© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

David Bouchier: Things That Last

Devanath from Pixabay

Audio File

Edit | Remove


Some of the things in my life have been with me for a long time. This struck me when I was using an old metal colander in the kitchen. It’s bent and battered, and the handles are slightly rusty. I could buy a brilliant new stainless steel colander for about $40. But the old one works perfectly, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have it. Several of my favorite cooking implements are similarly ancient: an old iron skillet that you can only lift when wearing a back brace, some chipped enameled saucepans, and a couple of blunt chef’s knives.

I’m surrounded by things so familiar that they seem to have been here forever. My desk is a treasure trove of historic pens and pencils, rulers, dried up ink bottles, spectacles prescribed for a much younger man, and business cards dating back to the 1960s. I keep a 1939 vintage manual typewriter in case of power cuts, and an old filing cabinet that is built like an armored truck, and will obviously last until the next millennium. The cabinets I bought at the local office warehouse were so flimsy that they fell apart in a couple of years. There are recording machines that date almost back to Edison’s time, and a mass of archaic electrical gadgets that must have been useful for something at some time.

Preserved in the garage are some perfectly good tools that belonged to my father, and for all I know to his father before him. Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and drills never wear out – especially if you are a reluctant handyman like me. My car too will soon be old enough to qualify for one of those Classic Car license plates, but she runs.

Sometimes my attachment to old things may go too far. There are a lot of bald toothbrushes in the bathroom, and some very tired shoes in my closet. I don’t like to get rid of shoes until the soles fall off. Good clothes, too, tend to stick around. I have a theory that they will become fashionable again every twenty or thirty years, but it hasn’t happened yet. The stuffed rabbit I had when I was a child, creatively named “Rabbit,” still hangs out in the living room, looking quite young.

All these things have followed me from house to house, and even (at some expense) from country to country. They were made to last – and they have. I like that. Surely quality things that last are more worth having and keeping than tacky things that don’t? Quality is rare enough. We are happy to find it, it in intangible creations like music and literature, as well as in tangible things like skillets and stuffed rabbits. And we can appreciate quality in institutions that are somewhere between the two – institutions like public radio, for example. When something has quality, it should be treasured. It would be madness to just throw it away.

Copyright: David Bouchier

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.