Six years ago, the restoration expert had all but given up on life. His marriage had broken down, his charity Out Of The Dark - where he taught disadvantaged youths to restore old furniture - had failed, and he was effectively homeless.
Yet today, less than a decade on, the 51-year-old upcycler’s odds - and outlook - couldn’t be more different, thanks in part to his TV presenting gig on The Repair Shop. the BBC hit which, now in its eighth series, invites a team of skilled restoration experts to breathe new life into much-cherished family heirlooms.
Now comes the next stage of his rehabilitation, as he takes part in the documentary, Jay Blades: Learning To Read At 51, on BBC1 on Wednesday at 9pm. Cameras follow him as he resolves to learn to read well enough to recite a story for his daughter’s 16th birthday.
Jay has struggled with the written word all his life and has the reading age of an 11 year old.
Along the way, Jay offers a glimpse at how he gets by in day-to-day life without being able to read, meets pupils at school and other adults who struggle with reading and writing, and explores some of the very human stories behind the nation’s worrying literacy statistics.
“I pinch myself sometimes,” admits Blades of his new life. “I’ve been working non-stop, so I haven’t really had the chance to take on board what I’ve done. But (when I do) it’s just like, ‘Jesus Christ. You’ve done a lot’."