Reza was born in Iran in 1933. At almost 80 years of age he is slender and clear eyed. Every now and then he speaks in Persian (Farsi) with Farrah who also works in the shop. It is a musical language, soft to the ear.
He remembers the streets of Tehran covered deep in snow during the winter. He remembers stories being read by the fire and dried fruit being eaten during the coldest months. There was a fire pot set up under a table covered in a blanket and he would sit at the low table with his feet beautifully warmed by the fire. Sometimes they would jump from the roof into the snow as a game. He was one of 8 children.
He shows me a photo of himself as a young man. He was strikingly good looking .."Like Omar Sharif " I say to him. He laughs out loud and tells me I am not the first to say so.
He married and had three daughters. He worked as a road engineer and sent his family to England so his girls could be educated there. There was not enough money so he spent two years going to the bazaar to learn how to repair carpets. To support himself and his family he bought and sold carpets on the black market. He wasn't frightened. "Everybody was doing it - buying and selling goods on the black market," he tells me.
In 1977 he moved to England to be with his family and opened a small shop in London selling and repairing carpets. One of his clients was Bini Malcolm, an Australian woman highly regarded for her extensive, scholarly knowledge of Oriental carpets. It was Bini, recognising Reza's specialised skills, who arranged for Reza and his family to emigrate to Australia. He has lived here since 1988, remarried, had a son. And continued to repair the exotic,beautiful carpets to which he is devoted.
Reza's slim hands are deft as he weaves intricate patterns into the carpet he is repairing. Our conversation ranges over the ancient history of Iran, the devastation of his country during the war with Iraq, life under the Ayatollah for his people. I asked how they coped. They coped slowly, slowly he tells me.
"When will you retire?" I ask him.
"If I retire I will die," he replies simply. He recites a poem to me in Persian, the words lilting.
Translated roughly it means
" Go to work.
Don't ask what is the meaning of work.
Because work is the saving of your life."
We talk about religion. It is clear he has little time for organised religion, though he is clearly spiritual. If in one house you have a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian and an atheist, he says to me, they will all go to the one God when they die. He lives his life by three principles he tells me several times.
Good thoughts. Good words. Good deeds.