An old fashioned fix

The mechanism that keeps the fly door shut broke off during the Christmas day festivities. Someone must have pushed too hard against it and the screws that held it in place against a strip of wood on the side of the door cracked open and the whole thing fell down.

The door still works but you have to close it purposefully. It will not swing shut of its own accord and so my husband decided to fix it once and for all. He’s fixed it before, new screws, and a new anchor strip of wood but somehow it never manages to hold fast beyond a few years, so this time he fixed it the old fashioned way.

He took a piece of stainless steel wire. He has a lifetime supply of the stuff, which he keeps on a roll on his workshop. He bought several of those little cup type hooks, the small brass ones that people use to hold up pictures and he screwed in a line of these along the top of the flywire door. He tied a weight to one end of the wire and threaded it through the hooks to a certain height down the side of the door so it acts like a pulley and weight.

Every time you open the door and leave it open, the weight of the contraption on the end of the steel wire slowly forces the door to close. It’s slow because the weight is at a certain level and density such that the door will only close softly. My husband did not want the fly wire door to slam.

The extraordinary thing about this construction to my mind is the nature of the weight itself. An old tap atop a piece of brass fitting like the top of a squat tap. It once belonged to a family friend, now long dead who used to turn metal for a hobby.


The whole construction reminds me of this friend who made so many gizmos out of metal. This friend fixed things the old fashioned way and rarely relied on modern conveniences to run his life.

Not for our friend the new water jugs. He used the porcelain jugs of yesteryear, the ones that contained an exposed element, which periodically blew. And when the element blew, he replaced it with another element.

Our friend was a man ahead of his time for recycling. He recycled, not because it was good for the environment though that might have been part of his motivation.

He recycled mostly because he was appalled at the cost of things.

In supermarkets he’d argue with the shop assistants whenever the price of an item suffered a steep rise. He’d ask to see the manager every time his regular supermarket decided to relocate items on the shelves – as supermarkets tend to do from time to time so that you need to re-learn the lay out of your local shop, and if the supermarket decides a product is not selling they pull it from the shelves.

This final crime was the worst.

Our friend’s wife hid behind a shelf while her husband regaled the manager with threats of letters to the editor whenever they took his favourite mustard, jam or butter from the shelves.

He liked things to stay the same. At first no one noticed but in time there were other signs.

Twenty years later he had all but lost his identity and could not even hammer in a nail.

It was tragic that our friend should suffer such an affliction, one which took away his greatest talent, his ability to fix things, if only the old-fashioned way.

My husband’s door – however ungainly – is a tribute to this man and to people everywhere who use old style techniques to make the world a better – if not less stream lined – place.