This month … Chris Perry uses his guitar-fixing skills to bring Western music to expats in the Middle East
Chris Perry has built a reputation as the man to fix your guitar in Riyadh
I’ve been working in IT in Riyadh for the last 16 or so years. Initially I was a systems developer, and introduced CSS to my team – heady days. Over recent years though, I’ve mostly worked as a project manager, primarily delivering infrastructure. It’s through this rather circuitous route that I came to be repairing guitars.
I quickly learned that you have to put some effort into keeping yourself amused when not in work, as things I might normally take for granted like cinemas, the pub and live music events aren’t available here. People can be remarkably resourceful in creating a more familiar life for themselves. With expats comes western music, and the means to make that music. For me that means guitars.
While I’ve been here I’ve built up my own small collection, and have steadily acquired the tools needed to adjust them. Like working on code, it rewards patience and benefits from time spent understanding the problem. Rather unlike the day job though, there’s no need to advertise. Perhaps inevitably, word has got around that I can take an unplayable instrument and turn it into something perfectly giggable. I just get these phone calls that start: “Is that Chris...?”
Having started my working life as an RAF avionics technician and growing up with a dad who worked as a joiner, I’ve developed an affinity for stringed instruments. It may not be immediately obvious, but structurally a guitar is very similar to an archery bow. The tension between strings and the gently curved wood – it’s a simple geometric principle that’s in play, which takes careful adjustment to get right.
I can see parallels between this and the structural underpinnings of HTML: only once a firm base has been established can you proceed further. You can make a guitar from an attractive exotic wood, but on its own this doesn’t make it playable. It’s the same with a web page: without organised HTML, making it look and function well is going to be harder than it needs to be.
Eventually, I’m hoping to come back to code and web development in particular. There’s a real satisfaction in being able to see immediate results from small changes. I get that from the work I do on guitars; it’s there as soon as you plug in and play. And you can see it in the smiling face of the guitarist whose pride and joy has just been transformed from a clanking mass of wood and wire into a tone machine, thanks to you.