Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A memory that survived

Early memories are fallible. Two-storey houses become bungalows, lines of poplars disappear, schoolfriend dates no longer synchronise. But here’s one that had a sequel. When very young I believed metal (didn’t matter which) was the hardest thing on earth. Then I saw an adult hacksawing off the pointed tips of nails protruding from a sheet of wood. How could metal cut metal?

Eventually I found the answer but that brief mystery retained its magic. Decades later, on professional visits to industrial plants, I saw metal cutting metal in its latest guise. Drill bits in mechanised systems easing effortlessly into blocks of machined steel. Lathes releasing elegant spirals of swarf from workpieces. Powered saws tirelessly sawing. The very heart of manufacturing; beauty born out of efficiency. It’s one of the themes in my novel.

OLD AGE WINS In 2007, in Zermatt, illness combined with a decaying body signalled an end to my thirty years of ski-ing. This traumatic moment generated not an ounce of sympathy among non-skiers. Skis lie in the attic and should be sold. Then it snowed heavily in Hereford and I found a use for my après-ski boots while others were squelching around in wet trainers. Yah sucks boo.

VORACIOUSNESS When asked how she would occupy her retirement Mrs BB replied: “By reading.” And so she has at the rate of 220 books a year. To keep up with what she’s got through she enters summaries in her “little book”. Here’s one: “The Infinities” by John Banville, 6 (out of 10). Dying mathematician and family visited by Zeus, Hermes and Pan. Beautifully written nonsense.
Very little of our reading overlaps.

Novel progress 8/1/10. Ch. 11: 0 words. Chs. 1 - 10: 44,765 words. Comments: Day devoted to editing and re-editing, including first two paras of Ch, 1.


herhimnbryn said...

That image of swarf takes me back to my Grandad's forge. As a child I found the curls of swarf beautiful.

Plutarch said...

I experienced the same sense of wonder when first I learned that metal could be cut and machined. That's a good theme for your novel. Well done too for having identified and now promoted it as a theme. This should act as a spur to the writer as to the novel's growíng band of potential readers

The Crow said...

Mrs. BB's reading rate is astonishing. I'm currently reading Sir Hugh's journal and a book by Eric Hoffer about the ordeal of change (that's the book's title, too).

When I was 18, I wanted to tour the British Isles on foot. The hippie movement was gaing a foothold in America and thousands of kids were hitting the roads, huge backbacks on their backs, traveling all over the country. I had a plan, had bought my backpack and was ready to go. I chickened out, with my mother's encouragement, an act of cowardice I've regretted many times over the years. So, I read Sir Hugh's account with relish, though I have no idea where some of the places he traveled are - need maps.

Hoffer's book is turning out to be a roadside companion for the journey of self-discovery and change that I have undertaken.

Must say, though, that Mrs. BB's record is more than impressive, it is awe-inspiring.


Lucy said...

I too am most impressed by Mrs BB's total, and notes kept too... now there's a woman who obviously doesn't blog.

I was astonished when I learned that boats were made of metal, since I assumed metal inevitably sank in water.

The word 'swarf' always makes me wince, because my first encounter with it was in a magazine advert for some industrial handwipes, where a man was wiping his hands on an oily rag with a piece of swarf hidden in it, and cringing with pain as he cut himself on it.

A word we like is 'sloven', which is the raggedy sticking up bit of wood left when you saw a log or trunk and break it off before sawing right through.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Beautiful to look at, painful to encounter (see Lucy, below).

Plutarch: It's getting much harder to write now. What I've already written defines (perhaps restricts) what I can say. Logic closes in like a vice.

The Crow: It is a shame you didn't make it. I went to the US driven by a mixture of intense curiosity and the expectation that I would find familiar things there. We went burdened by one child and against heavy resistance from Mrs BB's side of the family. I never regretted it and neither did she. I'm not surprised you're having difficulty tracking Sir Hugh's End to End route. You'd need a large-scale map to identify some of his stopovers, especially those in Scotland.

