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Monday, December 14, 2009

Quality verus quanity in Port Macquarie

Our floating home is filled with unusual, yet familiar sounds. The slow, steady, finger drumming drip, drip, drip of sea water seeping past the propeller shaft seal is accompanied by the irregular crackling pop of shell creatures just outside where I lay my head. But there’s a sound that never misses day or night, sunshine or gale, and that’s the tolling of the half and whole hour from our constant friend Little Georgie Porgie.

His smiling round face joined our good ship not long after we got started on this sea roving life. In the days when a dollar was a small fortune to us, when we tried not to spend a cent if we could either do without or do it ourselves, he came as a gift from Judith's mother. Kind soul loved us so dearly she dug deeply into her meager savings because she wanted our adventures to become an odyssey that would one day set a standard for a full life, and bought a timepiece to help manage our lives.
She purchased a quality set of Schatz ship’s clock and barometer, and these two beauties we proudly mounted on our main cabin bulkhead next to where our sons did their school work, in easy sight from where we steered Banyandah to thousands of  new destinations around this wonderful Earth.
Every seventh day we faithfully wound the clock twenty-seven turns with a silver key that had a special hook in the ship’s galley. In return, rain, storm or shine, Little Georgie chimed the beginning of adventures too many to count and its ringing became a constant reminder of mum’s love and her best wishes.

From earliest times, ship work has been set to its four hour cycles, and our Little Georgie chimed once at the first half-hour following midnight then twice at one in the morning, thrice at one-thirty, four times when two hours into the four hour cycle, which finished in eight commanding rings at four, eight, noon, four in forenoon, eight o’clock at night, and the one I eagerly await, eight bells announcing the change of watch at midnight.

Clock shown in 1981
Womens Weekly article

For over thirty years our faithful friend struck the time, never once missing a beat - not once. Then while on our voyage around this grand island continent Little Georgie started running slower and slower, although his chime still sounded strong and hearty. Being the same frugal man, I removed Georgie from the wall, took off his back and immediately was impressed by hundreds of gleaming, beautifully cut, golden brass gears spinning round and round. And crowning this mechanical wonder, a lovely shaped bell with twin strikers. Hmm, I thought a drop of oil must be required and lavish my friend with a splash before replacing him back on my wall.

Well, alas, poor Georgie only got more sick, running slower till he stopped. After that, our home seemed rather lonely as though a family member had been lost. Georgie’s chimes were especially missed in the long and lonely hours on watch.

Arriving back home, I contacted a clock doctor and his prognosis was for a complete rebuild with an estimate upwards of a week’s wages. Now I realize labour costs have risen, but I was aghast by how much. Maybe we should buy a new Georgie, so further inquiries were made. More astonishment followed upon hearing a new timepiece, now made in Asia, would cost ten times what my mother-in-law paid thirty years earlier.

Aah, but one dealer offered a glimmer of hope. An electronic gizmo was available that would fit inside the old case. Without needing winding, it would keep better time, and electronically replicate the sounds we missed most. All at 10% replacement costs.

What a quandary. Electronics can be good, but often are rubbish. Do we dig deep for a Chinese look-a-like of olden day quality or chance a little black box that had a mini-speaker attached?

It’s the same quandary for all of us. Quality versus price. And yet, in today’s shopping mall mentality, quality is a misbegotten term. It’s a word often meaning a cut above rubbish with a better warranty. Why? Maybe because we live in such a rush. Pride in what we do has been demoted down to necessity. And I’m wondering if that doesn’t also apply to the way we live our lives. Quantity of crap versus less of the best. Think about it. Then wonder what lies ahead in your children’s future.

Note holes drilled for speaker

A footnote: So far the electronic gizmo has kept perfect time, but its chime sounds artificial, lacking the sweet sharpness of strikers on a well made bell. Having said that, it is simply lovely to have Georgie Porgie back as an active member of our crew.....

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