Wednesday 10 December 2014


Favourite books, where would you start?  They're all favourites, it's only now and again that I will  holler OhTheFuckWithThis and bin something - needs to be a spectacularly bad book for me not even to permit mrs ishmael to take it to the accursed charity shop but consign it, shreddded, to the compost heap. 

 Gutenberg and Tyndale, 
busted and burned alive
just for writing.

 the Nazi bonfires,  the obscenity trials, the voices of my early teachers,  these all tend to make me  cherish the very idea of books; to this day I cannot open wide and damage the spine of even the mangiest paperback.  I believe I have mentioned previously A Canticle For Liebowitz, a science fiction post-apocalyptic novel in which fragments of scorched shopping lists,  the only surviving written materials, are worshipped by fearful and ignorant survivors. My  judgements on the quality of books similarly become secondary to a belief in their intrinsic importance.  If the house was on fire and I could grab a couple of books probably the first among them would be How To Build Shaker Furniture, by Thos. Moser, Sterling Publishing, New York, 1977.

I remember, in the 1990s, I was enthusing about  a  then-new claw-hammer to an antique furniture trade  colleague;  it was the same configuration as a normal claw hammer

 but it was the weight of a pin hammer.

great for knocking-in a couple of pins and sinking the heads with the flat side but you cannot use it for pin removal

 I liked this hammer so much that I bought a score of them, some I have given as gifts, several I still have stashed, in my desk, just in case.  I used to make loads of bookshelves/cases and the backboards required scores  of panel pins, many of which would bend as you banged them in;  what I'd have to do was put down the ordinary pin hammer and pick-up  a pair of pincers to extract the bent pin and then start again; the ordinary pin hammer has no claw and I couldn't use a proper claw-hammer because it was too heavy, and I was delighted to find this smaller, lighter version. Hmmm, said Tony, 's'appened to you.  What's happened to me? Oh, you reach an age when you  get poetic about tools.

Tony was correct for  not only was I squeezing into my own daily reality a belated if haphazard appreciation of  tool anthropology and sociology, I was also purchasing  a more formal understanding - books about tools and procedures and one day, in Victorian Llandudno, North Wales, I came across Moser's book which was ostensibly a selection of drawings and cutting lists for the making of a slew of Shaker pieces but was more importantly  a tour-de-force in technical writing of the spiritual kind. 

I don't like Shaker furniture much 

and there would be a long, cold day in Hell before I attempted making some but Moser's writing was and remains a rare treasure;  here he is in his chapter, Materials.

A Covenenant with Wood.
A craftsman is but a handmaiden to his materials.  The inherent qualities of wood limit to a certain extent the cabinetmaker's choices.  Unlike plastic or rubber, concrete or steel, wood has a mind of its own.  It is not easily bent and when bent wants to return in time to its original form.  It is easy to break along its grain, yet it will withstand considerable shearing force.  It warps without provocation and swells and contracts with the seasons as though it had entered a conspiracy with the calendar to loosen chair rungs in the winter and swell drawers shut in the summer.  Wood cracks mindlessly, can shed a finish with disastrous effect, refuses to be cut from north to south,  yet yields submissivley from east to west. It splinters, bows, cups, shrinks, loosens, swells, dents, cracks and changes colour.  Yet to many of us wood remains the most pleasing of all natural materials, for in the richness and variety of its grain is to be found nature's texture incarnate.  Wood is a kind of a bridge between man and that organic mass of growing things he calls Mother Earth. Wood is a renewable resource which has given us warmth and shelter and provided unrivaled joy to the eye and to the touch since long before recorded time.  Along with water and stone it is our most fundamental material - without it our world would be an alien place.  In wood man fashioned his first tool, in wood he built the ladder with which he  has ascended over the millennia. It literally surrounds us from the cradle to the coffin.  Wood may well be called the foundation of civilisation.

