THE cold weather slowed me down this month. I’ve been learning to bake sourdough bread. The house is small enough that the oven heats the whole place, so every fresh loaf warmed my insides and my outsides.
I’ve been pottering at odd jobs too. I have an old two-deck tape player I was given when I turned 13. Now it looks unaccountably bulky, but once I thought it sleek. It contained mysterious worlds. I remember listening to Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and feeling entranced and uneasy.
For over a decade the volume control has been unreliable and the sound has rattled and risen like a coming train. No amount of adjustment could stop it.
Finally, I decided to find out why. I opened the shell of the tape player and cleaned the relevant parts with a cue-tip. That’s all. But now the radio glides quietly into the right station.
Confident of my newfound volume control expertise, I assured my friend Mischa that I could repair her over-loud alarm clock. I disassembled it and found a flimsy, broken plastic knob that could not be re-attached. Even so, I took pleasure in the discovery: at least we knew the problem. And the alarm clock still works. With a slender implement and a slice of dexterity, the volume can be adjusted. Right, Mischa?
Simple fixes. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but I’m convinced that adequate patches could be found for many malfunctioning gizmos just by taking a quick look inside.
A second small project:
Our house has a north-facing courtyard. On clear winter days, there is no better place to be than resting against the rear wall of the house, looking at the veggie patch, taking in the sun.
But the ground has a concrete lip that doesn’t suit a chair. So one afternoon I assembled a bench from reclaimed framing timber, according to a tried and tested Urban Bush Carpenter design: three parallel lengths to sit on, and x-crossed, reinforced legs below. I sawed the legs to match the awkward split-level concrete.
Maybe the bench accounts for my subsequent lack of practical work. I made my perfect sitting spot and then I sat there, reading, whenever the sun broke through the clouds.
And now I’ve left town. I’m on my way, slowly, to Cairns. I’ll be on the lookout for bush mechanics between here and there.