Meet the delightful John-Paul Flintoff
September's Green God is starting a revolution by making y fronts from an old jumper (amongst other things)
John-Paul Flintoff is very cool. He can do things with a sewing machine other men could only dream of.
And he is on a bit of a mission. Leading by example, he is making his own clothes, and doing something about climate change. His book, Through The Eye Of A Needle is out to buy now. Oh and he was very impressed with Richard Gere…
Ever been a Green God before?
Never, but it’s something I could get used to!
Through The Eye Of A Needle has been described as ‘One man’s personal journey to explore climate change’. Tell us more please.
Er, it’s actually described (by me, anyway) as ‘The true story of a man who went searching for meaning and ended up making his Y-fronts.’ But your description is admirable too. The thing is that climate change could be bad anyway, but it’s much worse when you consider imminent and terminal shortages of oil. Without cheap oil, and with climate change, how will we feed ourselves? How will we clothe ourselves? The two things are closely related, because meat and veg = leather and plant fibres.
The blurb for your book refers to your having ‘a determination to do whatever needs doing himself’. Why’s that?
The simple answer is that I feel that we’ve all become accustomed to waiting for somebody to do Something - usually the government – and when ‘they’ don’t do what we want, we give up.
Actually, there’s a lot we can do about almost any problem, even including terrorism: invite your dodgy neighbours round for tea and it may make all the difference, put them off actually bombing anybody. And if you want to stop clothes makers exploiting sweatshop workers, make your own clothes!
Tell us about the sewing machine at the bus stop. Firstly, why? And secondly were you surprised at the reaction you received from the public?
One of the things I hope to do with this book is encourage people to try the things that I’ve tried. And the best way to Be The Change is to be it in public. Gandhi invented his own form of portable spinning machine to take to political meetings. Everybody laughed, but eventually they started spinning too, destroyed the British cotton industry and removed much of the point of Britain being in India, leading eventually to independence. All from a tiny thing like spinning.
Well I haven’t invented a sewing machine, but I reckon I could start a home-made clothing revolution by sewing at bus stops. And the evidence suggests I may be right: people kept stopping by and saying well done, and even asking for lessons.
How good are your green credentials?
Bad idea to get competitive about it. Everybody fails here and there. But I’m quite pleased to have harvested my own wheat crop, this month, from a couple of square metres of wasteland near my house in north London. Guerrilla arable farming, I call it!
Charity shopping – are you a fan?
I’m a big fan. I just modified a baggy shirt from Oxfam today, in fact.
Crocheting on a street corner with your daughter is fairly novel and exciting! How did it go down and have you any other tips for parents?
It was very good, but we had to keep it short because Nancy would have been late for school otherwise. The great thing is that (at the time of writing) she’s not old enough to think it’s odd, or embarrassing, so we just get out there and do it. I don’t advise parents of teenagers to bother.
We know you’re a whizz with a sewing machine. We’re trying to find people who will make beautiful, supportive bras from organic, fair-trade fabric for buxom ladies. Could you oblige?
I’d be delighted, but having bought my wife a handmade bra from Cadolle in Paris not so long ago, I know just how many very complicated measurements go into making a good bra, and don’t honestly think I’m good enough (yet).
How long does it take you to make your own y fronts?
The first pair took ages. One pair consisted of an old jumper with arms turned through 45 degrees and turned upside down so I could put my legs through the arms, if you see what I mean. If you think this itched – well you don’t know the half of it. I regarded it as a form of ‘green’ hair-shirty penance for the manifold awfulness of mankind, etc, but never wore them again.
Why won’t your wife always allow you to wear your home-made clothes in public.
Because sometimes she thinks they’re not good enough. The first pair of jeans, for instance, though cut and finished perfectly (she said) were made of an inferior denim that had a drape like cardboard.
What’s this about you and Jeremy Clarkson?
I interviewed him after somebody stuck a custard pie in his face as a protest. But they both made me laugh, and both had very good points to make. I don’t like the way the green debate has become tribal, them-against-us. I wanted to write a book that both might enjoy.
And Richard Gere?
I interviewed Gere not long after Clarkson. I was not expecting to be impressed, but was – very much. And it was the way he handled discussion about his beloved Tibet, and China, that impressed me most. He was very polite and sincere in wishing China all the best. “We’re all in it together,” he said.
And finally your three top tips for our readers please…
- Don’t get so knotted up about climate change that you forget to live in the moment – because you might be run over by a bus.
- You can buy a second-hand, treadle-powered sewing machine on eBay for virtually nothing – they’re chucking them away – and it will still work when the oil runs out.
- Don’t, as I did for my book, make a pair of underpants out of an old woollen jumper as it will itch very considerably indeed.