Triumphing over adversity

To be personal for once, if you will allow me, I’ve not had the best of years. The first three months I put up with sciatica, a sometimes crippling pain in my leg that meant even moving around was tricky at times, far less standing for any length of time or carrying weights. Not ideal for a builder of larger models! Then just as that was cleared I found myself going into hospital for a sudden operation to deal with a partially detached retina. All went well, mercifully, and convalescence follows. For a while, though, I have been coping with some odd visual problems as a result while things settle down again. Driving is OK, but looking down at small items near me is tricky, which again makes some Meccano building an interesting experience.
But so what? These are relatively minor things that hopefully will improve in time. I see no reason to act my age just yet, even if recently I have felt it! But these experiences have given me good reason to stop and think about other people in the Meccano world. I remain in awe of the models that many of our friends produce despite considerable difficulty. I know some who are profoundly deaf and others who have suffered strokes which have led to disability. Several work from their wheelchairs. Others are living with the most serious of ongoing medical treatment and make light of it. But perhaps the most astonishing example of triumph over adversity is seen in Terry Bullingham, an ex-serviceman who was blinded during the Falklands conflict. Far from giving up, Terry continues to build in Meccano. Some of his models are small and intricate, but his most recent was a Blocksetter! I try hard to be tidy, but I’m not, and so I struggle to find parts even when they are out on my workbench. How Terry copes in his circumstances I cannot imagine, but I salute him.
Perhaps the example of so many of our friends is a testimony to the spirit which our hobby engenders – we see a problem and we try to solve it. We are told that something can’t be done, so we try to find an alternative way of doing it. We take the parts and the abilities that we have and try to produce something special with them. A few Christmases ago the Spanner e-mail list challenged people to produce models using one of the smallest sets Meccano ever produced – and the results were astonishing! Our hobby continues to enable the triumph of the human spirit over a whole range of limitations. Perhaps that spirit may still have something to say to encourage this modern world of disadvantage and austerity. Our hobby has never really been about wishing we had more than the next person (and who really needs that many 5½” Strips anyway?) but about making something special out of what we do have. And from those of us who take delight in the work of those of you who do just that, our warmest congratulations!


About Philip Webb

Chairman of the International Society of Meccanomen
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