When the craftsman commits himself to work in wood, he becomes a party in a contract.  If he sensitive to his material, he enters into a kind of covenant in which he acknowledges a certain subservience to his medium.  He agrees (1)  to come to understand, not in a cognitive way,  but through feelings, the nature of wood: (2) to admit at the very beginning that there is no such thing as perfection in wood, for in spite of all his efforts there will always be some blemish, some telltale error, recorded in the wood though known only to the builder; (3) in laying-out and forming joints, to anticipate the inevitable movement  that will occur long after the work is finished.

Although my primary school teacher would chide Moser for his failings in grammar and punctuation, these are knowings and sentiments rarely expressed  in technical books, certainly not in the current spate of appalling wordworking magazines and partworks, none of which are worth the glossy paper on which they are printed.

It turns out that Moser, as well as running a respected cabinetmakers business 

taught communication at a New England university and as far as I'm concerned the drawings of Shaker furniture are as irrelevant as are now the Shakers, themselves.  Moser writes about handtools, powertools, machinery, about fixtures, adhesives, abrasives  and finishes as only an expert can, few can combine craft and communication as enthusiastically (Greek, filled with God) as does Moser. Although the book is rich in photographs of sturdy, often vintage tools and machines, Moser, as did  the late Fred Dibnah, offers pencil drawings, too, of his subjects;  maybe there were no cameras to hand,  there was no computer-aided design, maybe he just likes doing the drawings, there is something magical about drawing a project in advance and seeing how close comes the finished article.

There has been  a lot of technical writing which is excellent;  I have all sorts of compendia on how How To Run An Efficient Household, Manage A Garden and Compose A Letter of Condolence; mainly these are from before the Second World War, often Victorian, punctilious, reeking with snobbery and etiquiette  yet miracles of concision, expertise and style  but even as late as the 'sixties, publishers such as Readers Digest were producing well-written, comprehensive guides to home maintainance and the Automobile Association printed useful and understandable guides to car maintainance  but all of these  date from before before and the industrial dominance of Japan brought badly translated manuals and brochures which were no more than gibberish.  These days, finding someone who not only knows  but can also readily and pleasingly communicate that of which they speak is a rare experience.

On television, the image - or the form - always triumphs over the substance,  the presenter is King.

....and I just think it's all, well, wonderful, really,
 I mean, I've had a number one record,
 they gimme a medal, the Queen did,
and I'm never off the telly...

Be it the ghastly and over-exposed Brian Cox, 
silhouetted atop all the world's mountain peaks

or the equally ghastly Neil Oliver, ruggedly tossing his rock-star locks at the camera or be it any member of  a regiment of absurd science tarts,  from the hideous, sneering  hobgoblin,  Tony Robinson and his geriatric grave-robbers,
 to the cackling crone, 
the fearsomely well-scrubbed  Dr Ruth 

 of the Victorian this, the Georgian that, the Mediaeval other

or be it the ubiquitous media tart, Dr Lucy Lisp,
stripping-off in  Regency lingerie or bumping and grinding with that ridiculous old Len chap, off the dancing show,
'ere, missus, do fuck off, eh,
 just for a month or two?

 the pseudo-scholar presenter is slave not to science but to showbusiness, like unto which business there is no other.

And so, disappointingly, was last night's BBC4 exposition of quantum physics, or mechanics, or whatever it's called. Or not called. 

mr bungalow bill and I, at the very least, had been keenly anticipating BBC4's Secrets of Quantum Physics, presented by this fellow. 

A presenter so far up his own paradox as to be risible.

I love the camera, me, and it loves me, too, donchathink?

Dr/Professor/Guru Jim al Khalili is, it turns out,  a vain gabshite. Whether or not he was making sense of quantum physics cannot be known, can it?  That is the point of it. Or the pointlessness of it, as you will.  It almost seems heretical to even attempt to explain the inexplicable, to know the unknowable, as the scriptures have it.

