Tinkering (3)

Picking up a thread from a few weeks back, another poem about the pleasures of tinkering with bikes. Today’s victim was my Pashley Paramount, a wonderful British-built bicycle that faithfully replicates the BSA bikes issued to paratroopers on D-Day. A hefty beast, to be sure, made of steel and equipped with a leather Brooks saddle and Sturmey-Archer hub gears and brakes, but a truly charming machine that always makes me smile. All it required was its chain tightening a tad, but even this simple procedure feels like ‘proper’ mechanical work. I don’t find it easy, but that just makes it all the more satisfying when it goes right, as it did today.

TINKERING (3)

They don’t make them like this any more –
And no wonder:

What with wheel-nuts
To be slacked off with a spanner;
Brake and gear cables to disconnect;
A brute tug-of-war to snug up the chain,
Before all the adjustment, tightening, testing
And starting all over again.

A job for the workshop
At home, in the dry,
With plenty of time,
Rags, the manual
And a mug of hot tea,

Not out on the roadside
With my face full of fumes
Grass and grit waiting
To absorb tiny vital bolts
And the rain running cold down my neck.

But when those five speeds
Shift with buttery smoothness
And the hub settles into its soft
tick-tick-tick-tick-tick
That tells me
As sure a regular pulse informs
A doctor that all’s well within

I take a desk-man’s pleasure
In working with my hands,
In being anointed with the holy oil
Of the one who makes and mends;
In understanding
Not just using
And keeping the bike I ride
On the road.

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