A guest post by Cleve West
People often say to me…“what the hell are you doing in my shed!!??” No, seriously…they (and by people, I mostly mean my long suffering partner, Christine) often accuse me of staring at tools, not only staring at them, but also staring at them in the wrong way. Only the other day she caught me salivating over a billhook on the Bulldog Tools website. “Why are you looking at that billhook like that!” It’s almost as if I’ve been caught staring inappropriately at another woman but Christine’s intention is to not only stop me from looking demented, but also snap me out of the trance that will inevitably lead to an unnecessary (unnecessary in her eyes that is) transaction. It’s true, tools do carry a fascination for me (outlined in sad and graphic detail here) and so I have to spend a reasonable amount of time justifying the purchase which often involves a lot of thought and the occasional reference to one of my most prized possessions: a French book entitled. ‘L’outil’ (The Tool). Beautifully illustrated with old drawings and modern photographs of old tools, each tool featured is a virtual work of art. Turning the pages slowly is not only a visual feast but also, and I know this may sound a bit odd, a sensuous experience. I have no idea what some of the tools are used for as the book is in French. I could have a reasonable stab at a translation if I put my mind to it but something stops me from even trying. It’s as if such knowledge might somehow spoil the magic.
“Look it’s in our favourite book,” I said, eager to get my trump card in early. Christine, being an artist, appreciates the aesthetics of old tools and she too holds ‘L’outil’ in high esteem. Showing her a picture of the tool in the book would ordinarily be enough to win her over to buying the billhook. The trouble is that she knows I already have one, a handsome antique with a short, caramelised-with-age handle. What she doesn’t know, however, is that it’s broken. James Alexander-Sinclair vandalised it at our allotment last year while filming something for 3 Men Went 2 Mow. He’d thrown the tool (in a rather cack-handed, limp-wristed sort of way) at my shed door in an effort to make it stick like a knife-throwing exhibition. The idea was that we would then edit it to make it look as though a variety of tools were being thrown at Joe Swift who had been bound and gagged. I can’t remember the reason why gardening implements were being thrown at Joe (truth is we don’t really need one) but James managed to snap the handle on his first throw. Annoyingly, the clip was never used.
I’ve got no real need for a billhook. I’ve never laid a hedge, which is what it’s mostly used for, I just like the fact that it looks like a mediaeval weapon and the fact that it’s a tool you can wield. There are only so many tools you can apply that word to. You can wield a billhook but you can’t wield a trowel. You can wield an axe or a brushing hook but a sieve you cannot. There’s a certain amount of presence you can generate with a billhook that you can’t do with, say, a dibber. You can’t even wield a wheel-barrow even though it has a wheel. Wielding suggest that you are in control; you have the upper hand; sadly, in this particular instance this doesn’t appear to be the case.
“You don’t need a billhook, you’ve already got one. I bought it for you. Remember?” Christine says. It’s true. I’d forgotten but she did buy it for me. I explain about the breakage.
“What? You broke it! How on earth…??”
“No, not me, James.”
“Who? Not James Alexander-Sinclair?”
Christine knows the puerile antics that 3 Men Went 2 Mow get up to but she still doesn’t believe me. James can do no wrong in her eyes. It’s as if I’ve accused the late Geoff Hamilton of being a secret peat user and she’s not impressed.
“James doesn’t do tools, I know that, everyone knows that. You should be ashamed for trying to pin the blame on him.”
“But I have proof!” I said, with more relief than any measure of smugness “I filmed the whole thing.”
Annoyingly, the clip on my flip camera had been deleted together with footage of James trying to stick sherbet flying saucers to Joe Swift’s head and other incriminating evidence that could have been used to show Christine that she’s been wrong about James all along. Game over but I’m having that billhook.
I suppose the moral of this story is “don’t trust your friends with your favourite tools”…or…“if you are going to throw gardening equipment at a bound and gagged mate, make sure it’s not an antique…the tool that is”. Either way the breakage is still justification enough for me to buy the billhook and, while I’m at it, a brushing hook, and a farming premier slasher might come in useful too along with some rope…you can run Mr Alexander-Sinclair, but you can’t hide.