|www.adam.co.nz||| endorsements||| Peter Calder|
It's not easy to step into the future with the past still stuck to your shoes. And, sometimes at least, it can seem a little hard to scrape off.
This is not the first time I've accepted (or issued, for that matter) a proposal of marriage. Not to put too fine a point on it, my intended and I have racked up three weddings between us and -- yes, I'll admit it -- I've contributed more than she has to the tally.
I will sidestep as unobtrusively as I can the looming question of why we're scampering down the aisle again. That's another story -- and anyway there is no aisle in the spot we've chosen for this solemnisation of matrimony.
But it seems to me that getting married is one of the few things in life that gets harder with practice. At the risk of inviting deluges of mail from people who have underlined the bit where it says "till death us do part" (can I just point out I'm not the first person who didn't make a go of it?), I have to say it's hard work giving a sharp edge to rituals dulled by repetition. I close my eyes and imagine saying "I do." I hear a chorus of snorts from the dearly beloved, and a voice protesting that "I'm sure he said much the same thing last time."
The wedding rings posed the same challenge until we hit on an idea (she says she thought of it; I reckon I did) which offered the chance to forge the future from a tarnished past. A jeweller friend, Brian, makes magic with base and precious metals in a workshop in the Titirangi bush. He specialises in custom-made spectacle frames -- face furniture, he calls them -- but he didn't get where he is today without hammering out the odd ring.
Which, I guess, explains why we found ourselves one blustery Sunday shifting nervously from foot to foot in his workshop as he considered the handful of old jewellery -- symbols of unions now dissolved -- which we had poured out onto his desk.
He stroked his chin and prodded a calculator as he reckoned that the motley jumble of silver and gold would make two rings of 6.84 carat gold. We were less interested in the statistics of the assay than in whether we were equal to the task he had set us -- melting down our old rings and crafting new ones from the molten globule of alloy.
Brian, wisely we felt, did the tricky bits -- the ones that involved blue-white jets of burning gas or split-second timing -- and left the repetitive, labour-intensive tasks to us. So we annealed the alloy by laying it over a gas flame until it glowed. Dropped into acid, it cooled suddenly with a hiss so violent it sounded like a yelp. We neutralised it in soda and rinsed it in water.
In between times we hammered on the shapeless lump and rolled it though a precision mill. We pounded it in the grooves of a mould to achieve the rounded look we wanted. We cut the right lengths with an impossibly slender saw blade.
We pounded each length into a hoop with a leather mallet, holding it in the trough of a wooden block with a tapering steel bar. With novices' unsteady hands we played the blue gas flame on each ring and watched as a millimetre-square paring of gold solder was sucked by capillary action into the gap between the closely matched ends. The circle closed.
We buffed and polished the finished rings until they glowed. We glowed too.
Published Sat 18th July 1998.
Reprinted courtesy "The New Zealand Herald".