Lucy: Discovering that a metal boat floats rather than sinks is not necessarily a good thing. In some cases such revelations carry the taste of betrayal which youth is often ill-equipped to deal with.

"Sloven's" provenance is easily traced since those projecting splinters are the work of the slovenly amateur rather than the controlled professional.

Mrs BB would regard a blog as wasteful of words. Her emails are so concise they condemn me as loquacious.

Julia said...

How high is the snow?

I'm very impressed by Mrs. BB's yearly rate, and would very much like to hear what her top ten were last year.

P.S. In case Mrs. BB might be interested, www.GoodReads.com is great for keeping track of books read when plus any notes, and it really is fun to see everything summarized at the end of the year. Only downside - they have a 5 star rating system rather than 10.

Sir Hugh said...

Could Mrs BB give us any tips on how she reads so quickly, or is it just the sheer length of time she spends? If I had a top ten of wishes one would certainly be that I could read more quickly. I once went on a speed reading course and find that I can apply the techniques when I concentrate on doing so, but I do not find it relates to reading a decent book.

Avus said...

Swarf images take HHnB back to her Grandad's forge. They take me back there too, since I spent 5 years working there, learning the crafts of blacksmithy and discovering my affinity for (with?) iron.
The smell of hot cutting oil transports me back immediately. Why is it that smells kick in ancient memories, long forgotten?
I feel a blogpost coming on!

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: A mere 12 cm or so but gritting is limited to the main roads with the result that snow on the side roads gets compacted and then frozen. Today is usually my French lesson, normally a lovely little rural drive. Happily my teacher is otherwise occupied.

I'll ask her to compile her top ten - should be easy enough given her scoring system.

Sir Hugh: I had a theory about this; Mrs BB is capable not only of continuous reading (ie, rarely breaks off) but can also read through distractions such as TV coverage of F1 races and Six Nations rugby games, although with the latter she prefers to doze. However a brief discussion has thrown my theory to the winds. To the 220 book titles should be added The Guardian six days a week (and she reads it more attentively than I do), The Observer on Sunday and New Statesman on Fridays. As if that wasn't enough it turns out that she doesn't read through the BBC3 afternoon concert on weekdays but (like mother) prefers to knit or do embroidery. It may be some solace to you to learn that she cheerfully admits that a largish percentage of the titles are "trash" (typically whodunnits) simply because these are in the majority at the library. However, as and when serious stuff does turn up, she absorbs that too, embarking on books I would run a mile from. On average she visits the library three times a fortnight and usually brings back four books.

Avus: Were you harmonious with it?

Relucent Reader said...

Excellent post, BB. Lovely photo, there is a beauty to such efficiency,yes.
As an inveterate pack rat, your boots being needed once again proved the pack rat's credo; "May need it some day".
A tip o' my Librarian hat to Mrs. BB. I once joined a reading blog with colleagues, and we had to read 50 or so books:I was hard pressed to hit that number. If I may ask, what did she do before retirement? Glad to hear of a library supporter!

Barrett Bonden said...

RR: Both of us have been great library users, here and in the USA. It is only because retirement has left me comparatively "comfortable" (as we Brits euphemistically say) that I now tend to buy rather than borrow books. Obviously if I consumed them at the rate Mrs BB does I'd need to continue borrowing. I checked with Mrs BB on the matter of her unemployment and I am now permitted to use an explanation I have been allowed to utter sparingly in the past. One can say that while employed Mrs BB moved from one end of the humanitarian spectrum to the the other; initially she was a State Registered Nurse with several London hospitals, latterly she was an officer with the Inland Revenue.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'm a non-skier but imagine it must have felt like a bird with a broken wing not to be able to fly down the mountain anymore.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (sZ): Ski-ing is the pursuit of elegant and languid movement and the ironic thing was, despite advancing age, I was continuing to improve. However on that trip to Zermatt I was pretty much a bird with a broken wing and had to have myself put down.

Avus said...

Point taken, BB. thank you!