Moving parts

March 4, 2007

Occasionally it’s good to be reminded of what it is that one really likes to do and takes pleasure in.

Last week the son of a friend of BishWife’s left his bike here as it had sustained a puncture on the way home from school. Consequently MiniBish1 and I attempted to fix the hole one evening. Unfortunately, due either to the ancient vintage of my puncture repair kit or the size of the hole, patching was not possible. It seemed that the youth had ridden up a kerb with the tyres somewhat underinflated and, despite it being a mountain-type bike, the tube had got pinched by the rims and cut very neatly in two places. Any patch I put on it just blew through when I inflated the tyre. Quite spectacular. The bike also had a missing pedal and was a pretty mucky, the chain was rusty and so on.

Anyway, my point is really that I enjoyed fixing it up, cleaning, oiling, mending; because at base I am a fixer of things. I don’t have a tremendous creative flair, but I do like finding solutions to problems and seeing things working smoothly and properly be it bicycles, computer programs, business processes or teams of people. Same with words: I’ve never had much success as a creative writer, but I enjoy tinkering with sentences until the meaning becomes clear and seems to have the correct expression. (Readers of this blog may disagree!)

I can imagine after I’m retired taking up one of those hobbies involving fixing things. You know, like those chaps who oil the engines in working museums, or mend old clocks, or run miniature steam railways. What is it with men and steam engines?

On a completely “nother” topic, I was quite moved by a TV documentary (probably a repeat) last night on the New York Dolls bassist Derek “Killer” Kane. I’m not especially familiar with the work of the Dolls, but I recognise that they were a seminal outfit which helped to bring in the New Wave in the late seventies. In a nutshell, it seems Kane spent thirty years in poverty, confusion and resentment following the acrimonious break-up of the group, was saved by Jesus via the Mormon church and found work in their family history library. Thirty years after the break-up, the remaining members of the group reunited and appeared in concert at a festival at the Royal Albert Hall. Hatchets were buried, the gig done good, and there was much talk backstage of more such outings, but Kane died of leukaemia just 22 days after returning home.

What did I take away from it?

  • How difficult it must be to be creative, in a group with other creative egos.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse wrecks lives.
  • Music is a fantastically powerful, mystical force and how great it must be to perform it to a responsive crowd.
  • Rock stars have no automatic right to be rich, but how sad they can be when they are not. Kane could barely afford the interest payments to keep his instruments in the pawn shop.
  • How wonderful that he had that last experience of gigging, recognition and reconciliation before he died. It’s almost like the plot of a novel where he was staying alive against the odds until he had had that chance.
  • How blimming lucky I am to be boring old Joe Average without all that grief.

Long live music and steam engines.

Finally the germ of an idea. While I was fixing up the bike I thought I’d quite like to change my ancient racer for something more in a touring style. What if I didn’t buy it with money from my job, but made myself earn it some other way? Writing or whatever? Just couple of hundred pounds. Yes, I wonder…

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