Saturday, 7 November 2009

Somewhere there is a place for us all

Here we are, breathing a big Saturday sigh of relief. We are back among the finest eccentrics of England. The Meccano enthusiasts, exhibiting their pleasures today at the National Space Centre.


Honestly, this is where my soul should be, amongst people who maintain a single focus in their life: they keep right on doing as they must, whether you throw tornadoes at them, beat them about the face with frying pans, or feed them to polar bears.

To them, it makes no difference. They just extrude from that polar bear arse, a little crunched, weather battered and dented, and simply pick up where they left off.

I admire those people, I really do. They never give up, no matter what the challenge. And for that they are my inspiration.

Take Meccano. It occupies grown men for hours, weeks, months, years. I can look at those fantastic models in puzzlement and am genuinely uncomprehending how anyone would spend three years of their life in a purpose-made shed building a scale face shovel excavator.

I stand before one elderly gentleman who makes my life complete with his chalk dust hair and woolly waistcoat, and I utter something which sounds like That's a remarkable construction!

And the old man nods kindly, but looks at me askance, like this is not the starting comment of anyone who knows what they are talking about, but he'll give me the benefit of the doubt. He kindly points deep inside the face shovel's guts and explains gently Yes, this was a little tricky, the erector socket and boss facing forward next to the rod socket and between the nut and adjustable throw crank.

And because I am wide eyed staring blankly at this strange language I never heard before but which must be tribal, the elderly gentleman peers a little, leans to me, speaks more slowly, and politely inquires, Do you see there? Between the connecting strip, grub, and threaded boss?

The uncomprehending expression on my face now tells him for sure I am the village idiot.

But this is what I love about The Eccentrics of England, because at this point any normal person would ignore me and hate me and would take my lack of understanding merely as an opportunity to make me feel uncomfortable. Then they would show me how they are exasperated by me, by loudly tutting and making a face like they would like to kick me over a Dover cliff if only they could be bothered to soil their boot end with my pointless carcass.

But not your fine English Eccentric. They like nothing better than to come across one of these bemused idiots. For them it is a happy occasion where they can inform the unenlightened and naive; here is an opportunity, and a challenge, and who knows, a convert.

The elderly gentleman smiles benignly and gives me a comforting glance like you might reserve for the afflicted but not quite dead, and then he says And it lights up! knowing then that I will be amused by the LED display and will begin to grab Squirrel and pump her arm up and down in delight at the wonders of light inside Meccano. And I am! I am amazed! Look Squirrel! Look! It lights! It lights up!

I might feel abashed for not speaking tribal, but the old man smiles. I am welcomed, and then graciously entertained with moving clocks and shovels and this, the most splendid of all, from the orrery maker.


For one brief moment, all Meccano makes sense. I am completely won over. This is my destiny. I imagine life is filled with such acceptance, such warm hearted community and belonging. I imagine myself, gently crafting a face shovel excavator on the kitchen table, with adoring children clapping their hands in glee and their beaming faces turned to mine, and then I will say Look, the light is here! The light! The light!

4 comments:

Rachel M. said...

Well at least you did a decent job of recounting it! Sounds fascinating. Ever since I went to school for Industrial design, I've loved to build things. Not much time anymore. These days gardening counts as creative outlet, and cooking. Darn the wheels of domestication.

Grit said...

rachel, industrial design sounds brilliant. people who do amazing complex stuff with their brains like engineering always fascinate me.

but you are right: that brain power is then applied to outwitting toddlers and organising a schedule for several people so they are all alive by bedtime.

only a few very exceptional engineers could manage that.

Lisa said...

Hahahaha- you just described my husband- albeit in Lego form and sans waistcoat...hmmm where can I get him a wooly waistcoat?

Dani said...

Knit him one!

I love eccentrics - I am very impressed at the sheer quantity of them you manage to find, Grit.