  Jim, though, in his universe,  is infinitely capable and strove last night not to provoke or encourage but simply to entertain, to seduce.  I have the books he mentioned - The Dancing Wu-Li Masters and the Tao of Physics and three minutes sat on the loo, glancing at them, would be more educational than a month of Jim and his showbiz bollocks.

Knowledge, now, of course,  is digitised into little cubes of shit, Tweets and re-Tweets, people's minds too full of vanity-dribblings to tackle proper thinking, no attention span, no mental shelf-space, as I heard it termed recently, their imaginations handed-over, freely,  to slab-faced, creepy, brain-dead American mutants.  

Mr Mark Faceberg.
Trust me,
I want to own all your  lives.
Jim is right up their cyber street, his mind, like theirs, a linguistic desert, uninspired and repetitive - Einstein was at the height of his powers, Nils Bohr was at the height of his powers -  and Jim and his producers' televisual devices were corny and unimaginative, a small, candy-striped marquee on the shore, in which Jim played Aunt Sally with some vague, tin-can permutation of relativity;  a pair of spinning coins  which he claimed demonstrated quantum physics, although they only demonstrated spinning heads-or-tails coins, Oh,  and there was a leering,  metaphysical cardsharp, determined to cheat reality.

Jim rode around, fitly, on his bike, to demonstrate power fluctuations in his dynamo-driven cycle lamp and thus the discovery of the quantum photon;  Jim dived, fitly, into a wave-generating pool to demonstrate the differing powers of small and large waves. And Jim sauntered, fitly,  through what was meant to be a nineteen-twenties jazz club but which actually resembled the studio of BBC Radio Four's Loose Ends show, the one in which Clive Anderson smirks and smarms and hisses and introduces terribly intelligent musicians playing terribly unlistenable-to music.  I think it was at this jazzpoint that Jim mentioned Charlie Chaplin being at the height of his powers.  Throughout, Jim seemed to want to climb through the screen at us, so close were his close-ups, so intense his cloudy summaries. It was all dreadfully Telly.

The thread running through last night's episode was the argument between Bohr and Einstein about the nature of physical reality, about its former certainties being compromised by the discovery and understanding of particles or quantums - quanta; by the belief that the mere observation of sub-atomic particles changed them or indeed, might have called them into being.  This is a delightful conundrum, one which has enchanted me for some years, now, since I read those books, maybe before Jim did.  I do not, however, need it proving or disproving.

Unsurprisingly, Jim's analagous demonstrations and his experiments  with the tin-cans and the cardsharp - and eventually with laser beams - brought him down on the side of Bohr, a position,  among scientists, common since the nineteen-forties, when everyone, of course, was at the height of their powers and one most laboriously and archly arrived at in last night's show.

Once,  there was God, who said it was not for us to know, simply to obey.  In my lifetime it is the BigBang we have sought to know,

 to photograph, back through time. I never understand that shit, photographing stuff that isn't there, now. Clever people have told us that Stuff just came, in an instant, from nowhere, and nodding, as though we had understood, we have believed. 

We have believed that once there was no time, no space, no matter, it all just invented itself. Yes, Stuff from non-stuff, everything from nothing, as hard to believe, as God, Himself, but Hey, that's what we're good at, believing shit. 

Now, many of  those - let's call them Jims -  who once worshipped the BigBang are saying, Hang About, these Black Holes, 

and there are gazillions of the fucking things, what they tell us, the BlackHoles,  is that there's actually shitloads of universes, popping in and out of each other, in, well, in BigBang moments; so, all that stuff, which,  just like QE money, popped into existence, well, it actually just slipped-in ready-made, from next door, sort of thing, kinda. No, you don't have to believe that NoTime, NoMatter shit any more.  We gotta new one for you.

