Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Here’s how it’s done: the masts fold down. And when you’ve inserted the boat in the milk bottle and glued it to the plasticene sea (using that odd bit of coat-hanger wire to press it down), you pull on the long bits of cotton to elevate the masts, glue and cut off the ends, and drink a bottle of champagne for its cork.

It’s fiddly and time-consuming. Life’s too short, you may well think. But that’s not the reason why, years ago, I stopped ship-bottling. I stopped because, after making around a dozen, it was becoming a routine, with diminishing returns of pleasure. And stepping up a few levels to become a professional bottler did not appeal. There are plenty of other things to do at an amateur level – gardening, origami, sport, cooking (cooking is especially good, because of the social element) – in which the time-consuming factor is irrelevant to the enjoyment derived from the sheer damn difficulty of what you are attempting to do. Fail, fail again, fail better. It’s why some of us play music, paint, write. Some of us better than others, but that’s not the point. That sentence again from the memoir of Hugh Sykes Davies I quoted a few posts back: ‘He loved doing things he couldn’t quite do, such as writing fiction or playing the accordion.’

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