Reprinted with permission from The Stationary Engine
Undoubtedly the best investment any of us men ever made was THE WIFE. Have you noticed how adaptable she is: for example, after leaving school/college, she worked in an office, factory, hospital or trained for some special duty like female S.A.S. or nursinghandy if we are a bit clumsy with a starting handle or poke our finger, or some other part of our anatomy, between a nice set of meshing gears! She gave up all this in order to cater for our every whim and be an engine enthusiast's wife, as well as a house-keeper, and in some instances a mother, in her spare time. So when we men take up a hobby like engine collecting she is recruited to the arts of engine painting, cleaning kit, making sandwiches for the lads, as well as selling the odd engine when a possible buyer calls when we are at work. She talks about 'hoppers' with great aplomb and knows that a Lister water hopper holds a pint more than her sink, and an egg will boil in the hopper in 67 minutes if starting from cold! She buys paint, oil, and the other paraphernalia, at such times as when we can't slip out of work funny how she buys it cheaper than we can, and never forgets the change when old Joe's wife comes in to buy his paint. She also finds out that Joe's last paint job 'pickled up' AND that his engine caught fire when he started it funny, old Joe never said anything at the club. Funnier still is that old Joe is booked to give a talk on painting engines, and safety first at the club soon.
We wonder where the housekeeping money goes and moan when we see the cost of biscuits for the month. WE EARN the money, yet strange as it may seem, WE SPEND IT AS WELL! That magneto cost 60 to overhaul (don't tell the wife), the crank cost 25 to grind, and what about that engine you bought from Tony for 120just at a time when it was agreed not to buy any more. A new pair of shoes for the wife? 'Yes, luv, here's 3, buy yourself a nice scarf as well.' What a magnanimous gesture.
What about the engine club: how many of us would go if it were not held in a pub? 'We only have a swift half before the meeting, luv.' (And two pints at half-time, and a pint after wards and if we are lucky, we can pop back to Rob's to see his Amanco and have a quick half in his kitchen if we are lucky! I remember giving a talk in Cornwall and the clinking glasses through the talk sounded like a brass band accompaniment! 'Yes, luv, you take your friends out for drink after the bingohere's 50p.'
Then there's the car: it wants an oil change, the radiator leaks, the brakes are bad, it wants a clean yet 'I won 1st prize at Beaulieu, luv, cleanest engine at the show, not a water leak, and the oil in the lubricators was like new.' 'The car? Oh, yes, I will look at it tomorrow.' What about the garden: it wants digging, the gate has fallen down.. .'Yes, luv, old Joe will do the gate, his woodwork is second to none.' Later, 'They loved my trolley at Beaulieu, best woodwork they had ever seen, won 1st prize again.' Late, same day, 'Just can't dig the garden, it's my back.' Same day, evening' Just popping up to old Tom's. He wants a lift with his Blackstone.'
'Go on holiday? I can't go away in case they want me back at work at a moment's notice.' The postman arrives' Oh, here's a letter from old Angus up in Aberdeen, he's found a shed full of engines and wants US to go and have a look see.' And then comes the food problem, '. . .your birthday, luv, take you out for a steak or up the chippie, sorry there's problems with my 'pantry hut' (gut), have to take it easy.' The tale is different when our tired rallyist returns home the next weekend'' went back to old Eric's after the rally, had chips and egg, soup, ice cream, lemonade, a few beers, and we even drank the chip fat for a bet! Feeling O.K.? Of course.' What about the paper bill 'Must cut down, luv, cancel Women's Own, Lady of Leisure, Lady Penthouse just stick with the daily papers.' 'Oh, I was forgetting, we must have a cheque for the new religious magazine Sabatical Educator, just make out the cheque to 'S.E.', luv, I'll post it myself.'
Yes this may sound a big joke, but it does contain a subtle element of truth, there is a vital role for matrimony in the stationary engine movement. Don't let's take our wives for granted, bring home some fish and chips once a month or take her to the Chinese or steak house and wives LET ME KNOW IF THEY DON'T!!!