Back in the 1960s, the great prophet Monty of Python (peas be upon ham) wrote a little sketch. In this sketch, everyone was Superman. Or Superwoman. There was no representation of SuperNeuter or SuperCreatureOfIndeterminateGenderOrEvenSpecies so the prophecy wasn’t perfect but it was close.
There were no cars. Supermen don’t need cars. They travelled everywhere by bicycle. There are moves to force that part of the prophecy into truth.
Everyone was equal. Everyone was super intelligent and super strong and everyone had a bicycle to call their own.
There was only one problem in this Utopian dream. No tradesmen. If your bike broke, nobody knew how to fix it. Everyone had degrees in super-something but nobody had bothered to learn anything practical.
Except one man. Seeing a flat tyre or slipped chain, one man would change out of his Superman costume into overalls and flat cap and appear with his box of spanners. I can’t find the original, only this one with a song voiceover.
Biicycle Repair Man was the superhero in this story and oh, how we all laughed.
A world where everyone is classed as Super and nobody can fix a bicycle. Can it happen?
It’s already started. Local garages are closing down because they can’t get apprentice mechanics. Nobody wants to be a plumber or a plasterer or an electrician, they all want degrees in yogurt weaving and smartphone typing and Wiccan veganosity. I am astonished at how many young people not only cannot start a fire using a flint and tinder, but are actually terrified of fire! One generation is all it took. We had at least one fireplace blazing away in every house not so long ago, and now houses are built without chimneys and nobody seems to have noticed.
We used to wake up cold – and I’m not exactly ancient yet – with frost on the inside of the windows and breath condensing in the air until someone lit the fire (after cleaning out the previous day’s ashes) and started warming the house. One generation later, they set the timer on the heating to come on before they get up so their double-glazed house is warm. They cannot cope with cold.
If nobody is taking practical courses, who is going to fix that heating when it breaks? Who is going to service your heating boiler when it breaks down between Christmas and New Year as happened to us here last year?
Fortunately our landlord had a spare heating pump and a box of spanners, and it soon got going again but while it was down we were very glad of our chimney and fireplace.
This house is at least 250 years old and made of granite. Thick walls of it. Once you get those walls warmed up with a fire they are like huge storage radiators. If I owned this place I’d be looking to get those sealed over fireplaces reopened. There are three open ones (one is capped) and six sealed ones. Two of the open ones, including the one we routinely use, are the old style huge openings with a swinging iron bar to hang pots over. How could you not want to use that?
Sure, move with the times and all that crap but forgetting the ‘old ways’ – and I’m talking 1960s and 70s ways here, not neanderthal times – is not a good idea. What if the new-fangled way doesn’t work out?
We have the disposable society now. I used to routinely repair my old Ford Cortina MkII with a few tools and a bit of time. I changed the head gasket on an Austin Princess and drove it from Wales to Scotland. I had to strip down the pedal linkages to a Commer van once, and replaced a wheel bearing and steering rack boots on a Vauxhall Astra.
Now? I look under the bonnet of this Toyota RAV4 and I see nothing recognisable. No coil, no distributor, just a lump of plastic on top of a lump of metal. Lucky for me it’s reliable, because I would have no idea where to start to fix it.
Just down the road, someone had an Austin Seven for sale a few months back. I was sorely tempted. It has mechanics I can understand. Now you have to link the car to a computer to get any idea of what’s wrong with it.
There used to be TV repairmen. Now you just buy a new one and dump the old one. There were cobblers to fix your worn shoes. Throw them away, supermarkets will sell you a new pair for next to nothing. They’ll last about a month so don’t bother with shoe polish.
As for darning socks… I bet nobody under 30 has even heard the term. Socks are incredibly cheap now.
Incidentally, if you are ever tempted to give clothes to one of those charities that collect for the homeless (the real ones, not the fake bastards who stock their second hand shops with donations) then a pack of unused socks would be really appreciated. Especially at this time of year. They’re cheap, but there’s no such thing as ‘cheap’ when you have no money at all.
Nobody fixes anything any more. It breaks, you throw it away and buy another. In this age of the microchip, itf it’s not the battery or a connector or switch then it can’t be economically repaired. Ah, the old days, when you turned on a broken valve radio you’d picked up for a few pennies, noted which valves didn’t light up, replaced them for about a quid and then sold it fully working…
I should have kept one really. The sound quality was so much better than modern crap. But then, they wouldn’t pick up digital radio.
This winter, I have to peen the ditch blade on my scythe. It’s taken a few dings. The grass blade just needs sharpening since it doesn’t hit the stumps and rocks in the wooded part of the garden. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I’m not Amish, these things are still in use. And yet who out there knows how to use and maintain one? Who even bothers sharpening the blades on their mower? Nah, scrap it, get a new one.
Need to replace a light switch or fitting? Need an extra outlet on a spur from the ring main? Can you do it? Do you even know what I’m talking about? EU regulations mean you are required to get a qualified electrician to do jobs we all used to do ourselves. That’s because they’ve dumbed down education to the point where modern kids don’t even realise there are wires in the wall behind those electrical outlets. They are magic holes in the wall.
The problem is, qualified electricians are getting thin on the ground. Just like good chimney sweeps. It’s time to call the one I use and I know he’s going to be busy. There are so few of them now.
Ring main and spurs. Wiring a plug. Airlocks in plumbing. Changing a tap washer, tap, installing a sink. Sharpening any kind of blade. Safely lighting an indoor fire. These were not specialist subjects in my youth and to me, they aren’t now. And yet, in a very few years, they have become the domain of a dwindling number of specialists. The principle behind the ring main was once taught in physics classes. I bet it isn’t now.
I was taught to use a forge, brazing, welding, casting, a shaper and lathe in metalwork class. I bet those are mostly banned by the modern fearful-of-lawsuit brigade. Especially the shaper. If you nodded off while using it, it would have caved in your skull.
I do have an O level in metalwork. It’s a little out of place among the rest of my qualifications but I did enjoy the subject. I could have been a blacksmith and very likely would have enjoyed it – but it’s a competitive field because there is limited call for blacksmith skills now. Lots of fire and hammering. I think I would have fitted right in there.
Now we have youth wailing about disposables while carrying bottled water. I used to go camping. We had bottled water – in refillable metal water bottles. Disposable plastic ones are a recent thing. They howl about the capitalist system throught their iPhones and then demand new ones because last year’s model is no longer good enough.
It’s going to collapse. It’s designed to do just that. These ecowarriors are the useful idiots of the new communism but don’t tell them, they won’t believe you. They are all going to die before they get much older and who will be left?
Those who know how to light a fire to stay warm. Those who can skin and gut a rabbit – those who can catch one without retching in horror. Those who understand seasons and planting and that avocados are not essential to life, and don’t grow here anyway.
The patient ones. The ones who watch it all burn and are ready to carry on after the canned-goods riots.
The idiots who think themselves superior want massive population reduction, to a level they can easily control. They have not considered the obvious.
The ones who will survive are the ones who take no notice of their propaganda, and who cannot be controlled. Their drones are going to follow their directions into the abyss. Make all the rules you want. Demand veganism and insect-eating and nonsmoking and nondrinking until you have killed off every single compliant drone. Make them all utterly dependent and useless at looking after themselves.
I’ll still be here.