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The geeks shall inherit the earth

Down in this blessed district of Jollye Olde, we’ve been grievously short of rain lately. (No, really…this is either the sunniest and second driest, or the driest and second sunniest, corner of Britain. I never remember which). But we’re making up for it now. Three days of wild, mad rain. Stuck inside for now, so here’s a picture from happier times — i.e. two weeks ago.

One of my favorite parts of the local country shows are the collectors who gather along the edges. I suspect they neither pay to be there nor are paid to be there, but they turn up in funky little tents and trailers to camp out for a few days, commune with their fellow geeks and show off their passion.

Like the guy with dozens of ancient wrenches (spanners to you Limeys) from all over the world, neatly tacked to pegboards. Or the one with the fifty or so antique gas cans (petrol cans to you Brits).

Or this guy with all the billhooks (billhooks to you persons of Anglo Saxon ancestry). Billhooks are a sort of general purpose woodworking tool, still very much in use by thatchers, farmers, coppicers, hurdle makers, charcoal burners, hedgelayers and, under some conditions, soldiers.

Though you can’t read the labels, the designs reflect various professions but also — more interesting to me — different regions. So a Yorkshire billhook is different from a Folkstone billhook. Yorkshire is a big district, but Folkstone is just a small town. That its billhook should be different from Tenderden’s — another small town not far away from it — is, I guess, what makes these things interesting to collect.

But the charm of this one? He was showing off a billhook collection, yes, but this ain’t it. This is a display case full of tiny, lovingly handmade models off various billhook designs.

You can draw a straight line from this brain to the brain that built the difference engine.

September 25, 2012 — 9:55 pm
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