James May: The Reassembler

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James May: The Reassembler

January 08, 2017 - 13:39
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When it comes to watching James May re-assemble classic gadgets, you’d think it would be one programme I’d avoid, but I find it strangely engaging, strangely fascinating.

James May

By Phil Jones @PhilLlwynog

Back in the day my grandad made clocks. His garden shed smelt of wood, linseed oil and birdseed. He captured wild birds and caged them; hence the birdseed, but mainly he made clocks, beautiful clocks. The day my grandad died we freed his birds. It was like a scene from the "Birdman of Alcatraz," without the schmaltz. I can still smell his shed, even today.

My dad also is technically brilliant, built his own house and lectured in electronics. A right clever dick!

When it comes to me, with all those ‘techno’ genes flowing through me, you’d think I’d be a practical and technical whizz. Alas, I can’t even wire a plug, and struggle with the new kettle, (un-boxing the bloody thing was a even a challenge) and I tend to have unfortunate incidents near anything vaguely mechanical. My meccano set as a kid stayed in its cardboard box, and those little Danish bricks totally mystified me. My dad tried everything to get me into all things mechanical. One memorable Christmas he bought me a Drawing Board with Continuous Wire Parallel Motion. I was convinced it was a record player to play my copy of “Hurry Up Harry” by Sham 69. Alas no, a board to make engineering drawings with. I think I cried. I cried in secret, not to upset him, but I drew a record player with it. As close as I got.

So, when it comes to watching James May re-assemble classic gadgets, you’d think it would be one programme I’d avoid, but I find it strangely engaging, strangely fascinating. Perhaps I’m some kind of weird voyeur, that gets turned on watching people screwing things, getting their nuts out, using such terms as gussets and flanges. Perhaps there’s a name for it. Something like ‘Voyeuristic Mechanophilia’?

In a world full of inane celebrity shows, over enthusiastic morons, and commercials every five minutes, watching James May on my telly box using his greased shaft and his specialist screwdrivers gives me a strange thrill. If you were ‘turned-on’ recently watching that canal boat amble along for hours, this gives a similar feeling, but in half hour bite sized portions. I have a secret admiration for anyone who is technically proficient, but watching them in real life, would be a real turn off, however here I’m lost in James’s liquid voice and tender hands.

The premise of the show is simple. Take an everyday object, such as a lawnmower, telephone or guitar, lay all the pieces on a workbench, and ask James to reassemble them, and see if the object still works. In this episode he reassembles a Kenwood Chef (strangely named after a guy called Ken Wood would you believe).

Whilst reassembling, James gives a short history lesson about the given object, which can be quite satisfying in a dull, geeky kind of way. Up to now, he always succeeds, this time he even makes a cake mix with added rust for flavour. Its wonderfully reassuring timeless TV, at a pace that’s refreshingly slow. Like my grandad’s shed I can smell James May’s flange bracket covered in oil from here, and it smells just fine. James could come round and play with my ballcock any day of the week.

I’m off for a cool shower, as long as I can work out how to put the bloody thing on!