Posted on: April 1st, 2013

small clock 2

Bank Holiday Monday: the banks are shut but the customers are out spending their money in force. The Derwent Valley is a magnet for spenders, hikers and bikers, popping out for a pint of milk is a 2 hour expedition.

On arrival at the Mill, the film and music equipment lies dormant, a series of tidy piles in the Developer Room, so kindly entrusted to us by John Smedley and Co.

Bank Holiday means that the mill workers are off all day, the entire mill lies dormant, ready…

Waltzing through the sleeping machinery of the enormous knitting hall, I am struck by just how complex the older machines look: row upon row of identical olive drab well-oiled machines with grey steel governors, cams, pinions, shafts and spindles all wearing a fine thin protective film of lubricant, the smell of warm wax hangs in the air, apparent only, perhaps, to incomers like me.

The hall is spotless, everything in its place, no margin for error.

Florescent earplugs nestle sleepily in their dispensers, everything seems poised to spring back into operation on Wednesday.

Which switch is thrown?

How do you make these things work?

How are they coaxed back into life?

Working in the knitting room, day-after-day, the workers must get used to the procedure, oblivious to the complexity of the process, and, like an old car, they must get used to the signs of break-down: above the racket, and through the earplugs;

that extraneous whirr,

that unwelcome click,

the gentle complaint of a tired bearing

about to fail.

One of mankind’s more gormless expressions: ‘if it ain’t broke –  don’t fix it’ wouldn’t fare too well here. Machines are like humans, the right constant  care and skilled attention stops the breakdown from happening

‘If it ain’t broke – it probably soon will be’

And so too – when it comes to the flight cases packed with electronic gismotronickery. To my untrained eye, nothing would ever fit together, everything would require a puzzled expression and a manual, with ‘that’s strange, it doesn’t usually do that’ comments to accompany a sound bashing. Not so for Marco who leaps over boxes, drags out cables, positions speakers in a pre-ordained position, all seems normal and natural, just another day’s work, only we don’t let him have a bank holiday today.

Lunchtime arrives, The Developer clocks off, the clock stops ticking and all is ready for knitting…

yarn store 3

One of the more idiosyncratic rooms at Smedleys: a room where tall tales can be exchanged amongst the workforce.

EEC regulations demand that all participants are warned of being stared at upon entry.