Apropos of my minor hardware adventure (see below), I’ve had occasion in the past year to think about how far my life (and the lives of most of my friends) is from actually making anything physical. I write, of course, and that sometimes manifests in a physical form. But for that I rely on paper mills, printers and binderies. I have the high-value end of the chain, fortunately, but I’m (to use an old phrase) quite alienated from the actual product.
So last year I took two courses in bookbinding. As a bibliomane, it seemed a natural diversion. And I love it. I’m not a particularly big fan, it turns out, of what is called book arts. Much of it is far too crafty for my tastes. But I love starting with sheets of paper, folding them by hand, stitching them by hand, rounding and backing, gluing the covers, etc.
There’s the pleasure of the resulting object. But more important to me, I think, is the actual, hard work of making something physical. Other than the odd household project, I suspect the last time I did anything like it was building Heathkits when I was age 16 or so.
Shortly before Christmas I had a catastrophic computer crash. Hard drive completely conked out. When I found out what data recovery services charge for retrieving your data (I had quotes ranging from £600 to £1,500), I resigned myself to starting afresh. I thought it would be a nightmare.
I bought a new hard drive and enjoyed slotting it in myself (it makes me think that next time I need a new computer, it might be fun to build it from scratch). And the other day I had a completely fresh computer. None of the many things I had added over the years, none of the little utilities that were cluttering the task manager, none of the files I was never going to look at again.
And it’s a great relief in a way. Fresh year, fresh start.