Another Day in The Life Of . . .

A Few Good Days, 6th September 2005

Today was another good day. But I've had quite a few good days lately. That is not to say other people would be as easily satisfied as me. Actually, its been a good week or so. I seem to be sailing along with steady winds at the moment. The beauty is that the things which have made me so contented are so trivial. It doesn't take a fortnight in an expensive luxury hotel in Barbados or a new BMW SUV to put a smile on my face.

My greatest satisfaction, last week, came in sorting out a problem with the central heating. For a year or two my central heating has been erratic. In winter the problem is hardly noticeable because the heating is on all of the time. This summer my heating has been off and on like a whore's drawers, ignoring the controller settings which have the heating off completely. Last year I replaced the controller when this happened, my bad diagnosis was covered up by the winter heating settings. This time, rather than calling in a plumber or rushing off to buy a controller, I stopped and thought about it. Once I was into engineer mode it took about two minutes to solve the problem, even tho' I know nothing about domestic heating systems and had to think from first principles. In the system there was a valve, with electrical connections to the controller which I reckoned must be mis-directing the water from the hot water tank to the central heating system. It was as simple as that. I opened up the electrical side saw that the motor which turned the valve was probably knackered. I went to the place which supplied the local plumbing trade, bought a new motor, replaced it, and it was fixed :-)

That is what made me feel good. A fortnight in Barbados or a BMW SUV would do nothing for me, if I wanted I could have both tomorrow, but having solved a challenging problem made me feel great. It's just like climbing mountains, or painting balconies ;-)

Anyhow that was a few days ago, but the cheer it gave me lasted long. Oh, yes, I fitted the new tap that I mentioned in my last email. That was a bugger of a job. Fitting a new tap should be a doddle, but it was a hassle. Normally when I do plumbing jobs about the house I wouldn't dream of using compression joints or plastic piping and fittings, for me it has to be fully soldered. That's not to say there is anything wrong with these amateur technologies. It's a bit like climbing mountains, to get full satisfaction you have to do it the hard way. Come to think of it, that's probably why I play the fiddle instead of any other instrument. Back to the tap. There were more pipes under my kitchen sink than in a battleship boiler room. There was no room for anything. If I was half the man I like to think I am, I'd have cut the whole lot out and re-plumbed it from scratch. But now that I'm an old enfeebled cancer sufferer ;-) I fitted the tap using compression joints and flexible pipes. While at it, I fitted a pair of isolation valves. It was an adequate job, it sorted out a mess. I wonder how a good plumber would have tackled it, and what he would have charged.

All of that was last week and I meant to be telling you about today. Not that today was all that exciting. Oh, before I get to today, last weekend I bought a Table Saw. A circular saw in a frame with a table on the top, through which the blade protrudes. A friend rang me to tell me about the saw, it was on special offer in ALDI. A couple of weeks ago he had paid three times as much for a similar bit of kit which was only slightly better. Terry is an architect who spends his free time re-modelling houses, he has a basement workshop full of wood-working tools, and he knows how to use them. His advice was not to be dismissed. So I bought the saw. Yesterday I couldn't resist playing with it. I spent the morning on the drawing board, well, actually on AutoCAD on the computer, and redesigned my garage-workshop workbench. I then spent the afternoon cutting up loads of wood to make the new bench. I felt like a kid with a new toy. I was a kid with a new toy.

Today, well there's not much to tell. I was up in the garage before 9 o'clock. That might not seem much to guys who spent their life chasing the pennies, (or $), and love spending their life in rush hour traffic, but for me that is an uncivilised way to live. But I was down there, rubbing down and varnishing my latest fiddle then staining the wood components that I made up the day before.

That was all done before 10 o'clock which left me plenty of time for a practice on my fiddle, a coffee, then a practice on my concertina. They have both been badly neglected recently. My design and building of a concertina is still held up by the lack of reeds. I don't know what the reed making company is doing, but I'm missing 4 reeds and without their dimensions I can't complete the design and can't start cutting out the wooden components.

This afternoon I was able to return to the computer and print out a few tunebooks. I have produced a new edition of my book of fiddle tunes and need a stock of them. As luck would have :-( my printer mis-fed the paper and jammed a few times, I don't know why :-( You can not believe the hassle that this causes. In the end, after much re-printing, I sorted it out and have printed a few copies. Tomorrow I need to bind them, that takes ages too.

This coming weekend there is a sort of festival in Northumberland. In one or two places it is described as a Sea Shanty Festival, but it seems like a very minor village festival. It is in Seahouses where I did my photography 30+ years ago. I must go to this festival. Last time I went, a couple of years ago, people who recognised me were surprised to see me with a fiddle, to them I was the hippy photographer who took pictures of their father, their grandfather, their family fishing boat. It was rather sad. Many of the guys I photographed were dead. The bar in which we were playing music was the bar in which I'd photographed many of the old fishermen 30 or more years before. Around the walls still hung the photographs I'd taken so long before. I was introduced to one of the old guys in the bar, whom I'd photographed many years earlier. I could see his time was near. It was quite emotional. That day I played my fiddle better than ever before.

Strangely enough a week ago I received an email from the daughter of an old fisherman who I photographed many times when I lived there. She was wanting a photograph of her father. Aghhh, Jack was a fascinating old guy. I would regularly see him coming in from the sea in his coble "Remembrance". When he hauled up his crabs and lobsters from his boat he would often give me a crab. In the bar of "The Ship" he would sit down with a beer and tell a good yarn. My favourite memory of him was one lunchtime, when freshly back from the sea, he was befriended by a couple of tourists in the bar. Jack spent the next couple of hours telling the most implausible stories, while being plied with drink after drink by the tourist couple. When the tourists left the bar, all of the locals turned to him, about to say, "What was that load of rubbish you were telling those people". Before they could, Jack, with a slight slur to his speech, said with a wink, "A very generous man was that".

I was still living in Seahouses when Jack died. He was ill and confined to bed before his death. A few days before he died the same daughter who emailed me for his photograph, came down to my house. Jack had requested a picture of "Remembrance" to hang on his bedroom wall, so that in his last moments he could see his beloved boat.

The evening was as before. I contentedly stood at my garden fence with a small beer beside me, looking over the marina with it's swans and carp. In the background, discreetly playing, was a John Taylor or Vivaldi CD. I picked a load of beans and a few tomatoes from the plants growing up the fence, dug some Chili con Carne from the freezer then washed them down with some red wine for dinner. Why do people make life so hard for themselves?

A Day in The Life Of . . .

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