Off she goes, Iain Oughtred's slightly foreshortened Penny Fee, at 15ft. Sails by Jeckells, spars by the wonderful Jeremy Freeland at Collars. The rest by Messrs Burke and Morgan (that's Jonny by the way...)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Second Hand Blues

I appear to own nothing that's new; well, strictly speaking as soon as you buy something it's no longer new, but I don't mean that. I mean that pretty well nothing of any value was bought first hand. The house, right? 1880s, or thereabouts; the Land Rover 1992; Sally II, the 1937 Vertue... and so on. Do I like old things, or is it that I can't afford new ones? Bit of both, probably. But I suspect that the underlying reason why I am attracted to secondhand stuff is that I enjoy mending it.

The Land Rover had the full spring clean over the weekend (there was a burst of sunshine for about five hours) and all the holes that appeared over the winter have been covered either with sheet lead or roofing material, and clarted (technical term: Scottish) with a mixture of bitumen and Waxoyl. Sally II's mast has been refurbished and her hull will get a coat of paint before too long. The old motor bike (which was about the only thing I bought new) is now in the category of things that need fettling before the summer. I think I'll sell it.

Owning all this old stuff means I seem to spend my whole time mending and repairing things. Do I enjoy it? Well, yes I suppose I do. It's definitely a male thing, this tinkering, and is probably deep down a replacement activity of some sort (let's not go there).

The latest old thing I have acquired is that 1980 flying fifteen. She'll have a new home and a new lease of life. I call it recycling, reusing, making do and mending. It is probably a hangover from the war, and the attitudes inculcated in me by my mother and grandmother who reused everything; never wasted nothing.

So most of my time is spent repairing things. What's wrong with that? What's so great about owning things that work, from new and then get trashed? One thing that did nearly get trashed were the bathroom scales (bought new but now three years old) which were reading everything from a flattering 65kg, to a more truthful 78kg, at random. They seem to have settled around 76kg. At one time they registered 80kg, and were heading bin-wards, until I gave them one more chance. They're on death row unless they behave. I'd settle for 75kg.

All this reminds me that I am also approaching my sell-by date, and long overdue for some (minor) repairs. And thus we are like the objects we collect: subject to deterioration from the moment we are born. But it does erk me somewhat that an inanimate object like a boat will still be around long after I am gone. Human beings are transitory; boats are forever (if subjected to routine maintenance).

By the way, look at the line of that old clinker boat. Perfect, built in Alligin, on loch Torridon. She's a flower bed now, simply and sadly for lack of that saviour of old boats who sometimes appears in the nick of time. He didn't. She was unlucky.

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