Saturday, 6 July 2013

A little knowledge


Saturday, and a brilliantly warm and sunny day which is supposed to mark the beginning of a similar week. Our German mate sets off from Bremerhaven today in his M.G. and is due to arrive tomorrow. (He sent the above picture this morning, saying that preparations for the trip were well underway...)

Everyone who I tell this to expresses their disbelief that the old car will actually get here without breaking down a few times on the way, but he's done it before. The only time it broke down was when I moved it to a different parking place and burnt the starter-motor out for him.

As with all 'classic' vehicles, there are a few knacks and idiosyncrasies that you have to be made aware of before getting in them, and a combination of language difficulties and the fact that I have been driving simple Volvos for years meant that I omitted to coax the starting gear out of the main fly cog by untwisting the ignition key as soon as it fired. I thought all M.G. engines sounded like that, but not for long.

One day of his last trip was spent acquiring a new starter in Bristol, then fitting it himself whilst lying on his back in the dirt, getting covered in grease. He is - by profession - a highly skilled dentist, but he is also quite a skilled mechanic as well. Unless you are rich, you have to be able to repair cars if your passion is for old, classic British ones.

On our last trip to Germany, he impressed the shit out of me and everyone else present, when I watched him spend an hour and a half removing a tiny, half-milimeter broken screw-head from the top of an implant using nothing but an incredibly small drill-bit (to drill an even smaller hole to one side of the broken head to get a purchase) and a steady hand.

When he finally managed to retract the microscopically small screw without damaging the thread of the implant, his assistants almost broke out in applause, and the chief engineer of the company who made the implants (also present) actually clapped him on the back in admiration and congratulations.

He said that the insurance company who covered the manufacturers who made the faulty part, would pay no more than 10 euros for this work - work for which a car-mechanic (if one could be found with this much skill) would get about 200.

I was thinking this morning, that although all the things I have done in my working life - and I have tried my best to keep them as varied as possible, due to a low boredom-threshold - have been done reasonably well, I have never really excelled at anything.

Far from being a 'renaissance man', I have been the classic 'jack of all trades', and when a particular brief has been executed with more than the usual degree of success, there has been a strong element of accident about it.

Having said that, I have not - for the past 30 or so years - allowed anything out of the workshop which does not meet certain vital standards and, for this reason, I have gained a degree of trust from my customers which has kept me in work.

I was talking with someone once about a big golfing tournament where one of the professional golfers got a hole-in-one on the first tee.

My friend said that it must have been a lucky shot. My reasoning was that the man was aiming for that distant flag, had spent many years practising his drive and had entered the tournament with the sole intent of winning it, so why take away his moment of glory by accusing him of simply being lucky?

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Yes - I think that it is good to praise what others do - e.g. the golfer's shot or the excellent work of the dentist.
      What a wonderful car your friend has!

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    2. Agreed. Most people do not praise enough through sheer jealousy or insecurity.

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  2. Many years back when I used to set off for Blighty in my ancient 2CV, everyone used to say "You'll never make it; you'll never make it".

    I always did!

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    1. I bet it took you three days, though. At least the eggs didn't get broken.

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  3. My neighbour up the street loves to fix up or rebuild old cars. Last winter's project was rebuilding a model T. His sixth one. He's sold every one and has kept a 1952 Dodge convertible for himself. Fortunately the trunk (boot) is large, so he can fit in a large toolbox and attend to it if it breaks down, which it's been known to do now and again.

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    1. In the early/mid 1930s, my father lived in East London, and - not wanting to bother to go to a breakers (scrapyard) - he dug a Model T-sized hole in the small front lawn, and buried a Model T in it. It's probably still there, but I doubt if it could be driven away.

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  4. Your German dentist friend sounds like a good man to have around. When I had my veggie stall in Shrewsbury market in the 80's, I used to drive a Transit van that colour. I never broke down in it, though I nearly did once when a certain 'mechanic' turned the fuel intake thingy half a turn to save on petrol.

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    1. I am guessing by 'mechanic' you mean 'husband'?

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