I very much like to make things. At quite a young age I set about making a big, curving dagger out of brass in my father’s workshop under the house. It was to be a stage prop for my role as King Theseus in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a fair amount of fatherly help I fashioned a fearsome, glittering weapon which I doubt I would be allowed to take to school nowadays.

I like to make things in a very particular way: without instructions. When I was an apprentice carpenter the painters would sometimes use a brand of paint that had embossed in a circle around the lid,

If all else fails, read the instructions.

I can still feel the immediate and visceral attraction I had to this paint-tin philosophy. It was funny, but it was true! What a grand way to live.

And on the cover of my maths exercise book in Year 12 I had a Hagar The Horrible cartoon from the Sydney Morning Herald in which the great man was instructing his offspring thus,

“Ignorance is the mother of adventure”.

This, I thought, is a rule for life!

Nothing rivals the deep satisfaction that can be gained from an industrious afternoon in the workshop. A sense of peace invades my heart, and all seems well in the world. For that while, at any rate.

But as I was mulling over this personal oddity while waiting for a bus this week, I quite suddenly saw a darker, heretofore hidden aspect to my aversion to instruction. It’s something akin to lawlessness, if on a modest scale.

I believe myself to be a law-abiding citizen; in fact I take a smidgen of personal pride in being honest, and on the right side of the law. But, and this is a BUT, I don’t actually know very much about the law. I can’t remember ever looking up a road rule, for example, or any other law: I just assume I know where the lines lie. I might go so far as to say that at some level I believe the law supports my views on right and wrong, rather than it operating in the other more conventional direction.

Driving is a very good example: the driving test I took to gain my Black Licence (I have never, ever used an L or P plate!) consisted of one question:

“Can you drive?” 


”Fair enough”.

I was 18, living in the Gibson Desert, speaking with the police constable who came through about once a fortnight. That’s all there was to it.

Back at home in Sydney, some time later, I took a driving lesson just to brush up on everything I didn’t know about traffic, which was rather a lot. I remember the driving instructor saying,

“Brakes please”.

“Brakes please”.

“Brakes please Mr Allen!”

At the end of my single lesson he asked if I would be booking another, and I replied no, I was satisfied with one lesson thank you.

I don’t think you are ready to pass a driving test Mr Allen”.  

You can imagine the exciting news I had for him!  I don’t remember any more what his reply was.  Perhaps he was speechless.

My brief bus stop reverie even included the realm of faith: I have occasionally made the observation in our church, from the lectern, that I have earned only one qualification: that of Carpenter; but there is a well known precedent, and this is quite enough.

I have rarely been employed in the traditional sense of having a boss; and when I did have one I’m not sure I was reliably compliant. I do like to sail my own boat.

So, from a simple reflection on the joy of creativity, I had travelled in less than the time it took for the bus to arrive (on time) to a view of myself as a person who mocks instruction, who shuns authority, who has the air of entitlement, who assumes superiority, who is recalcitrant. (No, no! You should not rush to protect me from myself).

The position of our eyes in our head is truly instructive. Mine are placed in just such a way that except for a vague sense of the tip of my nose I can never see my own face. The best I can do is to look in a mirror, take a photo, or (as a last resort) ask someone else what I look like. This is an organic parable, a lesson to be earnestly noted and contemplated at the earliest opportunity.

“Young man”, I want to yell through time to my younger self, “Everyone knows you better than you know yourself.
hink about that!”

But this shift in perspective is not a young man’s game, is it? It takes a lifetime for us to know ourselves, and as the veil is gradually drawn back the thing we behold will not always be to our liking. Occasionally this will explain why it was not always to another’s liking also; but mostly it will be yet another lesson in Grace: All this, and yet I am Loved.


5 thoughts on “Makeshift

  1. Barry Squire

    Thank you Rod for your reflections! And Praise God for time to wait for a bus! I too love to fix things without the “benefit” of a handbook or instructions! Just pull it apart, have a look at what’s broken, find something in my garage collection of bits and proceed with a fix! My wife will probably attest that success is the usual outcome, for which I praise our Master Maker and Fixer!
    Always enjoy your piece, Rod, and have often meant to comment. Today the sun is shining in ARMIDALE, and I have time!
    Barry Squire 😎🙏🏼🎹🪗🎉☕️🍰

  2. Barry, I’m trying to place your name. Did you once take me on a canoeing foray somewhere East of Brisbane? It’s a distant memory now, and if you didn’t this will seem like a bizarre comment! The collection of bits and pieces is most important, and leads sometimes to groundless charges of “hoarding”. I love the experience of being able to build or fix something without looking further than the workshop. Thank you for writing, – R.

  3. Hello Bill! I knew you in Wagga didn’t I? If I didn’t that may seem an odd thing to say, but I think I’m on the right track: you pastored a church sort of up the hill from Kings. Sort of up the hill – even the geography of Wagga is becoming a bit vague. We were only there for four years in the end, and we’ve been down here in Wodonga for more than a dozen years now. Thank you for writing, – R.

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