The Jims, you see, they'll fuck you up;  NASA, the Hadron Collider, Hubble, it's all they wanna do, is fuck with your head, like priests, shamans, witch doctors, fucking Druids, they are all the same.  The Jims want you to believe, for instance,  there must be what they call intelligent Life, somewhere, and that we can find it.  The reason they say that there must be is because they want there to be, not very scientific.  A proper scientist would say, Well, fuck me, even if there were to be folks like us, maybe green, maybe with eight arms, whatever, but communicable-with, maybe there is a planet somewhere with exactly the same multiplicity  of accidental circumstances as led to Life on Earth  - y'know, a planet circling a sun  burning at just exactly the right temperature at exactly the right distance, a moon of exactly the right size and gravitational pull and all the trillions of accidental chemical and physical combinations necessary to create amoeba and then all the accidental geological, climatological and horticultural conditions necessary for the growth, survival and ascent of species, only one of which has an opposable thumb and can do technology, thinking, speech, fire, the wheel, transport and the storage and retrieval of information, and eats and tortures all the other species, even if there are all those trillions of improbabilities, even if they all do happen elsewhere, there is no reason for them to be there just now, right now,  in this infinitessimally tiny split second of time which we inhabit, is there? Pushing it a bit, don't you think? Makes more sense to just believe in God, than in all that horseshit.

Some people can do TeeVee, recently, AN Wilson has been one such;  Waldemar Jabberwocky and Matthew Collings, in the arts, engage, inform and entertain without becoming the show, without getting in the way. 

 Jabberwocky, stomping around Rome in his sandals, burbling about sculpture and painting and building is of course a confection but  one full of flavours, nuance, surprise  and juicy tit-bit, easily digested and memorable.
Jim,  for his part, was glutinous showbiz porridge.

Jabberwocky, I believe, wants people to appreciate whoever or whatever it is he's burbling about, Rembrandt or Bach or Michaelangelo, wants people to know it for themselves;  sure, he's on telly and has been for, what, twenty years to my knowledge but I trust his enthusiasm, his Godliness, the way I trust Moser's

 Let me
entertain you.

.Jim, on ther other hand,  doesn't want to share anything, wants but to impress, to show-off, to star;  wants to be the priest who,  claiming to lead us to the light, keeps us in the dark. 

Quantum physics, as far as our individual consciousnesses may perceive, is the sound of one hand clapping.

If you meet the Buddha on the Road, 
kill him!


SG said...

I admire those with real practical skills Mr I. Aside, for some strange reason, the art of bicycle maintenance I have none. My hands - fucking useless - everything they touch turns to dust. Frank Spencer eat your heart out.

I agree with you about most modern TV science and history programmes - mostly fronted up by self promoting gabshites masquerading as 'experts'.

I am not sure why these 'presenter' led productions dominate. The magnificent 'World at War' eschewed them altogether. I suppose Kenneth Clark was the start of it, with 'Civilisation', albeit that he looks like a giant amongst pygmies when compared with most of the 'modern' efforts. That said, the bill of fare on TV was so bad last time I looked at it that I found Portillo's poncing around Portugal on his Grand Continental Railways, clutching his Bradshaw, good infotainment. I must be sick...

call me ishmael said...

Such a ponce, Portillo, a good example of Telly's self-degradation. The World At War was amazing, the only star, apart from Death, being Olivier's voice, hammy-sounding to modern ears but then earnestly proper.

Jeremy Isaacs went on to something in opera, didn't he, television's loss; was it that porno/music hall cretin, Grade, succeeded him at Channel Jon Sox?

SG said...

Regarding Oliver, my ears must be old Mr I - to me his voice lends gravitas and authority to the production. I looked up Issacs on the Wikipedia thing - apparently he threatened to throttle Michael Grade, when handing over Channel 4, if he betrayed its original remit. Pity he didn't carry it out!

Bungalow Bill said...

It was a staggering horror, a sloppy shitfest of patronising, ill-written garbage. I've seen him doing other stuff, a programme on entropy, which was excellent so Christ knows what happened with this shambles. Producers probably and, as you say, Jim imagining BAFTAs.

That writing from Moser is lovely. It's what we've said before: there is little craft now, no touch, no awareness of what may be brought forth from apprenticeship and patience and a humble understanding of ourselves in the world.

call me ishmael said...

