My radio

I like to listen to the radio when I’m cooking or planting seeds or generally pottering around, so a portable radio is essential. About ten years ago I asked for a wind-up one for my birthday – I thought that this would be great both because I would be saving electricity and I would be able to use it anywhere, whether there was a power supply or not. Mr Snail-of-happiness duly provided me with a model that was not only wind-up, but also solar-powered. Brilliant – if it was sunny, I wouldn’t even have to expend any energy!

And for several years it functioned well – mainly living on the sunny kitchen windowsill, which faces south-west. I used it for, perhaps, an average of an hour a day. But then the batteries stopped holding their charge and it had to be wound up on days when it wasn’t sunny, because it hadn’t stored any energy. ‘No problem’ said Mr S-o-h, ‘I will replace the batteries.’ It’s great to have someone about the place who understands electricity and electronics, so off he went to open it up and see what sort of batteries it needed. And then came the problem. This radio was not designed to have new batteries. The screws holing the case together were not standard and could not be undone using a normal screw driver. Mr S-o-h was not deterred and fiddled about until he got inside, replaced the batteries, reconstructed the radio and all was well. It sounds easy, but actually it took him ages.

And for several years it functioned well. But then the new batteries stopped holding their charge. Once again Mr S-o-h had to break into the casing, but now the non-standard screws were becoming damaged and the plastic of the case was starting to weaken (it had been sitting in the sunshine for eight years after all). We realised that eventually, if we kept opening it up, the radio would completely fall to pieces and, indeed, it was already no longer holding together well. We discussed replacing it, but this was not what we wanted. The idea of buying a replacement went right against the grain – we got it because we didn’t want to produce waste, so we certainly didn’t want to throw it away.

So, Mr S-o-h modified it so that the batteries live in an external holder where they can be replaced without opening the casing. It’s currently held together with a big cable-tie. I guess that, eventually, the plastic will disintegrate and we will have to construct a wooden box to keep the workings in. The tuner isn’t very good any more, so now we are confined to a single radio station, unless we embark on a bit of a struggle. But it’s still going.

We are now so attached to this radio that it cannot be allowed to die… I just wish that when it had been built, the makers had the ethos of sustainability, rather than deliberately making it difficult to repair and maintain. I guess that we just aren’t very good consumers from the perspective of manufacturers.

Solar, wind-up radio in its latest incarnation… still going strong

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