My First Job: Eddie the Eagle, the Olympic ski-jumper, was a plasterer

'The money is very good in plastering'
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The Independent Online

He's a British record-holder. He's the world's most successful and best-loved loser; although the 1988 Winter Olympics saw him placed last (55th and 58th) in his events, it was his name that the crowd chanted. He's had a single that soared to No 2 in the Finnish charts. He's going to be played by Steve Coogan in the film of his life. He's got a law degree. And he'll soon be coming to a ceiling near you (assuming that you live in Stroud, that is).

Eddie the Eagle's first job is still, to some degree, his occupation. Unusually for an internationally celebrated sportsman, Michael Edwards (his real name) has never quite managed to give up the day job. When he is not lecturing on a cruise liner or carrying out PR engagements, Britain's only Olympic ski-jumper gets on with his work as a plasterer.

"I was probably eight or nine when I started. I used to work for my father in the school holidays, mixing the plaster. I was earning a bit of money and keeping myself out of trouble." At first, his actual plastering was limited to the insides of alcoves where it couldn't be seen. At 17 he left school to work for his father in the summers. In winter, he migrated to the ski slopes.

"The money is very good in plastering. There are so few plasterers in the country, certainly in some parts. I am one of only two plasterers in the area around Stroud." He doesn't need to drive around in a van labelled "The Eagle has Landed"; to his customers he is simply that nice Michael Edwards. "Some people don't recognise me at all; some recognise me halfway through the job," he says.

"The job keeps me fit; I'm very active all day, mixing and carrying. I probably get through five or six T-shirts a day, as they get wringing wet." Another advantage is that, unlike the legal profession, which he considered at one point, his present trade allows him to drop everything for a personal appearance or an after-dinner speech.

Although he may be stuck inside four walls, they are a changing set of walls. "You can spend two months on one job, or get through three in one day. It may be big walls in a fairly new house, which you can get your teeth into; you can do the undercoat one day and 'skim' [the top layer] next day. A little cottage with quirky nooks and crannies can be difficult; when nothing is straight, you have to bend with it.

"I've only had one complaint. I warned them that the Artex on the ceiling meant that it needed thick coats of plaster, which makes it very difficult to get a decent finish. They weren't that happy."

Otherwise, his clients would surely agree that if plastering was an Olympic sport, he would be placed much higher than 55th and 58th and the spectators would cheer wildly for their favourite competitor, "Eddie the Plasterer".

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