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Men who stare at tools by Cleve West

Men who stare at tools by Cleve West
Posted on 24/05/11 | Posted by Cleve West

People often say to me…“what the hell are you doing in my shed!!??”  No, seriously…they (and by people, I mostly mean my long suffering partner, Christine) often accuse me of staring at tools, not only staring at them, but also staring at them in the wrong way.  Only the other day she caught me salivating over a billhook on the Bulldog Tools website. “Why are you looking at that billhook like that!”  It’s almost as if I’ve been caught staring inappropriately at another woman but Christine’s intention is to not only stop me from looking demented, but also snap me out of the trance that will inevitably lead to an unnecessary (unnecessary in her eyes that is) transaction.  It’s true, tools do carry a fascination for me (outlined in sad and graphic detail here) and so I have to spend a reasonable amount of time justifying the purchase which often involves a lot of thought and the occasional reference to one of my most prized possessions: a French book entitled. ‘L’outil’ (The Tool).  Beautifully illustrated with old drawings and modern photographs of old tools, each tool featured is a virtual work of art.  Turning the pages slowly is not only a visual feast but also, and I know this may sound a bit odd, a sensuous experience.  I have no idea what some of the tools are used for as the book is in French.  I could have a reasonable stab at a translation if I put my mind to it but something stops me from even trying.  It’s as if such knowledge might somehow spoil the magic.

“Look it’s in our favourite book,” I said, eager to get my trump card in early.  Christine, being an artist, appreciates the aesthetics of old tools and she too holds ‘L’outil’ in high esteem.  Showing her a picture of the tool in the book would ordinarily be enough to win her over to buying the billhook. The trouble is that she knows I already have one, a handsome antique with a short, caramelised-with-age handle. What she doesn’t know, however, is that it’s broken.  James Alexander-Sinclair vandalised it at our allotment last year while filming something for 3 Men Went 2 Mow.  He’d thrown the tool (in a rather cack-handed, limp-wristed sort of way) at my shed door in an effort to make it stick like a knife-throwing exhibition. The idea was that we would then edit it to make it look as though a variety of tools were being thrown at Joe Swift who had been bound and gagged.  I can’t remember the reason why gardening implements were being thrown at Joe (truth is we don’t really need one) but James managed to snap the handle on his first throw.  Annoyingly, the clip was never used.

I’ve got no real need for a billhook.  I’ve never laid a hedge, which is what it’s mostly used for, I just like the fact that it looks like a mediaeval weapon and the fact that it’s a tool you can wield.  There are only so many tools you can apply that word to.  You can wield a billhook but you can’t wield a trowel.  You can wield an axe or a brushing hook but a sieve you cannot. There’s a certain amount of presence you can generate with a billhook that you can’t do with, say, a dibber.  You can’t even wield a wheel-barrow even though it has a wheel. Wielding suggest that you are in control;  you have the upper hand; sadly, in this particular instance this doesn’t appear to be the case.

Wow, wow, wow! Quality Garden Tools are so lucky to have Cleve write a guest blog on the day he won a Chelsea gold medal as well as best in show. Cleve is a genuinely lovely guy and is incredibly humble about his talent - we are very happy to shout on his behalf!

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