I am currently busy learning another of Bach’s two-part keyboard inventions (The one in F minor) but that’s not the kind of invention I want to talk about today.
I have made a small workshop on the balcony and amassed a large number of tools, although like my books they are continually being ‘borrowed’ by people who say ‘But yes of course I shall bring it back at once’ but are in fact thieves.
If I put up a bookshelf it falls down at once: I’m no good with wood but I do rather better with mechanical and electrical things. Never having had a great deal of money I couldn’t buy new or even working second-hand motorcycles, television sets, washing machines, ’fridges, toasters, telephones etc. so I used to (still sometimes do) rescue old ones from roadside skips (The Americans have the lovely expression ‘Dumpster diving’) or the rubbish tip, or back gardens where they had been abandoned. People are so prodigal that I would often find they had bought, say, a new television because the fuse had gone in the old one. Much of the time though I had to do more complex repairs, often working out ingenious ways round the problem of non-availability of spare parts. That in particular led me to start not just repairing things but inventing new ones. Here are a few of my current projects:
A jamming device to prevent the use of mobile ’phones within a radius of, say, 50 metres.
A clock made almost entirely of wood. (A psychoanalytic reading of the paragraphs above might show why I should think of something so odd.)
A football detector.
A torch that radiates darkness instead of light. (The late Gerard Hoffnung was also working on this.)
A classical guitar D string that doesn’t wear out or snap before any of the others.
A Swiss Army spoon.