The butterfly valve and the 20c coin


Last year I had a noteworthy error of judgment. I knew it was a risk but somehow I still thought it would work. I placed four eggs in a Pyrex bowl and put them in the microwave. The resulting explosion blew the door open and spattered the entire kitchen with egg debris – from floor to ceiling. Everything reeked of sulphur.


When I posed the picture on Facebook a friend wrote to me: “Did you clean this or just throw it away and buy a new one…?”


I must say, throwing it away did cross my mind. But I came from a generation that did not throw things away so easily. I was the last generation to be brought up with some of the lessons that were learnt during the Great Depression. We were taught to salvage things.


I was reminded of this fact one day when I visited my grandfather. He was seated on the veranda, patiently filing away at a 20c coin.

“What are you making Grandpa?” I asked.

“A butterfly valve,” he said.

I was perplexed and wanted to know why he didn’t buy one.

I will never forget his slow answer: “Son, where I come from you could not buy things like that. And even if they were available – you could not afford them. I have the time. So I am making a butterfly valve.”


Grandpa filed at that coin for two days. And when he fitted it to the carburettor of his lawnmower it worked perfectly.


Last week a friend of mine behaved badly and thought I would never talk to him again. He asked me if I could forgive him. I just smiled. I grew up in an age when we fixed things that were broken. We do not throw them away so easily.