It started long ago with fishing rods and bicycles. They were a real challenge for a boy brought up more on a diet of chemistry sets and slide-rules than spanners and saws. Most recently it has been wellie boots and sunglasses. Less technically demanding – but given the cost of a good hard-wearing pair of wellies, these items have their attractions for a confirmed ‘fixer’.
There is, I maintain, a fairly clear divide between people who are ‘fixers’ and people who are ‘chuckers’. It doesn’t seem to come down just to a matter of technical ability – a handiness with tools and materials. Though that is no doubt a part of it – how many of us like doing things we aren’t very good at? No, fixing a wellie boot is more about cheating death itself, about Nietzsche’s famous ‘Will to Power’ and John Fowles’ ‘flight from the nemo’*.
You might need me to fill in some of the steps there: the ones that lead from dry wellies to the heart of life itself. (If not, then please skip to the end for wellie-fixing tips.) The steps go roughly like this, with suitable modifications depending on your personal life-history. First, we are told that we need a lot of stuff. Most of the stuff is made in places and by processes about which we have no idea. ‘They’ make the stuff. The stuff will ideally (according to ‘them’) break or cease to function adequately after a short period of use. (Note: for ‘premium’ or branded goods it won’t necessarily cease to function quite so quickly, but it will have some other form of dysfunctionality such as visible ‘wear’ or unfashionable colour/model etc). A lot of the stuff is inextricably linked to other stuff which won’t work without it and for none of the stuff are any spare parts available. So, I need ‘them’ to fix my stuff. They won’t. (They probably can’t fix it – i-junk wasn’t ever meant to be fixed.) I, the free citizen of a liberal democracy, am now enslaved to ‘them’. I am in the grip of my nemo – the nothingness, the counterpoint to ego, the powerlessness, the not-really-existing. I am terrorised not by bombs or coshes, but by the threat of voiding my warranty – patently useless contract that it was in the first place.
No, you bastards! – you who sold me a wellie in which some tiny fault developed in the rand long after I could conceivably send it back, but long before 98% of the wellie’s life was even remotely used up. No! I will not buy another pair of wellies – even with the one remaining illusory sop of buying a rival brand. Ha! I will fix my wellie. Fix it beautifully so that it will last another year (a year is a very long time in crofting – certainly as far as a wellie is concerned). And with that fixing I will achieve so much more than a dry foot. I will achieve freedom from ‘them’. I will thwart ‘them’. The nemo is diminished. I wrest back a grain of power. I am inspired to fix more things. I choose in future to buy and build things which are fixable. I begin to despise things which are not fixable. I see through the lie.
All by fixing my wellie.
Coincidentally, and with pleasure, not with a feeling of sacrifice – no hair shirt – I have also lived by the ‘reduce, re-use, re-cycle’ rule. I guess that fixing a wellie comes somewhere between ‘reduce’ and ‘re-use’; the ideologues of the three r’s will no doubt be able to tell me precisely where. In any event, something good has happened. My life budget of wellies has been drastically reduced. (Never mind the carbon – it appears I am ‘wellie-counting’!) And by proudly displaying the fact that my wellie is ‘fixed’, not new, I may also encourage a certain ‘fix-it chic’. The viral benefits are seemingly endless.
If you are still a ‘chucker’ why not try this simple experiment. Fix one little thing you would otherwise buy new. Keep it a secret if you like. See how it feels. Maybe you’ll like it.
Oh yes, the wellies. Fixed with ‘Aquasure’, a couple of quid will save you £50 or more on new boots. (Who makes ‘Aquasure’? Well, ‘they’ do, of course …)
* “a man’s sense of his own futility and ephemerality; of his relativity, his comparativeness; of his virtual nothingness” (The Aristos)