The compulsion to fix things

An unused CDT room in one friendly school was turned into a Repair Shed thanks to a revelation from the BBC’s Countryfile program.

I saw, maybe a month or so ago, news in Allendale area notices of a repair clinic over at Nenthead, where folks were encouraged to bring their domestic items that had stopped working, for a bit of attention from other folks who love to try to fix things. Without being too shameless about stealing a great idea from our neighbouring village, it sounded like just the sort of thing we could use in Allendale! And without being too sexist, it feels like a perfect sort of thing to make a social place for men of a certain age to get together with a purpose. I’m thinking ‘men in sheds‘ of course, that kind of thing. But women would be very welcome too, obviously.

In rural areas, I think, fixing things is often a requirement for basic survival — unless you happen to be independently wealthy, you’d never be able to afford the constant attention of professional tradespeople to keep everything working around the place. So many of us rural men have built up quite an experience base of being able to look at a broken thing, to ask: what is it trying to tell us — what does it want to be doing here? I think, if such a Repair Shed concept were to come to Allendale, I’d be first in the queue to join — it would feel like just the sort of thing to ease back gracefully into social interactions again, after a year or so of forced hermitage up in the hills.

But where could a Repair Shed be situated? I’m thinking a combination of electrical gadgetry, mechanical devices, a kettle and hotplate and sink, and a host of zombie things lining the shelves awaiting cannibalisation for crucial parts. So it would, ideally, be a dry shed, centrally located, with some source of heat, available for folks who want to drop in any day of the week, with a permanent feel to it. Several workbenches, probably a drill press, a set of vices, a workshop feel to it, but it would be peopled by fixers with a good listening ear, who could hear both the disquiet from the broken thing, and the despair deep within the broken thing’s owner. It would be a talking place just as much as a fixing place, and so much more than electro-mechanical things would ultimately receive useful attention.

I can’t think of the perfect place, just yet, but I know this idea is not new by any means, and there are successful Repair Sheds springing up all over the country. I broach this idea for local consumption coming off two or three recent, and reasonably successful repair jobs of my own, which had the actual disadvantage of nearly wrecking my recuperating body, even though the eventual satisfaction of having fixed something was great — the physical cost was just a bit too much, alone. But I also suffer from a grumpy do-it-myself attitude, which while useful in personal perseverance mode, might not be quite the best sort of approach to a sociable Repair Shed concept. But even this old dog can learn new social tricks, surely?

Well, ideas are one thing, and putting them into practise is another. We’re all familiar with personality clashes in a rural context (there’s only a finite number of people in such a village as Allendale, after all), and what’s grist for one person’s mill is just so much chaff for another’s. On the other hand, some conscious social logistics could help the Repair Shed overcome some of these challenges: I’m thinking of the way domestic cats co-exist with their cat neighbours, pursuing their perambulations at specifically designated times developed to avoid unwanted encounters. Fixers like us should surely be able to be as clever as cats?!

Anyway, with these thoughts ringing through my over-eager brain, trying desperately to relax after overdoing it on the repair front myself yesterday (but my mowing machine now blows grass cuttings again into the three big collection bags, thanks to a timely delivery of the drive belt from an American eBay supplier), I shall just slip on into a quiet morning reverie over delicious porridge, brown sugar and lashings of fresh cream. Yum!

1 Comment

  1. A repair shed is a great idea especially in today’s global warming climate where re-use and recycling is important. But you may find many of the community’s able fixers are tied up with the ultimate valley wide repair shed fix. That is repairing [?providing an alternative to] the cropper crap that is the Allen Valleys Open Reach’s Internet network. B4AV’s community fibre broadband requires the latest technical knowledge coupled with a good dose of fixit ingenuity to deliver what is the largest engineering project to happen in the Valleys since the lead mining days.

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