I 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?
I 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.
And 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.
I 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.