A Bonsai Master at Work

Brit’s, by and large, are an angry bunch. If you live here you will largely understand why. If you don’t live here you will know us by reputation. If you were thinking about moving here I would certainly think again. There is a reason why, as soon as we are abroad, freed from Blighty’s oppressive climate of weather and political rule we drink a lot and go nuts. Most of us are so fed up and repressed we take every opportunity to have a go. Email is a great vent for such frustrations, one day I will post some of the horrors and abuse we get almost daily.

A Brit’ at home will do most anything to avoid face to face confrontation. We are, again by and large, thoroughly pissed off, frustrated and angry. The list of reasons why would, if written down, double the size of the internet. Getting hammered and having a good fight is all we need to restore order and a sense of well being it seems. Trouble is, kicking seven bells out of some similarly pissed up locals in some far flung sunny clime tends to come with consequences.

NOBODY get’s it more than me. I am a horror to work for. In modern Britain it’s almost impossible to do anything. Running a business is so bogged down with bullshit I think it makes ‘The Office‘ look like workplace utopia. Getting anything done here in the United Kingdom (a clanging misnomer if ever there was one) is almost impossible simply because so many people are doing the bare minimum they can to get paid and avoid getting the sack. Our entirely misplaced sense of entitlement means we all feel under appreciated, under paid and in modern parlance ‘abused’. All I want to do is provide a good service, have happy customers, pay my taxes and live my little life. Sadly that does mean I am entirely reliant on others who do not share my modest ambitions. For instance look at this pallet of Akadama that was supposed to have been delivered yesterday. This cost me almost the whole day to sort out including a 60 mile round trip and about 6 hours wages for two people. Just because folk are too bone idle to do their job properly, there is ABSOLUTELY no profit on this product now. The supplier offers to help out but there is no way of making up for this sort of crap and the transport guys just laugh and walk away. I have a story like this to tell at LEAST twice a week. There really is nobody out there who gives a shit so long as they get paid.

Quality British workmanship if ever I saw it. Whatever happened to the pride in a job well done?

As a business it’s tough to meet peoples expectation when we rely on a (fu**ing stupid expression) ‘broken’ system of business. All I can do is bust my hump every day to try and do what we say we will do. That does not mean we will fulfil a customers expectation because we all have very high standards we expect from others and also folk tend to make their own interpretations of what we say. For instance, if I say I will ‘try’ to get something done folk take that to mean it’s a cast iron guarantee so and so will happen. Trouble is if I am relying on someone else, a delivery company for example, I have absolutely no way to be sure they will actually do what they say. An example…… a couple of weeks ago we had a very busy day and the house was packed with parcels we worked hard all day to prepare. Our carrier is supposed to turn up at 3-5pm and take away our orders. Anyhow the dip-shit turns up at 6.45pm with a van full, sees our almighty heap and says he can’t get them on. I have to get in HIS van, re-stack all HIS randomly scattered crap and low and behold all of our packages fit in with room to spare. Sorted! Only trouble is the numbskull gets back to the depot too late, misses the overnight trunker and our stuff is stranded for twenty four hours. That was after their ‘system’ sent all of our customers an email or text saying their parcel was on it’s way and would be there the following day. Needless to say we had thirty customers on the blower wanting to know why WE were such a bloody shambles. The carrier company charged us the normal rate (next day delivery) even though they took two days to do their job. No recourse or recompense for KB unless I want to fill in all the forms and make a claim, however doing that will cost MORE than we lost so the fraud continues and all of the carrier companies, with the possible exception of the very expensive DHL, are as bad as each other. It’s like a coalition of crap, welcome to modern Britain.

When I sat down here an hour ago I actually had some good news, seriously! I don’t get involved in punch ups any more I just write long. It strikes me that we waste a lot of energy being frustrated, annoyed and uppity. Just the hot air alone could power the lights. Better to use that energy for something creative. If you know me this next statement will cause much tutting and rolling of the eyes. Bitching and moaning about the injustices and annoyances we suffer will never make those things better. Better to just accept that the pigs (politicians) have their noses in the trough, the only certainties in life are change, taxes and death and the only thing to which you are ‘entitled’ is a hole in the ground when it’s all over. If along the way we can learn some fulfilling skills and make a few friends we should be grateful.

This ideal is entirely personified in my long term mentor, inspiration and friend from down south. Mr Willson who is ENTIRELY responsible for me being in bonsai at all. I had one foot out the door back in 1998 when we met. Now I am very pleased to have my mentor living close to hand and honoured that he visits us once in a while. Sadly I am largely too busy to do the bonsai work I once did and Kevin as been a sterling help in our getting some trees worked.

As someone who sells trees daily I spend a LOT of time taking pictures and preparing write ups to go online to present our stock to the world. Sadly but entirely understandably folk seem to think that I am a liar because I am trying to sell something. I get that, in the light of where I started this diatribe. Every day we are bombarded with a deluge of bullshit trying to sell us worthless crap that mostly does NOT do what it says on the tin, does not work, is not fast, easy, cheap or the panacea for whatever ill it was sold in order to cure. Coke is not the real thing! It’s a sugary acidic drink that will rot your teeth and turn you into a tub of lard. Even when they have taken all of the sugar and calories out it still costs the same and to describe the taste as “great” is a travesty of English language. I could go on but won’t. What heartens my soul is how our customers are, 99.9% of the time thrilled to receive the trees they buy from us. When they arrive safely (never had a single loss in 15 years) they always look MUCH better in the flesh than in pictures. No doubt someone will post a comment to the contrary but after fifteen years I am supremely confident in the use of my percentage above and have the emails to back it up.

