Monday 21st, continued. John took us to a general builders store where we purchased the timber to make a pole-lathe, shaving horse and a workbench. These were randomly sized planks which were taken to a ‘sawmill ‘. They had a combination circular saw and planer. There were no guards, as I’ve experienced before. When we left in a Toyota pickup, with long lengths hanging out of the back, it was with slightly less randomly sized pieces of timber. There were no square corners which would have made marking out so much easier. This process took so long it was near to sunset and time to catch another overloaded taxi back to Mbale and the hotel.
Tuesday 22nd. Back in Budaka I set about matching pieces of wood to components. Each component was marked with dimensions and name. After this pieces were systematically marked out and cut to length, shape and ready for drilling. So far all the preparation work was done using a low dining room table as a bench. Bit by bit the bench components became ready. This process took until Saturday. The bench was the first to be completed but was less used than the table. The bench was ‘officially’ declared open and ready for use by the village Chairman, (like a mayor). Coincidentally his name was also Mike, and he had visited us to show support and interest. He also said a big thank you to me for helping and supporting John and through him the village.
The work was carried out by Lillian, John and several of his brothers plus a couple of carefully chosen village friends. John’s dad showed a keen interest in proceedings. Grace, John’s wife prepared lunch each day with Lillian assisting. When she had the chance Grace also did some of the work. With Grace and Lillian being involved there many chants of “girl power”. There was also a healthy level of leg pulling and banter which made it a great adventure.
Each of these days were exhausting. With the heat draining energy, the concentration levels, the long days and the on going problem of communication, especially as it was technical talk and an all new experience for them all apart from John, Lillian and Prossy who joined us on Saturday.
On Sunday John travelled to meet us for 07.30am at Lucia Villas hotel, after breakfast we went to the street where vehicles are repaired and other metal working carried out. The street was jam packed with parked and moving vehicles as well as people on foot. Hammers were used quite a lot to persuade things to work. Angle grinders were used freely with sparks flying in all directions, no goggles for the users. Arc welders creating there dangerously bright light completely unshielded to anyone nearby. Long lengths of steel carried amongst the crowd, usually just by one person. Small bonfires smouldered as rubbish, including plastic was burnt. Not the best place to spend a few hours. I should have taken a photo, and may take some to post. We went there to have some steel plates made up for the lathe. Quite a simple task under normal circumstances, 50mm long x 40mm wide x 8mm thick. Two 5mm holes drilled and countersunk and one central hole drilled and tapped to a 12mm thread. Easy with the right equipment and expertise. I think haggling the price took an hour or so. Eventually a piece of heavy angle iron was used. This was cut with an angle grinder, naturally, in the street. Two samples were copied from our ‘master’ copy to prove they could get it right. Once we had these we beat a hasty retreat and headed for Budaka. I should add that each piece cost us just over the equivalent of £1. After checking all of the components I realised that some small jobs needed to be completed. We set about those but work stopped for lunch at about 4pm I guess. We had a local freerange chicken in a stew that tasted so good. After lunch we did a little more work before needing to separate John’s tools from extra tools that were borrowed from Lillian’s and Frigious’s kits. Then after loads of photos it was time to head home. We still have to assemble the pole-lathe and make three legs for the shaving horse. I’d arranged with John that we would return after we had spent our scheduled time with Figious. So, this part of the story will be continued after an interlude of a few days.