Zen Buddhist who's cleaning chimneys across the city

Chimney sweep, Dave Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chimney sweep, Dave Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

A 61-year-old Zen Buddhist who used to work with young ex-offenders has turned his hand to sweeping chimneys.

Dave Fox says he "fell into" his first job working in a London-based ex-offender's site after meeting the director of the company in a pub.

Dave said: "It was a bit different back then, you didn't have to have all the qualifications you do now for a job like that.

"At first I found it really scary. I was this 25-year-old dealing with some very scary people - talking about some very dark things."

Chimney sweep, Dave Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

From working with ex-offenders to chimney sweep, Dave Fox has seen a lot. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

Then Dave, who lives in St George's Alley, moved to Cambridge and started working with young sex-offenders before quitting his life in England and heading off to India - and nothing would ever be the same again.

He added: "It was around this time I found Buddhism but it's always been something I've been drawn to.

"It certainly wasn't linked to being able to cope with my job at the time and it's heavy source-material but generally it's a life-style I have always valued."

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While Dave had enjoyed his pervious career his trip abroad prompted him to rethink the course of his life.

"It became apparent that the job was occupying my mind more than I realised it did and was ending up seeing the world a little differently," he added. 

"In the end I just found the role to be too depressing to work in and had reached a point in my lift I wanted something different.

Chimney sweep, Dave Fox. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

As well as being a chimney sweep, Dave is also a zen buddhist. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

And, reminiscent of his chat in the pub back in his 20s, Dave began chimney sweeping through word of mouth.

"I spoke to a guy who saw a documentary on chimney sweeping and a light went on in my head," Dave said. 

"Before I knew it I was on a week-long training course and I had the van with all the gear - I ended up spending thousands of pounds.

"I really enjoy it. I am able to create a good rapport with customers and it's nice to have a beginning, middle and end to your day.

"I meet lots of different people - it's interesting and I'm my own boss now."

What is a Zen Buddhist?

Zen Buddhism is a stripped-down, meditation-based Buddhism.

The art of Zen is attached to personal experiences and is the skills required are passed from master to disciple through training.

'Sitting Zen' has always been the central aspect in Zen training centres, where people will usually rise early each morning for meditation practice and be a part of long retreats consisting of silent, unmoving hours.

Zen is a school of Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty and is known as the Chan School.

This later developed into various sub-schools and branches of meditation which spread throughout Asia.

First to Vietnam, known as Vietnamese Thiền, then to Korea where it became Seon Buddhism and finally to Japan, becoming Japanese Zen.