A stove odyssey . . .

stove 1I SPOT a wood-burning stove in a junk shop in Lanjaron and decide to buy it because it’s essential that people retain basic skills and remain in control of their lives. You’ll remember this advice in ten year’s time when your Google driverless car breaks down and you haven’t a clue where you are because you binned the road atlas when you purchased a satnav . . .

“How much is this stove?” I say to the proprietor. “It’s 25 euros and there are some stove pipes to go with it,” he replies. It’s a deal. We stow the stove in the campervan and head for home. I envisage sitting at my stove in the cool evening air, watching shadows lengthen and stars glistening above the dark snowy mountains.

I spend a contented hour assembling the stove and fixing things with wire. I am delighted with my purchase, because this is more than a stove. It’s a symbol of survival and defiance.

I once worked with a bloke who rented a terraced house in Barrow-in-Furness. After several failed attempts to light the coal fire he capitulated and bought one of those miserable three-bar electric heaters and sat in front of it wrapped in a quilt. I remember thinking, at the time, that one of the principal skills that elevated early humans above the remainder of the animal kingdom was their ability to light fires. So what has happened to evolution?

stove 2 stove 3 stove 4 stove 5I have mounting concerns over the future of the human race. Who decided there is a requirement for driverless cars, for heaven’s sake? We have been robbed of our navigational skills by satellites and satnavs. Why should we be robbed of our ability to travel independently?

Robots in the home – this is another issue that’s dominating the news. The 1960s are repeating themselves but without James Burke. Metallic humanoids hoovering the stairs and warming ready-made meals are about to make our lives easier and free-up more time for activities such as texting.

Only our lives won’t become easier; they’ll become empty and directionless, because we will have stripped ourselves of undervalued skills and self-respect. We will become completely dependent on technology and – more disturbingly – on the people who create and maintain that technology. We are morphing into a race of drones governed and manipulated by an elusive elite. And the scary thing is that the elite will continue to evolve while the rest of humanity stews in a regressive ignorance.

stove 6And that’s the main reason I’ve just bought a stove for 25 euros. I possess the skill to kindle fire – therefore I can and I will. That simple process separates me from the beasts. I can navigate from Darlington to Granada using signposts that haven’t altered significantly since Roman times; I could do it by the stars if necessary, though it might take a little longer. And I will continue to drive a vehicle because that simple act requires a certain expertise and represents individuality and independence of spirit.

stove 7I sit by my stove watching  faces in the flames, and the stars come out one by one. And I just know that somewhere out there in the wastelands of the world, or perhaps another planet, is a monkey with a big bone in its hand, ready to hurl it into space. Because the monkey has grasped that evolution – knocked sideways by the fickleness of man – is creating an opportunity for a new superior species.

naughty monkey

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24 thoughts on “A stove odyssey . . .

  1. Well said Alen, to use a pun I have rekindled so many skills that I thought I had lost and repurposed more things in the short time I have been here in Spain than in the last ten years in the UK. Somebody was telling me yesterday that Orgiva is a lot warmer than Carataunas now I see why. Regards John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya John. Same here. I’m re-learning things I thought I’d forgotten and it’s a real pleasure. And if it’s warmer down here, it must be bloomin’ cold up there because I’ve had to light the kitchen fire today for the first time in weeks.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. Excellent stove. (For some reason I feel the need to ask if your kettle whistles.)

    There seems to be a recurring exclamation that technology will one day do away with work and we’ll all have 24 hours free time to get through. It hasn’t happened yet, but at the current rate it will get rid of a lot of jobs leaving the jobless homeless rather than spending their free time on the beach or in casinos.

    The best photograph I ever saw was in a Lake District guidebook, of an articulated lorry stuck up Hard Knott Pass; followed his satnav instead of using his common sense. And I have a secret sense of delight when I hear about satnavs sending their idiot drivers off into fathomless directions.

