worst things we’ve ever gone through.
“We didn’t have to be hospitalised, but it’s just lucky we’ve got no underlying issues with breathing. There were days of motion sickness.
“I had a high temperature, Alana not so much. She still can’t taste or smell.”
He added: “We’ve always stayed positive. We’ve made a lot of things with the girls, they’ve been sanding and drilling with their PPE on, so we’ve just tried to put a brave face on it.”
Bob and Alana have now both recovered, though they both still feel the effects of the illness.
However, that has not stopped Bob from ramping up production of the kitchens, including one particularly special design.
“There was a child with autism whose mum messaged me about a kitchen, and I asked if there was anything that appeals to her.
“She said she likes things that dangle, I said I’d have utensils and tools dangling from the kitchen. She said she likes mirrors, and I said I’d put a plastic mirror on it rather than a chalkboard.
“For autistic kids in lockdown, I think it’s been tough for them – they haven’t really understood, and they’ve got frustrated.”
There is no sign of demand slowing down any time soon, with Bob working on around 25 orders at the moment.
“It was taking a while when I was making them individually, but now I’m making them four or five at a time I can make them quicker.
“It’s just been crazy. My dream in the future was always to work from home, but it might come quicker than I thought!”