Story by Emmjay

Now I am a man, my usual theme park – apart from any ukulele gig or the Pig’s Arms is Bunnings.  It used to Bunnings Ashfield where I managed to rack up two minor bumps in what must be the world’s most treacherous car parks.  One time my front wheel fell into a monster pothole and rocketed the old Subaru into a brand new parked car.

Now I am an honest man (within reason), so I put a note identifying myself, my insurer and my phone number with a profuse apology.  I expected to receive a phone call giving me a giant earful of abuse.  Instead I got a polite SMS from a chap who had the same insurer thanking me for my honesty – and I never heard a thing about it again.  I was having a size four anxiety attack because I figured this small bump was worth one or two grand worth of panel beating and painting – so, nothing serious but the insurance company didn’t even jack up my premiums.

Bunnings, granted, is a soulless but fascinating megalopolis with the important virtue of supporting charities via sometimes really suss sausages on a roll plus drink for $4 where decent people let them keep the spare dollar change.

But when I was a boy, hardware was an Aladdin’s cave experience redolent with smells, and dusty textures and the wisdom of some ancient couple – the custodians of all knowledge hardware – in Whitworth, imperial and metric sizes.  And my Dad said they also had UCF (United Chinese Fine) which stood for bodgy sizes that usually fitted the job better than standard measurement bits.

East Hills Hardware was a pair of siamese shops on the wrong side of the pub – abutting domestic bliss clad in fibre.  The floor was bare and well-worn  wood with a fine dusty patina.  One side was homewares – like kitchen gadgets of uncertain pedigree and usually faded pastel colour in boxes that could well have been made out of papyrus.  It was of no interest to me.

On the other side were floor to ceiling wooden shelves with usually unlabelled cardboard boxes of every shape and size.  Was Christmas every visit.  One visit will suffice as illustration of the pinnacle of customer service.

I was a home bicycle mechanic – with unlimited time and curiosity about how stuff was put together, how it worked and as the Buddhists say, the conditions required for its continuing operation – the lubricants, anti-rust, hardness, durability….. and on and on.

I for got to also say … the wonderful adventure of re-assembling it – if at all possible and restoring it to operations – and considering the lessons learnt when this proved to not be a viable outcome.

Bike steering was a bit notchy.  I decided to open up the headstock and examine the ball bearings in their headstock races.  Aha !  Not one, but two broken 1/8th inch ball bearings from a loose set of 22.

Mike: Hi, I need some 1/8th ball bearings for my bike.

H/W man:  Headstock bearings,   How many ?

Mike:  Two.

Man: I can give you two for nothing – but wouldn’t you want to replace them all because those were probably only the first two to break ?

Mike:  How much for 22 ?

Man:  11 pence.

Mike: Great – I’ll take them.

Man (putting them in a tiny paper bag);  Here’s a gob of grease (putting that in another plastic bag) try not to let it seep through the bag and get on your pants.  Clean and smear the races and then the bearings will sit in their properly when you put the head races back in.  Tight, but not too tight or you’ll bust some more.

Now I’m a man again, walking along Redfern Street, in the 21st Century, on my way to work and I found this…..


Mrs Proprietor was not enthusiastic about being photographed.  She said that her husband was OK about that but he was out.

May the Goddess bless these fine people and their tiny emporium is the main street of Redfern.

I bought four white plastic flyscreen clips (40c) and two small fine corner sanding handled devices for those hard to get bits in door corners ($10 the pair).