28 January 2012

28 Jan 2012, 1147hrs local (Scotland) time.

I woke up this morning thinking about the weeks and months just after my dad had died, and Crusty, Fox, and I had settled into a 3/2 brick ranch in SouthEast Alabama. Thinking how cold it was that first month in Alabama, how Fox had been changing as he approached his third birthday, how difficult things were between Crusty and I.

I lay there in the nice warm bed with Paul and the cat snugged in under the duvet, and thought to myself "Why am I thinking about that horrible time?"

I got up (late, it was very cold here this morning and it was a real force of will to crawl out of that warm bed and start a fire in the bedroom wood stove!) and got the morning started-Paul loves to make breakfast so while he did that I did other things. Eventually we both took breaks and booted up our computers to check email (FOX-write yer mum!) and scan the news.

I have a routine. I open the email and look for personal emails first. Then I move all the earthquake alerts to the EQ Log folder and pdf the page listing them so I can delete the previous days worth and move on to the new day. Then I read the news headlines morning newsletters sent out free from news feeds all over the world-it's how I stay in touch with local and global current events.

I read the local (UK feeds) stuff first, starting with The Scotsman of course for the really local stuff, and where once again it looks as though I haven't hunted enough Haggis to win a holiday at the famous St Andrews Golf Resort. Oh well, there is hopefully a next year. Paul and I don't do Burns Night so much for the Burns as for the end of the annual Haggis Hunt, lol!

Then moving quickly through The infamous Daily Mail (oh, don'cha love a bit of refined tabloidy trash first thing in the morning?) and onto The Telegraph for serious news, I scan the headlines and sometimes do a pdf of the articles that are interesting, educational, or seem to be a part of the forming jigsaw of Life.

And then I start receiving the US feeds, and I trawl through The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The LA Times (among others). As I work my way through the US morning collection, I am usually on cuppa number four and thinking about making another pot...

This morning I was so unsettled by waking to memories of Crusty and the misery he caused Fox and me that so far I've skipped the tea, although Paul did force breakfast on me-bless him! I make him eat things like brussel sprouts, broccoli, and salads, and he makes me eat breakfast every morning. We have a perfect marriage (which is why I hate waking up dwelling on misery-it seems SO disloyal to my wonderful Paulie!).

Well, I'm on my way to make that pot of tea now. I read through the British newsletters. Moved onto the NYTs, and there at the end of the newsletter was the offer to see the pdf of the NYTs front page on 28 Jan 1986-the morning the space shuttle Challenger exploded just after lift-off.

And because I do know that we humans are anniversarial even when we don't consciously recall the date, I now know why I woke up thinking about AL, Crusty, and those unusually dark winter days so long ago across the American Deep South.

It's been so long ago, and yet for certain people it must seem like it is happening all over again. Humankind is anniversarial, and today is a very sad anniversary.

I recall where I was this morning all those years ago-I was getting the morning started in a SouthEast AL 3/2 brick ranch, my three year old playing with his breakfast, and my husband sulking in the living room while I listened to CNN news as I washed the dishes.

28 Jan 1986:

We'd had a terrible row the night before, fierce for all it was conducted in whispers so as to not disturb Fox; unresolved the next morning, Crusty flounced into the living room and sulked in the dark. I made breakfast (his sat congealing on the breakfast table) and tidied up in the kitchen, not really paying attention to the little TV on the counter until the CNN announcer said "And we have lift off of the space shuttle Challenger..."

I turned off the water and went to stand in front of the TV. I watched the screen and the interspersed shots of family and shuttle and it was only seconds after lift-off that the Challenger lift-off became the Challenger Tragedy. Fox went completely still as I called Crusty to the kitchen with the words "Oh my God, Mike, come quick!"

We spent the rest of the day glued to the TV, hoping against hope that the astronauts somehow had miraculously been saved.

But of course, they had not.

28 Jan 1986.

No-one should have died that morning and 'they' should have learned from the earlier tragedy that occurred (eerily enough) 19 years+1 day prior to that horrible 1986 morning-the launch pad fire in Apollo 1 that killed three men, including the uncle of one of my friends.

I feel safe saying that because I heard it said by another friend, this one met during FL Master Gardener training. He'd been part of the team in FL that day in 1986 and when I met him in 1993 he was still shattered by the event, blaming group think for the decisions that killed both the Apollo and Challenger crews.

He retired soon after the Challenger disaster and avoided the place like the plague. Knowing my family loved the space programme, he gave us his tickets for 'ringside' seats to the Endeavour maiden voyage.

The intervals between majour disasters seems to shorten. Apollo 1 burned on the launch pad in Jan 1967, Challenger exploded in Jan 1986, 19+1 day years later.

Space shuttle Columbia, 17 years+4 days after the loss of the Challenger crew, burned up on re-entry because no-one had been willing to loudly suggest that loosing a chunk of foam during lift-off might cause catastrophic damage to the tiles.

I've been blessed-over the years I've known some amazing people, people of tremendous courage and honour. Some of them have been involved with the space programme, and they are sorely missed. I read a piece this morning on the Washington Post about the Apollo 1 horror, and the gentleman interviewed made it clear that he believes safety is the one cost-cutter that should be done without.

He is so very right!

27 Jan 1967
28 Jan 1986
1 Feb 2003

15 January 2012

Hard to believe Paul and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary on Tuesday-wowsa, where DID the year go?!

Well, of of course the answer is that four months of it went to VisaQuest, lol, while I lounged about my son's flat. ROFLOL, lounging as in cleaning the oven for the first time since my son moved in the previous August, and other Mom-on-a-visit type cleaning. Laundry, sorting, and through it all my grateful son thanking me for unearthing things he'd thought he'd lost. It was a great visit, and took up four of the twelve months of Paul's and my first year of wedded bliss.