I grant you, mr sg, that olivier is preferable to that Geordie git on Big Brother and on all the copdocs but he has a sonorous, magisterial inflection which is a bit arch to my ear, here, in the presen; a bit like Huw Welshman, nausing all over the WW1 feast, as though we need stars, our betters, to orchestrate our emotions for us.

It doesn't detract from WAW, it just seems a stagey mellifluosity now redundant, outdated, if superior in its day.

call me ishmael said...

Yes, I remembered your praise of Jim and I am glad you agree.

Should have been so much better, mr bungalow bill, could have stirred a benign whimsy in all who follow popular science or prompted an outbreak of WhatTheFuckism among those imperilled by uncertainty, should have rattled our KnowItAll cages, good and proper and made us laugh out loud. A wasted opportunity.

I am too old to be anyone's apprentice but if I wasn't I'd be Moser's.

Don't know if he's still alive, actually, but he'll be around while I am.

Caratacus said...

A Canticle For Liebowitz - a book that puzzled me when I first read it at the tender age of about thirteen. I remember that I was particularly shocked when a fine mind was wiped out by a casually hurled lump of rock ... I read it again last year and was blown away. The parallels with our own "maggots of corrupted texts" laid bare for all who would see.

call me ishmael said...

It has puzzled me, too, your majesty, since I read it at thirteen. I tried it again about five years ago and found it too bleak, too upsetting; I put it on the apocalypsian shelf to try again, after a while, maybe soon, now.

There used to be a healthy, literary interest in apocalypse, here and in the States and I can too easily visualise Ruin's Wilderness; high tides and strong winds might bring it; a stolen nuke or bugbomb; the continued financial incompetence of our masters, some super-Ebola plague. My young friend, stanislav, used to counsel the keeping of, at the very least, a small forest of sharpened sticks, dipped in poo, some stones and a crate or two of Comrade Molotov's Cocktails. He had also read Liebowitz.

mongoose said...

One day a goodly few years back when the lad was wee his grandad bought him a kid's toolkit thing with a few bits of wood. And therein was this maybe half-size-and-a-bit claw hammer. To cut a long story short, it is now my mini claw hammer. I'll be sure to mention it all, Mr I, next time I'm at confession.

The madness which begins with Q but which can now end with all sorts of -ics was as clearly explained as it can ever be by old Feynman back in the black-and-white day - in his messenger lectures at Caltech. (They're on youtube.) As I believe I may have shared here before, it's all anyone needs to know who doesn't have their own physcis lab in which to hang out. Feynman had a bit of Moser about him too, using short words where long ones wouldn't do, and playing drums in strip clubs all the while generally being unhealthily human for a mad scientist. "Nobody understands quantum physics."

call me ishmael said...

I'll do that, mr mongoose, as long as you order Moser's book; if it was written for one person in the world that person would be you, the Zen of engineering, the poetry of the Creator, the skill of hands and eyes, too soon coffin dust; the futility of us all, stumbling about, trying to find reason, make sense with our shavings and scrapings, our sawings and sandings, our frettings and fixings; our stains and varnishes and waxes. Was it WH Auden said, Embellishment, all is embellishment? He was wrong, whoever he was, embellishment comes at the very end. At least, it used to.

Yes, it is the non-unmderstandability of QP which I always liked. Maybe mr mike has a view.

mongoose said...

I will gladly seek out the book. I like the Shaker chairs but I have tried making chairs more than once over the years and I am crap at it. Firewood. Patience and precision and more feeling for the material than a mudplugging tinker possesses may be the problem.

The multi-universes thing strikes me as bollocks. (Technical term.) We are just peering ever more closely at ever smaller "things". It will all be fine - until the next layer of the thinning onion presents itself. It's the trying that is the point rather than the knowing - or the chairs to sit on.

call me ishmael said...

It has always been one of my self-exculpatory maxims - the man who never made a mistake never made anything.

Every time I look at a chair I think, how does that work, for up to a point, the more weight you put on it, the firmer become its joints.

