It’s been a hard few years. Life has been stressful on a personal and global level: deaths, illness, pandemic, tenure files, surgeries, and general political madness leave me feeling sometimes like the world is on fire. None of us should live in such interesting times. My friends keep recommending new television series(es?) to distract me, but truthfully, much as I generally like suspenseful films and programs, my usual diet of crime dramas is way more than I can take these days. What I’ve been watching the past year is soothing television where people are kind to each other, and no one yells or shouts, even with joy.
This makes for pretty limited choices as there are only so many episodes of The Great British Bake-Off. This past fall, we watched all the episodes of another BBC show, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, a show about two friends, both older comedians, who go fishing at various beautiful places in the UK. Sometimes they catch fish (which are then promptly released); sometimes, they don’t. This is about all the suspense I can handle these days–I hear they’re making a new series, but the recent Christmas special was the last one released so far.
Enter The Repair Shop. Apologies to my UK friends who know all this, but the show’s premise is a grown-up version of the children’s program Bagpuss — people bring damaged or broken heirlooms to this barn (aka The Repair Shop) full of craftspeople. The people then explain why the thing is so important to them, how it got broken, and why they want it fixed. They then leave the impossible-to-repair item, and we watch one or more of the craftspeople fix it, explaining a bit about what they’re doing. The people return, their no-longer-broken items are returned to them, and everyone is so happy they generally cry. Here’s an example of an item coming in:
Many bits of jewelry, clocks, toys, pottery, furniture, pinball machines, and two typewriters are fixed, a number of which involve lathe work, something I could watch all day. At one point, the clockmaker made custom springs, a process that fascinated me beyond belief. So Season 4, Episode 20 finally gets to what I’d been hoping would turn up, the first episode featuring a fountain pen. Sadly there isn’t a video available on YouTube of it, but perhaps you’ll be better at finding it than I’ve been.
The pen is a Wyvern (not sure what kind — the link is to a 2011 thread on Fountain Pen Network giving the British company’s history) fixed by British fountain pen expert Laurence Oldfield of The Pen Practice (this is a link to his lovely website, one with a real, old-fashioned, and useful links page). We see him opening the pen’s barrel, making a new sac and replacing the old one, repairing the filling system, and replacing the pen’s damaged nib with a new old stock one. Fantastic. I only could have wished for better close-up camera work.
If you’re interested in watching The Repair Shop, the first
four (now) five seasons are available through Amazon Prime (I know they’re evil, but what can you do?) if you subscribe to Discovery+. Of course, there are other ways to watch more recent episodes, but I’m not getting into how to watch BBC broadcasts from outside the UK on my blog. However, if anyone knows how to pay their license fee from outside the country, please let me know. It would make me and my English husband pretty happy.