The remaining eight months have been rather good (oh I am getting the hand of British understatement:). Nothing is perfect, saves boredom, but it has been rather nice to be married to Paul over this past year. We have a quiet life, lol, our biggest excitement being the latest incredible sewing machine find-permit me to digress from blethering on about my blissful marriage to bang on about:


And I do mean pristine! It's in amazing condition, the Victorian decals barely worn although it is clear the machine was being used by a homemaker as recently as 15 years ago-we found sewing notions in the tool compartment on the machine case that we can reliably date to having been sold in 1997.

I don't really know how these women manage to keep the decals on the machines in such good condition. When I use mine, I tape a plate of cardboard over the decals, but I really don't know if that's how the original owners managed. I do have one near antique Singer with most of the decals worn off where the fabric feeds across the flat bed, so I am always astonished when I find one with age AND intact decals.

Now, as to how this little beauty has joined the collection...

There is a charity shop here in town that does wonderful work with people who have hit a really rough patch (usually unemployment or loss of the main wage earner), they are a bit like Habitat for Humanity without the house building aspect. We like to support them by visiting often and buying (if we need a piece of furniture, they get amazing stuff!).

Because of Paul's background and my amateur interests, we've steered them towards using an auction service to sell the better things they get in. They really do get amazing things, Art Deco wardrobes, glass and housewares, and other bits and sticks that we know sell for incredible prices. Paul advises them on the furniture and glass, etc-made them hundreds of pounds they wouldn't have got otherwise.

So we volunteered to come in and check anything they had questions about, and for me to do the function tests on any sewing machines they get.

This came about because I bought two machines from them that were originally hideously overpriced (and one needed extensive repairs). I spoke with the manager on both occasions and was able to show her why those machines were over priced, which led to her throwing her hands up and saying that many of their clients would love to have a decent working machine...which led to my saying I would come in and check any machines before they priced.

I got a lovely free-arm that way-the second originally overpriced machine. The manager watched me carefully take it apart to find out why the bobbin wouldn't wind, then fix it so that the bobbin winder feature was restored to full functionality-she was so pleased that I could actually do what I said I could that she offered it to me at half the price I told her she could reasonably get for it in the shop-since I didn't have a free-arm and needed one, we had a deal!

The first over-priced machine was an interesting sale, too. I simply turned the hand wheel-which was jammed, and pointed that out to the manager, who then asked me what I would pay. The machine is a duplicate of one I own and love, but mine came without the instruction manual which would have cost me £17 to order and have shipped. The one in the shop with the original instruction manual but needing majour repairs was priced at £25, and I told her any buyer would have to spend at least £40 to have it fixed. I told her I needed the manual and offered her the £17 but she dropped it to £10, and I scurried home with the machine as fast as I could!

So over the past few months I've gone in and checked machines, fixing if I could and leaving a note on what was needed if I couldn't fix it on the spot so buyers would know what they were getting.

I've even made them money by having them send Feather Weights to auction, where those beauties have raised several hundred pounds for the charity. She told me once they would have priced those especially low because "They're so old..." OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!

So. Last Monday morning we got a phone call asking me to come have a look a 'really old one'. Since I've got them able to recognise a valuable Feather Weight, I hotfooted it down there thinking they had something REALLY special, and oh my word, did they ever!

As you can see, the very rare coffin lid case is in outstanding condition, as are the decals, the hand wheel, and the crank.

I took down the serial number all the while nearly incoherent with joy that I was actually in the presence of such a rare old Singer-I could tell from the serial number that it was a pre-1900 model, I could tell from a quick examination that the machine was is perfect working order (oh wow, it had a sharp clean needle in it and modern sewing notions in the tool compartment), and I was just flabbergasted to see the coffin lid at all much less in such amazing condition. LOL, I really couldn't stop babbling, I kept telling the woman I'd never hoped to see one in person outside of a museum.

After making sure she knew it should have a reserve of at least £50, I left the shop and skipped all the way home with the happiness of having been able to handle such a rare piece of Singer history. I contacted Singer to date the machine and download an instruction manual.

Tuesday morning the answer came back as I'd suspected-this little love, a 3/4 version of the larger vibrating shuttle model 27, was built on 17 March, 1898, in Clydesbank, Scotland. Official name: Singer Sewing Machine Model VS 28K. Oh. My. Gosh! I contacted the charity shop manager to give her the results and went back to my quiet life. I was very excited, of course, to think they would get at least £150 for it at auction, after all it is a rare coffin lid in excellent condition, a functioning machine that makes a gorgeous professional stitch, goes all of the time for £150-250 depending on how many collectors are at the auctions...

Thursday we went to Dundee to celebrate our wedding anniversary a bit early. We came in late in the afternoon to find a message on the answer phone-their auctioneer refused to handle such "...an old piece of tat..." and would I like to have it-FREE OF CHARGE?

WOULD I?????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul lugged it home, all fifty pounds of it, walking a mile carrying this thing home. I still cannot believe we have it in the house. Just the coffin lid case is rare, to have the case and machine looking as though it's maybe twenty years old is incredible.

We're going to recondition it (only needs a bit of a tune-up as it looks as though it was unused for about ten years but stored in a dry, clean, and warm spot) and sell it on, donating the proceeds to the charity. I feel so lucky to have a chance to have this 114 year old machine visiting my house!

Right, back to marital bliss. ROFLOL, I do not recommend finding a new husband online but it's sure worked out for me:) Paul and I think the only fly in our balm is that Fox and The Grandson live across the Atlantic.