Maybe the way to understand chair making is to take a mallet and completely knock one apart and put it back together again, with hot fish glue from the glue pot and inner tubes.

The first known chair was a joint stool, a piece of fallen tree trunk with three short branches protruding which, inverted, could be sat upon, raising man's arse from the cold, hard floor, one of those techno-nature collisions which have shaped us, the rolled log led to the wheel, the rock led to the hammer, the jawbone to the saw and so on.

All cosmology, I suspect, is bollocks, the Creation being fleetingly felt only by the new-born infant and then subsequently and swiftly overladen and confounded by language, forever and ever, Amen. In the beginning was the word.

mongoose said...

"How a chair works?" Jeez, Mr I, we'll be here for weeks with that one.

It doesn't help, of course, that my first foray was to fix my old windsor rocking chair which had started to explode. Instead of tracing the trouble back, I tried to kill it with lots of glue and a big fuck-off clamp. A chair that rocks being the perfect way of testing the sympathies of the chair within, this did not go well. It took me a while to work out that - everything being physics - the clamp was working against me and just pushing the problem down the line, and hiding it a bit more effectively. But what can you do with the slow-witted but wait, eh? For a further while then all was kept under control with a dressing gown cord - rigging for chairs - and by screwing around with that we got the stresses evened up and finally we had peace. I then crept up and glued the bugger while it wasn't looking. Cord back on to dry and there we are.

I now often clamp stuff up with parcel straps - self-correcting and self-evening clamps for butchers. You heard it here last.

blackholesunset said...

The Secrets of Quantum Physics was indeed a disappointment, not at all up to the standard of his previous documentaries.

Do I remember correctly that Dr. Al-Khalili attributed soft shadows at the macroscopic scale to quantum physical processes?

A least the subject matter was inherently interesting. The fact that the diffraction grate experiment produces the same interference pattern with single photons was most thought-provoking, can't make head nor tail of it.

I hope the later episodes are better thought out.

Wood is a beautiful material. An entire secondary school woodworking class produced only one item, a picture frame, which I still have. It is not especially well made, yet I would not chose to part with it. It is almost certainly the only thing I do still posses which dates from that period.

Alphons said...

"All and Everything" written by George Gurgieff is a treasure worth reading, and having if you can find a copy.
It is full of unbelievable truths.

jgm2 said...

some telltale error, recorded in the wood though known only to the builder

That's certainly true of anything I turn my hand to, Mr I.

Marius, the Romanian plumber, got a bit enthusiastic putting in the new bathroom and the little recessed thingy my wife wanted to stand the soap and shampoo on instead of screwing those annoying holders to the tiles. Partition wall, single course of bricks. Hammer, chisel. Long story short he bust through the plaster on the other side and split the wallpaper. However we didn't notice until he was long gone and we took the mirror which happens to be on the other side off the wall.

Ahhhh, fuck it. Okay, no problem, we have some of that paper left, I'll just replace it. Off with the paper, off with the plaster. Of course it's not just a small area of plaster is it? Take off one piece and there's the next loose piece. A square metre of wall to plaster before you know it. Fucking thing sagging when you apply it. etc etc. Sanding. Replastering. Filling.

To be fair to myself it looks okay now and nobody would the any the wiser but I know where the defects are. The paper cut 1mm too short. The mismatch with the existing paper. Fucking well haunts me it does.

But not enough to tear it down and start again.

I fucking well hate starting anything for exactly that reason.

You think to yourself 'I'll ask the chap whose installing a new aerial to remove the redundant satellite dish. Just because my wife (fair enough) didn't want it blighting the house', The tiniest little job and before you know it, the plaster is curling back from the bolt holes and falling off and you have rain running down the back of the plaster into the house, paper coming off the fucking wall and you're chopping out plaster and repainting the entire outside of the fucking house.

Turns out that underneath all that old paint and plaster the flashing wasn't chased into the fucking joint. What cunts eh? My dad would have fucking well killed 'em if he could find the bastards who did such a half-arsed job.