Because we are largely cynical about any form of sales presentation it’s hard for KB to sell some trees. I often write that this or that tree will make a fine bonsai when worked. I do not say that lightly and hope folk have enough respect for my thirty years of experience to believe me. Evidently that’s not the case because some very special trees just don’t sell. When that happens we have to put our money where our mouths are and get to work. That brings me back to the eminent Mr Willson.

A few months ago Kevin took a couple of scots pines away. This week he returned with them all nicely worked up and reminded me just WHY I believe he is THE most creative mind in bonsai today. Even after all these years and endless discourse I have absolutely no idea how this mans head works but work it does. Absolutely NOBODY even looked at these two scots pines we had for sale on the nursery, even though I knew they were going to be good and presented them to the best of my ability I think it must have looked like BS. You be the judge and next time please give me the benefit of the doubt i’m doing the best I can 😉

Kevin Willson can (and should) be found at kevinwillsonbonsai.com.


Little scotty from Sweden left homeless and ignored by everyone.

Wood and trees spring to mind. This is what happens when you apply a little effort and creativity.

Scotty from France. A few hundred quid and everyone laughed at me.

I am sitting here scratching my arse wondering how he did this. Classic Kevin Willson! Master of Scottys.

18 thoughts on “A Bonsai Master at Work

  1. Its a shame that things have gone to shit, Come down and live in Aussie, we will look after you here mate!

  2. I enjoyed that Graham spot on with your rant and about Kevin I’m not a big customer but what I’ve bought I’m pleased with keep the good work up

  3. Well that explains why I have had some rather “explosive encounters” on-line with a few of your countrymen… I guess I shall take them with a grain of salt in the future.

    I hope the US never reaches this point as I see some of that same mentality. Just want to scream “If you would just do your job everyone’s life would be that much easier… INCLUDING MINE ASSHOLE!”

    Love the shots of Kevin’s work. 99% of the slogs would have cut that bottom branch off ans made a “meh” cookie-cutter bonsai but K made it unique.

    Keep up the good fight.

  4. Nice write up Graham. Just to let you know I feel your frustration as an ex serviceman I wonder how people ever make a living when they deliver goods like that. If your going to do a job then…..
    I really hope you get it all sorted. I hope to meet you one day

  5. Graham,

    Sorry to hear about the problems. Although, I fully expect them. And I understand your need to vent, and the frustrations with politics, people, and government. It gets more insane and twilight zone by the day. And even when you’re gone you still have to shovel out money for that “entitled” hole in the ground. Craziness. If you ever come to the States for good, I will be first in line to support you and Kaizen. Keep on keepin’ on.

  6. Great read,cheered me up no end,
    have my own business and agree with all said .
    having bought two sabina yamadori this summer that are much more amazing than pictures can show . styled them myself ,using Graham’s videos as guides having not worked on sabinas before or never having a bonsai lesson as yet(still hoping you get time to answer my emails ;-).
    Great website ,top quality material…looking forward to more In the future


  7. I’ve bought quite a few bonsai and goods from you over the years and can safely say everyone of them has looked even better in the flesh ,Always know the trees will arrive safely and in great condition .

  8. Graham : Very true in your writing, today people don’t care about other people for there Actions Graham I would love to have you come to USA and bring your Family and products and sell them here. Love you work I am new to Bonsai World and learning more each day. Sometime living in a small town we all help each other out and our Bonsai Clubs helps out so much. Please come to USA and make a new Home. I would love to work with you and help out more then just the money in my pocket . You see Graham I am a Golfer and work on a Golf Course and love outside work and make the course better for the Golfers and work harder then the pay. This World is changing so much and greed is taking over. That photo of your soil mix is BULL S _ _ _ I would have kick the driver A_ _ or just find a way to give some of his tires go flat. You need to get a valve stem core remove tool, That way the Police can’t get you for Damage. Because he will need only the tool to put back the core back into the valve stem. HAHAAHAHAHAHA Graham if you want to come to USA I will work for you Here in OHIO USA. Thanks and GOD BLESS YOU and Family. Greg

  9. You are in my view a British Institution.

    Everything I have had from you, or have heard anyone getting from you, meets or beats expectation.

    Especially your blogs.

  10. You are too funny! Good therapy to let (at least most of) it out, isn’t it? Hang in there.

    Mr. Wilson did a great job on the pines. I wish KB sold creativity!

  11. I completely felt your frustrations and I hate incompetent people. To make matters worse now, everyone in the past 30 years has been raised to be special and that they shouldn’t put up with any critique and that their entitled to 6 figure incomes.
    The best for this scenario would be a freer market where the government has no role at all and businesses that try to be great, CAN be great without BS rules holding them back.
    Keep on pushing through them Graham, but I know you don’t need this sentiment because you will anyway : )


  12. Great blog, Graham. Touches many bases. Also, first met KW many years ago when he was first starting to make a name – I think mid 90s – and my mate and I went to his house in Kent (I think it was). Kevin showed us some fantastic Bonsai. We had come down hopefully to find a nice tree or two. Unfortunately a German guy had just agreed to buy and take shipment of a good deal of Kevin’s stock so we left empty handed. Oh well.

    I think the point you make about trees offered in good faith is fair, but it’s also the case that many people simply can’t see the ‘hidden’ tree and paying a couple hundred for ‘blind’ stock can seem a little daunting.

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Great piece. Probably 90% of people feel the same. Beautiful trees. I’ve always had fantastic service from your company.

  14. I’m with you on all of this… people just do not care at all.
    I like DHL too – yes, expensive though!
    I love that last tree… I don’t care how, I’m just glad he did… awesome! (Actually I do care how – I’m intrigued!)

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