    I like the idea of retaining basic skills. I also like the idea of technology used appropriately. Some people think we should go back to Neolithic lifestyles, others think drones and robots and digital inserts connecting you to your fridge is the only worthwhile future. The best scenario for me is somewhere in the middle.

    Looking at the photos of the stove, can I assume we now have a new Pope?

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    1. Speaking of popes, one of the most enlightening jobs I ever had was writing an eight-page pull-out on the life of Pope John Paul II for the Northern Echo on the event of his death. Great fellah. I wish I’d had the stove back then.
      Anyway, on your first point, Chris (and yes we have a whistling kettle, though it lives in the campervan), I remember being told by one of my teachers back in the 60s that machines would soon take over the means of production and we’d all have stacks of leisure time. Well, the machines and technology certainly took over – but the other side of the coin wasn’t so much an increase in leisure time as the creation of an underclass with nothing to do except soak up insults from those above.
      I’ll see if I can find the Hardknott Pass picture. We used to get lorries trying to take a short cut to Scotch Corner up the lane to our allotment site, and getting stuck because it was a dead end. That was a satnav thing. It got so bad that the parish council put a sign up to stop them.
      I can live with technology; most of it is useful and beneficial. Some of it is a total waste of resources when half the world is starving.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John. Must take another look at that film. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. They don’t make films like that these days.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. You are right on this one Alen, you want to smell the BBQ fluid around here, I can start a fire in two minutes, burnt processed pig flesh as well. Less of that one, however, map reading skills, how to get from one end of the country to the other using a Bus or Train, Timetables how do we work that one out and how do we write with a Pen or send a Letter. Oh dear me I am off on one, I need a drink! Kim

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    1. Hi Kim. Yes, reading bus and train timetables, and map reading, are essential skills when your phone gets nicked! And on the letter-writing skill, I remember my grandfather teaching me how to make an envelope out of a sheet of plain paper, though I must admit I don’t recall how it was done. Have that drink. I’m going for one now.
      All the best, Alen
      PS Cold and wet here with fresh snow on the mountains. The fire is blazing but no BBQ fluid has been used.

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  4. Great post and very, very true. I’m extremely worried and annoyed about ‘driverless cars’ and you can guarantee they’re going to make us use them eventually! 😦

    Where did you get the superb picture at the end?
    Carol.

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    1. The monkey picture is a “still” from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s just occurred to me that it would be cheaper to train monkeys to drive us around than spend all that money developing driverless cars. Safer too, probably.
      Cheers, Alen

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  5. I am glad your vision of sitting by the fire and watching the stars worked out for you, Alen! Looks lovely. No midges? Or bigger Spanish-style insects? We don’t have a sat-nav, because Colin refuses, although it would save me a lot of bother in getting lost; but driverless cars – I mean, what? Would you send it out to get shopping?

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    1. I never thought of that, Jo. Send it out for the shopping. And what about going to the pub, having a skin full, and getting it to take you home? Have the authorities thought about that one? I bet it will be illegal.
      No midges here yet, but lots of strange things flying about, including a big blue dragonfly I saw today.
      Cheers, Alen

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    1. And so is the future written, Hanna. There is a new book out (I forget by whom, but I saw a review this week), which predicts a simialr scenario, with the vast majority of humans reduced to dependency. Hopefully, it will be after my time, but I’m not so sure.
      All the best, Alen

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  6. Flames. Whistlin’ kettles. Apes. Nice article, Alen.

    Yesterday, I made a wick out of a matchstick, string and wax. Best weekend ever.

    Steve

    p.s. I do agree about the infantilisation (word?) of humankind.

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    1. Hi Steve. You’ve stirred a distant memory with your home-made wick, but it’s so distant I can’t remember what it is. It will come to me eventually. Something my granddad taught me (like making tanks out of a candle stub, matchstick and rubber band) but I’ve since forgotten.
      Infantilisation is a suitable word.
      All the best, Alen

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