I’d been hunched over my work bench for … who knows? Hours, days, possibly even minutes, when I sensed Rosie next to me.
‘Nice job, dad.’
‘Thanks. Can you pass me the tweezers – no, the long necked ones … cheers.’
‘But was it really worth it?’
‘Throw away culture … young people … the lost skills.’
I gestured towards the more powerful of my two magnifying glasses. It was usually locked away in my strong-box. Too dangerous to leave lying around. Sunlight, the smouldering curtain, the flames rise higher, we all die.
‘Can you just hold the lens here for me? That’s it, that’s it.’
This was the key moment. I had to catch the finest tendril, a gossamer filament. If it snapped, I’d be back to square one, all my labours wasted. The tweezers clicked once, twice, like the jaws of a medium-sized insect. An insect with tweezer-like jaws, or mandibles as we call them in the trade.
‘You know your great granddad used to make all his own mining tools?’
‘Oh yeah. Pick. Shovel. Canary. The works.’
‘Not canary. That was just a what do you call it. Joke.’
‘What did he make them out of?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Other tools, probably. Er, broken buckets and so on. A bigger shovel that he had to whittle down to size. So it would fit in the tunnels. Anyway, I know you have the science, the numbers… but can science explain the rainbow?’
‘So you say, but can it fix a broken one, eh, eh? You’ve no answer, have you?’
I was concentrating too hard to make much sense. Like a neurotic surgeon fixing a watch.
I slowly unwound the tendril, which gradually expanded into a membranous sheet.
‘Can you hold the, er, central spivot?’
‘The rotating drum unit.’
‘You mean the cardboard tube?’
‘Language is the first victim of, of … truth is the first casualty of the, ah, internet. YouTube. Instagram. We’re all to blame. All it needs for the triumph of, you know, is for good men, and, indeed, people, to do nothing.’
But Rosie had gone off to do her Further Maths homework, and I finished the job, alone, my old eyes aching in the falling light. Satisfying, though. Another roll of clingfilm brought back from the brink. The way people just yank at it, so it splits near the ends, leaving a fat ridge of unpeeled matter. And I’d returned it to unity and utility.
I don’t really have a work bench, it’s just the island unit in the kitchen. I might see about installing a lathe, whatever that is.