Buddhist now cleans chimneys after working with ex-offenders

Published:
8:30 a.m. February 4, 2022



A 61-year-old Zen Buddhist who worked with young ex-offenders turned to chimney sweeping.

Dave Fox says he ‘stumbled into’ his first job working at a London-based ex-offender site after meeting the company’s manager in a pub.

Dave said: “It was a little different back then, you didn’t need to have all the qualifications you have now for a job like this.

“At first I found it really scary. I was 25 and dealing with very scary people – I was talking about very dark things.”


From working with ex-offenders to chimney sweeping, Dave Fox has seen a lot. Photo: 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 leaving his life in England and moving to India – and nothing would ever be the same.

He added: “It was around this time that I discovered Buddhism, but it was always something that attracted me.

“It certainly wasn’t related to my ability to do my job at the time and it’s heavy source material, but in general it’s a lifestyle that I’ve always enjoyed.”

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

“It became clear that work was on my mind more than I thought and he ended up seeing the world a little differently,” he added.

“In the end, I just found the role too depressing to work in and I had reached a point in my elevator, I wanted something different.


Chimney sweep, Dave Fox.  Photo: DENISE BRADLEY

Besides being a chimney sweep, Dave is also a Zen Buddhist. Photo: DENISE BRADLEY
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2022

And, recalling his conversation at the pub in his twenties, Dave began sweeping the chimney by word of mouth.

“I talked to a guy who saw a documentary about chimney sweeping and a light went on in my head,” Dave said.

“Before I knew it I was in a week’s training and had the van with all the equipment – I ended up spending thousands of pounds.

“I really like it. I’m able to create a good relationship with customers and it’s nice to have a beginning, a middle and an end to the day.

“I meet a lot of different people – it’s interesting and I’m my own boss now.”

What is a Zen Buddhist?

Zen Buddhism is a simple Buddhism, based on meditation.

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

‘Sitting Zen’ has always been the central aspect of Zen training centers, where people typically rise early each morning to practice meditation and participate in long retreats consisting of silent, still 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 in Vietnam, known as Vietnamese Thiền, then in Korea where it became Seon Buddhism and finally in Japan, becoming Japanese Zen.

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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