Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The art of fixing things

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

Michael Commane
My late parents had two pairs of great hands. My mother did the most intricate embroidery work.

I still have a quilt on my bed which she made. She also made magnificent rugs and beautiful knitted pullovers. And she managed to do it in her old age when her hands were gnarled with arthritis.

My father was a mechanical fitter. He worked in Killeen Paper Mills until retirement age and then moved to Smurfit Paper Mills where he worked until he was 82.

Three years ago I met a former colleague of his, who told me he was the best there was.

And then just last month, by an extraordinary coincidence, I met a man, who had spent a summer holidays working in Smurfits during his university years. It was 1978 and he could still remember my father and how good he was at his job. What a story to hear about one's Dad.

But maybe it was because my parents were such craftspeople that they never really trusted me to thread a needle or solder a broken electrical connection. Whatever the reason, I'm not known for having the finest pair of hands. It annoys me. And to make things worse I have a friend, who is an engineer, who often casts scorn on my attempts in the world of DIY. He too annoys me.

Over the years I have done bits and pieces, usually under supervision. In the Dominican priory in Rome I was the helper on a job installing a telephone system.

Well, my task was just a matter of pulling cables and boring holes in walls. I suppose something not considered high-tech grade.

And yet, I have to admit that I love messing about with plugs and sockets and trying to fix things. Though with modern circuit boards, the chances of my fixing something are becoming more and more remote.

Still, every now and again, I get a chance to do a bit of DIY. On Friday evening I heard an intermittent beep in the house. Could not make out from where it was coming and eventually it stopped and I forgot about it.

Fast asleep I was suddenly awoken by a non-stop beeping sound. It was 02.00 and the noise, at least at that hour in the night sounded loud to me. It might well disturb the neighbours.

After an initial investigation - that sounds fancy - I decided it was the burglar alarm. I had no idea what was wrong. I went downstairs to the display panel and fiddled about. It so happened that I had the code to get into the maintenance programme.

After messing about for about five minutes and saying a few silent curse words I discovered that the battery on the alarm was low. I managed to stop the noise. How, I don't know.

Again, I forgot about it. That is until it started beeping again the following day and this time it really was annoying. Eventually I opened the electrical circuit box, disconnected the battery, took down details and went off to a suppliers and bought and installed a new battery.

Delighted with myself. Just the fun of doing it and getting it right gave me a certain satisfaction. And then just imagine had I called out an alarm company to 'fix' it?

That surely would have cost me a minimum of €100.00. The battery cost me €16.35.

I'm back thinking of my parents and their generation. The things they made, fixed and repaired. We sure do live in a throw-away society. It can't be good for us. It’s not.

1 comment:

Andreas said...

We are living in a system where growth is essential to keep it going (which has to do with the interest on the money). Buying and dumping it later on is promoted and wanted by the industry and state.

Products nowadays get designed for a reduced lifespan which started i think with light bulbs in the 1920. The target of the producing companies was to minimize the lifespan to 1000hr max only. There is still a light bulb going in Livermore Fire station which was produced and installed in approx 1900!! See link to life cam: http://www.centennialbulb.org/cam.htm

I remembered that i have watched a doku about that issue years ago and i just could find the link to it again (unfortunately is it in German language). It's worth to watch it!

Kaufen für die Müllhalde - Geplante Obsoleszenz

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