Monday, November 04, 2013

Boys keep swinging

“Heaven loves ya. The clouds part for ya. Nothing stands in your way, When you're a boy." So sang David Bowie in Boys Keep Swinging, his 1979 song about growing up, being cool and coming to terms with your own identity.

Strangely, though, in among buying a home of your own, wearing a uniform and getting your share, Bowie didn't think to mention that most boyish of boyish activities – taking things apart.

Female readers may want to stop here, because they'll probably find most of what follows utterly meaningless (in contrast to the well-reasoned homily that normally adorns this blog.)

But if you were ever a boy, you'll know what it's all about.

You acquire an alarm clock – a proper one, with springs, and cogs, and a ringer, and a key to wind it up. It works for a while, and after a fashion, inasmuch as it tells the time with a certain degree of accuracy.

But it never seems to help you wake up for school – it takes persistent shouting from your elders and betters to do that – and eventually you overwind it, it stops working completely, so you take it apart and see what makes it tick.

You remove the winders and adjusters and you prise off the back. You make a careful mental note of how everything fits together, and carefully start removing the tiny internal screws.

Plink. You drop one on the floor, and it rolls away under the chest of drawers. Never mind, you can always pick it up later.

Two or three more screws meet the same fate, and the shiny brass plate at the back of the mechanism is working looser and looser.

All of a sudden it comes free, and with a ghastly death rattle the big spring comes unsprung, the cogs fly in all directions, and your alarm clock is no more.

Two years later you try a similar tactic on an old valve radio that will only pick up distant echoes of the BBC Light Programme.

The results are similar, if slightly more pyrotechnic. Which is what being a boy is all about.

Several decades later, long after your boyish coolness has evaporated and the only uniform you wear is beige and comes from M&S, your kids expect you to mend their Nintendo Wii, which has suffered a rupture of the disc drive and is very much Off Games.

You take your tiniest electrical screwdriver and try to remove the shiny white plastic back.

You fail at the first attempt, because you need a special three-winged screwdriver, only available from special three-winged screwdriver shops.

Even equipped with said (costly) screwdriver you fail, so you attack the thing with a drill. And finally the back comes off, exposing the electronic innards.

You do a bit of judicious bending, you blow out seven years worth of dust, you plug it in, the disk spins for two seconds and stops again with the same sort of death rattle the alarm clock made all those years ago. Total failure.

Ah well, off to the second-hand shop for a replacement, thinking to yourself on the way that David Bowie was wrong.

Boys don't always work it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment