When I was quite small, my parents gave me a stamp collecting kit. There was a book to put your stamps in, a magnifying glass, a special little gauge to measure those holes along the sides, and a bag full of used stamps from around the world, as well as a guide book explaining that my bag of stamps was worth nothing. I still remember the excitement with which they handed it over, having collected stamps themselves when they were younger. “This”, I remember thinking, “blows!”
I’m just not a hobby person. My mind isn’t wired that way. At least I’m not a “hobby” hobby person. Miniature train sets were for recreating tragic natural disasters. Matchbox cars were for playing with, not collecting. I couldn’t make one of those little model Spitfires other boys hung from their ceilings without sticking myself to the table and the propeller to my hair.
Why would anyone collect anything, ever? How does the internal dialogue work?
“Ooh! Look at that! It’s an old porcelain doll with empty, staring eyes and detachable hair. I must have it! I must have it right now!”
“But why? You’ve already got seven, and all they do is sit there and stare at you from the top of your cupboard while you sleep. You don’t do anything with them. You never even touch them.”
“I do do something with them, silly. I collect them!”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, first I buy them. And then I have them.”
“That’s it. It’s a hobby.”
Mrs 23thorns is much better than me at hobbies. She does tapestry. A wonderfully “Good Housekeeping” type of endeavour. She doesn’t do lots of them. Just the one. She’s been doing it since I met her, in 1997. Every two or three years or so, she hauls it out, does nine or ten stitches, and then puts it away again.
But this is not to say that I don’t have any hobbies at all. I like gardening. After a fashion. Not nipping around with a watering can and dead-heading annuals, though. I like to dig holes. Through the seven layers of industrial grade concrete our home’s previous owner saw fit to lay over half of the garden. I like building big piles of rocks and huge logs. The hernia was fun, too.
Burying old baths in the garden also has its merits, and beats the hell out of the veggie garden it replaced in terms of maintenance. There’s a greengrocer round the corner, and we need to support the struggling economy.
And why am I telling you this? I started a new project today. I arrived home with five used industrial pallets strapped to the top of my car. Mrs 23thorns looked sad. Maybe she’s jealous because her tapestry is nearly halfway done while my fun is all ahead of me.
It can’t have anything to do with the fact that I’ve done this before. A few years ago, I brought home about twenty pallets and used them to make a deck. Or at least that was the plan. I broke them up into pieces and nailed them together again in huge wooden tiles. These were then carefully stored at the bottom of the garden until they began to rot. Then we burned them.
It was an incredibly rewarding experience. They kept us warm for at least two weeks in the middle of a brutal Jo’burg winter, and if they made the house smell a bit funny, so what? It added a certain “home-made” vibe to the whole affair.
This time, I’m making a coffee table. It’s gonna be cool. I’ve already had a chance to haul out my toolkit. Since this consists of a crowbar and a sledgehammer, I have been experiencing mixed results. While I envisioned them coming apart like well-made blocks of Lego, they actually behaved a little more like the Hindenburg.
On the plus side, I do already have a very credible looking pile of firewood, and tomorrow I get to spend a bit of “me time” getting a tetanus injection.
But fear not! The coffee table is coming along nicely. After a backbreaking day out in the hot sun with my crowbar and sledgehammer, I no longer have five used industrial pallets. I have two. I’m going to stick them together with wood-glue and present it to Mrs 23thorns as a gift.
She’ll be pleased. At last she’ll have another place to put her coffee cup! I’m sure she was getting bored with the two coffee tables we already have, and this one, with its specially-designed uneven surface will add a certain frisson of excitement to her morning cuppa.
It’s not quite done yet. I have to haul out my electric sander so that I can inhale some of the hazardous chemicals that were stored on the pallets in their previous lives, to dull the pain of the tetanus injection. Then I have to varnish it so that admiring visitors think it’s made of teak instead of cheap pine. But as soon as it’s done, I’ll put up a picture of it for you to wonder at. Mrs 23thorns will be in it, happily drinking her coffee and adding ten stiches to her tapestry.