Make do and mend a factory chimney

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

The other day somebody was discussing that we now live in an age where it’s now the given practice to throw away something as opposed to getting it mended, repaired or given the kiss of life like was the road to tread in the not-too-distant past as, like it or not – and I don’t, to be honest – we now live in a throwaway society, as in if it’s stopped going, it’s the one-way journey to the dustbin or the correct recycling bag or container as designated by the right proclamation or directive, and heaven help you if you mess any of them up, so there.

The above first paragraph, or if you are reading this upside down and think this is the last bit, ’fraid not, but you are to be congratulated on your dexterity or then again if not the case, hopefully somebody will be along soon to undo the straps and put you the right way up. Yes, the above paragraph then.

This was ritted to highlight the fact that in this day and age, if items go into the malfunction mode or rather, in technical speak, they conk out, the now-accepted practice seems to be to throw it away, as it costs – we are led to believe by the man who looks over the item in question and makes a nasty sucking noise before saying: “Yus, it’s going to cost as much to repair as to buy another one, I’m afraid” – and when you think, say, it’s just a broom handle and the head has fallen off, you start to wonder where all this madness is coming from or more to the point, where it’s all heading.

As we are nearly in the era of if the car throws a wobbly and is unwell and does not respond to the process of wanting to start, will the next step backward be one of : “Throw it away, Cynthia, and go and get one with that petrol stuff in that will start”?Before you laugh, as cars are produced at such a rate these days, plus night shifts when available, it won’t be long before there will be a couple of cars to every person on the planet – this one, without looking further afield, plus they drive on the other side of the loose chippings on Mars – and then the scrap heaps will be getting bigger.

It really does annoy me, coming from, and brought up in, an age where you looked after or cared about whatever you owned and you made it last and got your money’s worth out of it before it got thrown out, with the thought crossing the mind to actually bid a tearful farewell to the item in question. My mum was quite upset when her wall can opener finally opened its last tin, due to the gear wheels and the handle wearing out and spare parts not being available, but I remember Dad being very supportive.

He pointed out we still had the wall left and that it was in good condition, plus, it had a window fitted in it half way along and would perhaps last a bit longer than the tin opener – the wall I think he meant, as, with the local schoolkids playing football in the evenings outside, the window was on borrowed time as their aim with the ball was not that good – and the other opposite wall had a door fitted in it about half way along, which was different to a window as you could walk through it – the door, not the window.

Caring or what? Where we used to live many years ago when I was a child (to some this may only seem like only weeks ago but rest assured, it was years) a few streets away from us was a large factory that had not been used for years and there was an article in the local paper about it being bought by the council then pulled down and the site being used for building something amounting to an eyesore at the very least, so in that respect nothing has changed much over the years, just like prices going up, as always.

However, Mum was quick to pick up on the fact that it had one of those very tall chimneys that factories years ago had as a sort of standard fitting, regardless of smoke never coming out of it; no decent factory worth its threat to the ozone layer would dare be seen without its chimney, more like a status symbol in some respects, I suppose.

This chimney gave Mum food for thought and so with me in tow after doing the shopping from our local shop – I used to carry well – we made tracks to see our local councillor, Wentwhistle, (not his real name but he was christened this as whenever he was asked anything requiring a straight answer or a decision, he “went whistling” to himself, stared into space or next door’s front garden and eventually thought of an answer that sounded about right or plausible and came out with it) to ask if all ideas had been explored, as here was a very good chimney, to which he agreed with her after whistling two bars of whatever tune he was into, and as it would be going to waste according to the local paper, she had an idea and she wanted to explain it to him and would he listen to her?

He cut short in mid tune and stood there as she gave him her idea. She explained that if the chimney was taken down carefully, it would make somebody a nice tunnel somewhere, as it was quite a high one as it stood there presently, so lying down it would make a useful tunnel for somebody and save them the cost of building one.

She further explained that all it needed was lick of paint inside and out, plus, there was some good, hard-wearing paint on offer at the local builders’ merchants– true, only two colours available, but if you bought enough, they slung in a few brushes, free.

Wentwhistle, it has to be said, stood there and kept his composure – it’s a sort of imitation real plastic leather wallet I think he said it was – and as he whistled away, you could see his eyebrows twitching. After much twitching he responded in the only way he knew. “Dear lady, I can see that you certainly have a good idea there and I promise I will look into it as soon as I can,” and Mum suggested he used the ladder on the outside of it and climbed to the top and looked in as he could get covered in soot if he tried looking up from the bottom end.

Oddly, Mum never heard from him again on the matter, but the chimney eventually vanished, along with the factory, although for ages after she kept looking in the paper to see if he had cut the ribbon on a newly-opened tunnel somewhere in the area.