I was quite an inquisitive child, always wanting to know how things worked. Back then we had a family hairdryer, an old Morphy Richards made of brown Bakelite, and with about as much puff as a hamster with emphysema. It eventually gave up the ghost. I took it upon myself to take it apart. As you do. Well, as I did.
The dismantling bit was a cinch, but when I proudly showed my father what I’d achieved he responded in his characteristic fashion and demanded more. I had to put it back together again. It wasn’t hard, but damn it was fiddly, and it took me yonks. Still, mission accomplished. That showed him.
I was reminded of this episode by a charmingly low key television programme on Wednesday night, one in a series of charmingly low key television programmes featuring the amiable James May. The series is called The Reassembler. Nothing much happens, since what Mr May gets to do is rebuild common household objects that have been stripped down to their component parts. Wednesday he was reassembling a 1960s Kenwood food mixer. Ho hum, eh?
Not a bit of it. It was fascinating, riveting, completely involving. Firstly, he has no instructions, so has to fly by the seat of his pants. It took the best part of seven hours for him to rebuild the motor (which is where my story started.) Then he had to figure out the epicyclic gearbox. I know how these work, having spent a good amount of time in my early teens stripping and rebuilding Sturmey Archer hub gears on my bike. Mr May was in hog heaven. ‘Gears. I like gears. I understand them.’
At one point, while nursing one of his beloved cups of tea, he mused, ‘I wonder if anybody is enjoying watching this as much as I’m enjoying doing it?’ A resounding yes from me. There’s something about a bloke in a bad jumper fiddling about with myriad small bits of machinery just because he likes to do it. Chip Foose, a custom car builder in the US, would approve too, since he recently bemoaned the fact that nobody wants to make things anymore, they want to buy things.
The dishevelled Mr May was always the techie one on Top Gear, but here’s the interesting bit. He studied music at university, so getting his hands dirty is not what he did for a living. It’s what he does for fun. And it makes for gently fascinating watching.