Friday, February 4, 2011


This week we went to Murchison. Drove. Bad, I know. Like Mr Larrington smoking a cigarette. Two hours to get there and two hours back.

We went shopping.

Those who live in this region are aware that Murchison is not a prime shopping centre, but we like Murchison because it does not overwhelm you with choice. There is a supermarket, and it says 'Supermarket' above the doorway. There is a tearooms, pretty much ditto. There is Hodgkinsons which is a general store and draper, and there is Meats, which sells meats. It really does say that. Above the door. 'MEATS.' You don't get many vegetarians in Murchison. And there is a junk shop that used to be run by a lovely old lady who hadn't a clue as to what anything was worth, and so Murchison was a sort of workshop Mecca where Stanley breast drills could still be had for a tenner and Timoshenko's Strength of Materials languished on one of a zillion bookshelves for $2.

Not any more. The junk shop is now called Somebody's Treasure and is run by a German. I am not going to say anything horrid about Germans even though my wife's mother is one and they didn't win the War. But all the books are now rubbish. There are any number of glass bottles for sale - why would anyone want to buy glass bottles? - but the tools are now heavily marked up, four dollars for an old file, four dollars! so it's no longer worth going there when you need to make reamers, annealing them overnight in the woodburner and examining the cold but newly warped iron banana that emerges in the morning.

So we went to the museum. Murchison Museum turns out to be the place that buys the bottles: they have a comprehensive bottle collection, and if I was also interested in identical sewing machines (they have gathered up all the old Singers in New Zealand) I could spend a happy hour examining them. Luckily inside the Brown Shed there was a wooden lathe made by one Jack Hills and his father, for working metal. Hurrah! Wooden lathe bed, wooden cross-slide, couple of steel plates instead of machined dovetails, chunk of wood with a screw through it as the tailstock, two chunks of wood and plain bushes, I think, as the headstock. It was fabulous. And I forgot to take a photo.

The Museum had several bicycles one of which was a Raleigh Twenty. Raleigh Twenties do not belong in Museums, even in Murchison. I had a Raleigh Twenty and I will let you into a secret - the main tube, which is an inch and a half in diameter, has a wall thickness of 2mm. I know you will not believe me so I will let you into another secret: you can find this out for yourself with the aid of a hacksaw. Once we all used to turn Raleigh Twenties into SWB recumbents with one bit of surgery to fit a 700c wheel in the back and another to trim the rear triangle so it didn't dig into your back. They handled really well, too.

A Raleigh Twenty, quite a long time ago

Murchison used to be famous for its Earthquake of 1929, but this has now been upstaged by the Christchurch one of last year which, I see, is still yielding plenty of aftershocks - there were 666 in the exact four months following the big September 4th earthquake, and this last month they held another 66. The rest of the history of Murchison is encapsulated by the fact that the Museum keeps a record of everyone who was a telephone operator there. I should not like to be a journalist in Murchison. The only Human Interest story happened back in 1909 when a farmer, accused of stealing cattle by his neighbour, attached dynamite to himself and after discovering to the Court-house that he was about to blow them all up, was hurried out onto the street where he quite simply disappeared, injuring two innocent bystanders and a policemen.


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