Yesterday, mad inventor John Ward, who designed and makes the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards for the annual Edinburgh Fringe, sent me this email:
The other week in my Ward’s World column in the local Spalding Guardian newspaper, I made reference to ‘Our Annie’ a shopkeeper whom my mum knew. Annie would not sell ‘straight’ bananas as they had to be curved – Nothing else would do for her loyal customers.
I mentioned in the column that I once made a ‘Banana Gauge’ – basically a piece of wood with one side curved and the other straight. There was no photo in the column but here is one of my original ‘invention’.
I had forgotten about this particular newspaper column when the phone rang this morning and a young lady spoke.
“Is that Mr Ward? – the inventor John Ward?”
She worked for the BBC and, while researching assorted sources for possible news or items of interest, she had come across the said Ward’s World column.
Our conversation went roughly thus:
Q: Was the gauge digital?
A: Nope, it was made mainly from wood. The hole was made with a drill
Q: Did it come from sustainable forest supplies?
A: Not a clue as it was a wood off-cut
Q: Where does the Off Cut tree grow? In what country?
A: Not really sure but, as far as I know, Sir David Attenborough has not mentioned it as being in danger, otherwise a film crew would have been dispatched by now.
Q: On the environmental issue, do you think it could be in danger of becoming extinct soon, though?
A: Not sure, to be honest.
Q: So what made you, as a highly regarded (she said it, not me) inventor, decide to build this gauge?
A: I had the wood from the Off Cut tree to hand… Plus a curved banana to use as a model to get the curve right.
Q: I see… So did the straight side prove to be a challenge or what did you use to get that right?
A: I used the edge of a door which, to be honest, I had to open first. Then I held the gauge up to the edge and drew a pencil line downwards to get the angle right.
Q: I see…umm.. I assume this did not happen the first time, so how many prototypes did you construct before standing back to say: “This is the one. This is THE gauge” – Did you have your very own personal eureka moment?
A: I only had the one stab at it to be honest.
Q: So you knew straight away that this was THE one?! – That’s really remarkable, if I may say.
A: You may, you may. But it was really due to the fact it was the only bit from the Off Cut tree I had at the time… plus the local DIY store had shut by then so I could not do another as I had no material to use.
Q: I find your ‘low key’ approach to inventing quite incredible. You see the need, then you use your skills, you devise it in your mind. You don’t do any drawings or blueprint things?
A: You have hit the nail on the head, as we say in the business.
Q: Has there been any interest from any commercial concerns about marketing this device so far?
A: It depends largely on if the bananas are home-grown or imported.
A: Oh yes…
She said she would get back to me “in due course”, as she feels “there is something here” that shows the British bulldog spirit thing is very much alive in these current traumatic times.