If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 8 January 2010

Sentimental find

Curious to know the exact overnight temperatures here (and revealing myself as a bit of a nerd as a consequence, I suppose), I went today to dig out the old max/min thermometer that we keep in the greenhouse. It hasn't been used for many years, and has lost the little magnet that is used to return the thin metal pins back to their rightful places before they are pushed back again by the rising and falling mercury. (To those who only know digital thermometers, ask your parents.)

So a search was begun for a magnet. I have one on a little telescopic car-aerial type thing that I use for retrieving lost nuts and bolts, and which has saved me hours of fruitless searching over the years, but that had hibernated for the winter and could not be found. Of course, I did what every man does when he has searched everywhere on the planet for at least five minutes, and I asked my wife if she had one. She did, but she couldn't find hers either. However, she pointed me in the direction of my mother's old sewing box. "A sewing box should always have a magnet in it," she said.

I hadn't really looked inside the sewing box since we cleared all my mum's effects from her flat eight years ago, but I found the box and had a rootle inside. And there, at the bottom, was a magnet.

Proust wrote pages about the memories brought back by the aroma and taste of a madeleine. This little magnet - horseshoe-shaped, painted red with that lovely crackle finish they used to use, and with a little keeper bar across the ends ("so that all the magnetism doesn't fall out," she used to say) - brought back a flood of memories, all happy ones, of rainy afternoons, "can I have something to play with?" and just messing about with something interesting. I used it to stick lengths of Meccano together, and to create patterns with iron filings (no idea where I got those from), and do all sorts of things just because I could. Holding this little magnet brought all of that back, and I spent a pleasant few minutes just - well - playing.

The upshot is that the thermometer is now outside the front door, correctly reset, so that tomorrow I will know how cold it got in the night. When I brought it in from the greenhouse, the lowest temperature it had recorded was -12.5°C. I imagine that was a couple of days ago, when it was -11°C at 9.00 am. It hasn't been as cold as that in years, so that's probably the right occasion.

It is now -7°C (10.45 pm) and falling.


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