Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Confessions of a junk-man

You know the old saw: 'You have three choices, and you can have two, any two - you can have it cheap, you can have it quick, you can have good.'

And this is very true, and as a writer, cheap is always the must-have option (I have explained to you that despite the rip-off prices on books here in Oz, I get 6% of the _US_ paperback price? (on the solo books - it drops 2% on the Lackey and Flint ones) You are being gouged, but actually, that's two of us, not me doing the gouging). I've sold more than 1/3 of a million books, and I have to count those pennies very carefully.

Now I didn't do for the money, any more than I live off the land to save money. It does of course, a lot. But I would choose to do this even if I won the lotto (for which I don't have a ticket) tomorrow. There's an ever diminishing chance I could hit the bestseller/movie jackpot, but I'm too politically incorrect and and not much good at kissing up, and probably a pretty average writer - you can succeed with the last so long as you're really good at the first. I'm not that perturbed about the fortune I could have made if I'd chosen a profession on the basis of making money. I like what I do, I'm quite proud of it, and we generally get by. I do, like everyone, get a bit of envy when I see someone cheerfully buy a piece of kit I'd love, and would actually USE - which some folk don't. It's their money, and if they want de-lux saw or breadmachine they will barely use - at the end of the day the junk man will find it either on the tip or at the garage sale, resurrect it, and love it and use it and fix it until it really is irredeemable. And he'll have the satisfaction of knowing he got a real bargain. My biggest bitch is the petty beaurocracy which makes so many things so expensive and add no value at all, effectively saying to the poor-but-industrious-and-careful 'no you can't build your house with the cash you have, and scraps you can get over the next ten years. You can only have a 2 year permit and it'll cost you more than you would have spent on things to fit your house of recycled scrap -solid and safe and better value than you as a poor bloke could ever afford -which we won't allow you to use. No you must either be very rich or buy poor quality but approved expensive clap-boards which we're happy to sign off on.'

The problem that the junk man - me - has, of course, is projects. Whether it is a trailer, or a longline or a new bit of lean-to or another patch of garden, it takes a BUNCH of stuff. In time that can usually be found, and in more time assembled - If I was to buy a longline's ingredients to match mine - would cost me around $180 - let alone getting someone to make it for me. It cost me just on $12. And I put off and agonized about spending that much... and the ingredients have taken me about 3 years and five different sources to cobble together. Today I scavenged 4 three metre toss -out poles - a bit damaged but nothing a chainsaw to the end can't fix. I have some 3.5 meter 4X4". I'll get some scrap iron and make a lean-to for the boat-trailer with that. And I found a broken plastic drum that will make wheel mudguards for the trailer... and so on.

It means three things: the one is I have plans - lots of them, which I have to change to fit what I get at the next garage sale, or get given as a 'I thought you might want this'. The second of course is I have a lot of junk - some of which I have a plan for. I'm not in Peter's league, but working on it. The third of course is I have patience and dreams. I've been lucky in my friends and finds, and try to pay that back in kind - that way the luck keeps happening. Over the years with patience and work I've achieved a fair bit of those dreams - had to kick a few to the curb to emigrate, but we'll fight up.

Most of what we have is good and was cheap (to us, if often not in the first place). It's not flashy or new. But it's ours.

Which is why I'm a junk man and proud of it.


  1. Yes, I have to constantly fight the innate engineer's instincts that I might just need that piece of junk to bodge something into working order. Usually by doing a hard clean each year. And discovering about a week afterwards, that that item I threw away would have been useful in this circumstance. But not throwing out the old stuff would put even more strain on the hyperspace generators holding everything in my place. <sigh>

    I still remember the feeling of heaven after scrambling with chronically underfunded university departments when I actually had a budget to work with in private enterprise. You mean I don't have to make do with stuff salvaged from the 1950's space sciences group, a clothes peg, and knowing exactly where to place the screwdriver in violation of all OHS standards? Callooh! Callay!

    1. I want a multimentional shed. You ALWAYS regret kit you throw out, leave behind (I'm still regretting ropes and nets I had to part with more than 20 years back.)

    2. How many times must you mention the shed before the shed becomes multimentional? At the moment it is bimententional (or trimentional by inference), so I suppose one more mention of the shed (or mentioning the shed twice to avoid inference may be all that is required to truly make you shed multimentionable. Your command is my wish! Or something like that.

      Unless it needs to be be mentioned by different sources, as a repeated mention by me just increases the magnitude of the mention rather than the manifold of the mention. But I'll leave that to the more practised ontological epistemologists amongst us.