Watch­ing the World go

Evergreen - - Contents - by with ‘ Way­farer’ .

Char­lie works for the com­pany who are re­de­vel­op­ing the har­bour­side. This day his task was to erect three 30- foot flag­poles. Not a straight­for­ward job. The poles would be raised by crane and bolted to the ground. But it was up to Char­lie to make sure all three were lined up and ver­ti­cal. One lean­ing at an an­gle, or all three lean­ing at dif­fer­ent an­gles, would not be a good look for the com­pany.

“If they were the same thick­ness all the way up,” Char­lie said, “it would be sim­ple. I would use a spirit level and that would be that.” But these poles ta­pered from a wide base to a much nar­rower tip. A spirit level just wouldn’t work.

Char­lie con­sid­ered var­i­ous sci­en­tific tech­niques and equip­ment, then de­cided on a much more “lowtech” method.

He stepped back, closed one eye, and lined a flag­pole up with the cor­ner of an old build­ing across the street. Pointing this way and that he got his work­mates to fix it roughly in place. Then he shifted po­si­tion, lined up with the edge of an­other old build­ing and did the fine tun­ing.

He re­peated this with each of the poles, leav­ing them per­fectly lined up and per­fectly ver­ti­cal.

But why use the old build­ings, I asked, es­pe­cially when he worked for the com­pany putting up the new build­ings.

“The old ones have stood for a hun­dred years,” Char­lie informed me, “and they could eas­ily stand an­other hun­dred. That’s be­cause they were built per­fectly per­pen­dic­u­lar.” Then he laughed. “But I bet those old ma­sons never imag­ined their care­ful work would be used to straighten flag­poles long after they were gone!”

“And that, Char­lie,” I thought as I walked away, “is why we should al­ways do our best, no mat­ter what our job may be. Be­cause we can never know, or imag­ine, when some­one, some­where will de­pend on us hav­ing been straight and true!”

The clang­ing of ropes and metal fit­ting against flag­poles re­minded me of Ron­nie and the fund- raiser he or­gan­ised for the Dis­as­ters Emer­gency Com­mit­tee.

Near the end of the event he wanted to at­tract ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion to tell them how much they had raised for the ap­peal. He picked up a hand­bell from a shelf. Then he al­most put it down again. The han­dle was deeply scored, the clap­per had a lump miss­ing and there was a cir­cu­lar crack run­ning around the dec­o­rated rim of the bell. But when he swung it the bell made a lovely sound.

He got ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion, and started a few folk reminiscing about the bell the jan­i­tor used to ring when they were at school. That, and the good amount raised for charity, rounded the meal off nicely.

“Just goes to show,” his wife Elaine said. “You don’t have to look good and have all your bits about you to serve a use­ful func­tion.”

Ron­nie agreed, but he told me later that he’s still not sure if she was talk­ing about the bell or him!

ROGER MECHAN

The school bell rests on the teacher’s desk in a recre­ated class­room at the Weald and Down­land Open Air Mu­seum in Sus­sex.

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