Cast your mind back to the heady days of 1987
26m people tuned in to watch Hilda Ogden’s final appearance in Coronation Street, construction work began on the Channel Tunnel and Rick Astley topped the charts with ‘Never Going to Give Your Up’.
That year also saw the start of a very special relationship.
There have been some iconic duos over the years – Morecombe and Wise, Ant & Dec, Batman and Robin - but few have endured as long as our Handsley and Gordon.
A lot has happened in the 32 years since they began working together.
“You get less for murder!” Gordon shouts as he chips away another tile from the kitchen wall.
We are here at an empty property on the Wharton estate in Winsford, and the dynamic duo are doing what they do best. Cupboards and other fittings have already been ripped out, the floors have been scraped and new doors are ready to be fitted.
Ironically, we are just a few yards away from where Handley and Gordon first met all those years ago.
“We both started off as apprentices. Back then you had to do three years – I was a joiner and Gordon was a bricklayer,” Handsley says.
“We were both learning and serving out time under some good people, and we were working at different properties on Crook Lane. We were just kids at the time but we had a brief chat - I said we day might end work together one day – 32 years later and here we are!”
Handlsey and Gordon are part of the Voids and Improvements team here at the Trust, who make sure our empty properties are fit and ready for people to move into.
Handsley adds: “How long we spend on a job various from property to property.
“In some cases we can be done and dusted in a day. On the flip-side, we spent two months working on a recent property. It was a total refurb – everything needed ripping out and re-plastering, a new kitchen and bathroom – the lot.
“Once we have ripped everything out we can have a good look at what needs doing. We obviously have a list of jobs but sometimes unexpected stuff crops up.”
“We work well together, if we come across an issue or challenge we know we can pick each others brain and find a different way of doing things,” Gordon adds
“It’s a cliché but we are a proper team, we’ve got a good understanding and we work well together.”
Both Handsley and Gordon joined the Trust as fresh-faced 16 year-olds, keen to learn a trade as part of the Youth Training Programme.
Gordon said: “When we first started it was a three-man team, we were on kitchens at the time and back then you had to do three-a-day. Back then it was just a basic sink, some units, a gap for the cooker and some tiles around the top. You wouldn’t dream of doing three kitchens in a day now!
“We learned our own trade, but we have learned lots more skills working on empty properties. I have worked alongside joiners, plumbers and electricians, so you pick things up – you learn other people’s trades and new ways of doing things. Learning from these guys was like an apprenticeship in itself.
Handsley agrees:” We are a multi-skills team. We have always been on voids but we have had a stint installing walk-in showers and other adaptations. It was good fun, we could have a brew and a laugh with customers and you would hear some brilliant stories.
“You got to know people. We were putting in a kitchen for an elderly gentleman at Wakefield Court who used to tell us his war stories. Both Gordon and I could have sat their all day listening to him/.”
As they continue to work on the property, the duo admit they have seen their fair share of changes over the years.
“You never stop learning,” Handlsey says.
“In the past we would have just rocked up and gone through the list of jobs from the office. There’s no more paper now, we get everything on the tablet – it’s taken a bit of time for us old farts but we have picked it up!”
Gordon adds: “We have seen all sorts over the years. We had one house which belonged to an avid dog lover. It’s fair to say we had our work cut out dodging the dog poo that day! The smell was horrendous – one guy we were working with at the time threw up!
“Probably the strangest thing I have come across over the years was someone who had a donkey in in the kitchen, crazy stuff!”
So, having worked together for so long, did the dream team ever come close to splitting up?
Handsley said; “Sometimes when I’m putting in a new door I might accidently knock a bit of plaster off and I’ll get a ticking off from Gordon, but that’s as close as we have come to a full blown argument in all the years we have worked together!”