Where have all the skills gone?

28 06 2012

For 20 minutes I sat and watched an abortive attempt to tow a heavy steel structure across the car park of the engineering works that specialised in welding. They were using a thoroughly inadequate chain which kept breaking and it was getting boring so I decided to go and see what was happening with the coffee pot. I’d bought it at the gym coffee shop towards the end of last year because it seemed easier to use than the espresso pot that was probably older than me and, despite being very expensive, I thought it had to last a long time as it was made of stainless steel. I’d never been over-impressed with the marketing guff on the side of the box; “The Signature Collection is 100% craftsmen made because objects that are made by craftsmen resonate with emotion. Pick one up and you can sense the time and effort invested in its creation“. It felt to me distinctly machine mass-made to me but what the hell, it was a Nick Munro design (whoever he is if indeed he exists) so it had to be good. Then last week the spout began to leak and lo, with minimal effort, it came right off! Some craftsmanship this was but having paid $60 for it I thought it worth getting fixed.

They still hadn’t managed to get the gas lit so with an increasing sense of foreboding I decided to hang around and watch. Eventually things started to happen but it seemed to take an awful long time to merely re-attach a spout. The welder then made off with the pot and my concern turned distinctly nasty when a stub of a file was found and the inside of the pot attacked. I asked for it back, told the foreman I wasn’t paying and made off with the pot and my money nearly and hour after arriving.

It’s well know of course that skilled artisans are in short supply worldwide. Zimbabwe is no exception. In the dark days of the Zimbabwe dollar’s plunge in 2007/8, large numbers of professionals and artisans left for more stable and better paid jobs elsewhere. It was at that time that I had my Land Cruiser engine rebuilt at a machine shop in Harare. All seemed well but after 2000km it self-destructed and I opened the engine to find all 6 liners (hard metal sleeves in the cylinders) broken. I found out later that the original owner had sold up, emigrated to Australia and then sponsored all his best machinists to go over from Zimbabwe and join his new business. As I had done the re-assembly of the engine I was advised that I could not try to pin culpability on the machine shop even though it was obviously their error. Quite how they’d managed a blunder of that magnitude nobody could really tell me.

On a far larger scale the commercial farmers who were kicked off their farms in the land grab in this country took their hard-earned skills to the Middle East, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Iraq, West Africa and even Russia amongst other places. Zimbabwe is not an easy country to farm and we are now paying dearly for these skill losses.

As for my coffee pot I will have to see if the mess can be cleaned up (he even managed to BURN THROUGH THE SPOUT!) enough to make it useable. So it’s back to the old espresso pot (on the right in the photo) which although more fiddly to use does, in my opinion, make better coffee. Who knows, it might really have been put together by real craftsmen all those years ago when they weren’t in such short supply!




5 responses

28 06 2012

It looks strangely familiar, I didn’t realize it was still about!

29 06 2012

Yes, the handle is a bit the worse for wear but otherwise still functional and it makes GREAT coffee though I cannot think why it should be better than the plunger one.

1 07 2012

I love the Italian Moka makers (the one on the right). Whatever possessed you to buy something else?

2 07 2012

The plunger thingy is much more convenient to use. And it’s shiny – must be a boy thing…

4 07 2012

Can’t possibly be easier than the Moka maker; Anyway, glad you have the MM, so you can have coffee.

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