Managed to break a couple of sealed units for good measure too. I think sanding the old paint off allowed the frame to dry out and shrink or something and it broke the fucking things without anybody being anywhere near them. Heard one of them go.

Nothing is ever as easy as it looks.

yardarm said...

" Just like QE money ". That's it, Mr Ishmael. I look at dosh juggling with quantum terms I`ve picked up from programmes like that.

Governments can`t create money. Until the Great Tits up of `08 when they can and did by the billion in great haste. From nowhere. Just to bail the City out.

These particles that are also waves; like a bank that had assets when it came to bonus time and when they were demanding light touch taxation and regulation. And became debts in the Great Tits Up when Gordon and Gideon tipped us up to pay for them.

And LIBOR, that money that was everywhere, circulating among the banks, giving them liquidity. Until it wasn`t and guess who had to sub them ?

The conventional view of it is like Einstein`s: this deficit/debt is real and has to be paid for: by us. Mine is the Bohrs like view: its fucking bollocks.

call me ishmael said...

That's how it goes, mr mongoose. I used to give chairs to my old friend Colin, who did some work for me, Just fix that stretcher, eh? I'd see him a few days later and the chair was in pieces, completely disassembled; Colin, I only wanted the stretcher doing. Never made any difference to Colin. If it was a chair it had to come apart. I grew to love him for it.

We have a two hundred year-old Windsor - actually Lancashire, elm, with a fiddle back - armchair, one of the slats came out but I just managed to force it back in and there it stays, without glue, God know what would've happened if I'd glued that one and not the others, whole thing be in splinters, I should think.

call me ishmael said...

I am afraid that nothing of that programme resonates with me, now, just a few days later, mr bhs; I( was just so irrutated by the presenter and by the theatricality of it all. I will try to watch the next episode but I fear the worst.

Consider yourself lucky to have that woodworking memento. It took me years, to get those souvenirs, and I don't know how they slipped away from me. I have nothing treasured from before, nothing.

call me ishmael said...

Aye,money borrowed into existence, mr yardarm, pixcillated usury, Jesus'd be viral-attacking the servers, the laptops and the ouija-phones, all along the Information-Super-Highway-To-Hell.

call me ishmael said...

I know the feeling well, mr jgm2. It is an everyday story of grammar school folk, yours and mine, of assuming our nascent mastery of all Jack's trades, if he can do it we can do it. Often, that is the case - I can't do plastering but I can lay floorboards and make skirting boards better than most builders/floorers; I can't do lead flashing but I hired an aerial platform, went up forty feet and did; that was twelve years ago and the chimney-stack is still as sound as a pound, needs must. A former jumbo-piot I knew taught himself plumbing and electrics and he now does it at genius level. On the other hand, we are currently replacing thirty-odd wooden windows with uPVC and using a proper tradesman; he knows exactly what he's doing, not only how but why, I could never do that, well, maybe I could after a few years at it but not off the top of my head.

I don't know which came first, the decline in trade skills among so-called tradesmen or the ascent of Barry Bucknellism - DIY - but what I do know is that both of the old houses which we have owned have been mutilated and endangered by the dab-hand of DIY. We have a sparks coming in the New Year to do a partial re-wire and change the boards, then, after twelve years, we may have undone the damage caused by the previous owner, a Master Mariner with whom I would never set sail.

It is a big subject, to which we should return, DIY, renovation,loft- conversion and extension; the Awful Coming of the Knockers-Through.

mongoose said...

Yes, I think that Colin probably saved a lot of painand time in the long run.

So I have found a copy of said book, Mr I, and I have an old unplaned board of some orange or light red stuff that has been hanging around a decade or more looking sullen - too small to be useful but too big to throw away. May have to make it a strap-seat but there should be enough for one of those simple straight-up-and-down jobs. Maybe one last heave and we will be there. I'll let you know if anything sound emerges.

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