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The Flat Cap on ... Wire

This morning The Flat Cap was doing some dusting in his lounge, including behind the corner unit that houses his television and satellite box. As usual it was a bit of a jumble with wires and cables and this got him thinking about where wire first came from and what it was initially used for.

The earliest bits of wire go back thousands of years but because there was nothing very useful then (like televisions, toasters or electric kettles) people just used to make items of jewellery with them. Go to any decent museum, ask to see some very old jewellery and there’s a good chance they will have some ancient Roman necklaces, rings and bracelets; all made from shiny bits of gold and silver wire. However it wasn’t until the mid sixteenth century that Great Britain had its first wire mill. Nobody really knows why people had continued to make wire by hand. Perhaps it was because they were too busy discovering new countries, or hadn’t invented electricity. Whatever the reasons this meant that there wasn’t a lot of demand for wire. Nowadays you can’t go anywhere without seeing wires or cables of some description. Rather than try to list every form of wire he could think of The Flat Cap went on a walk of his local neighbourhood to see what types he could spot.

The first thing he noticed was the large row of pylons near his house. Built to carry electricity they are very tall and tower over the local landscape. The Flat Cap thinks this might be why he got his house fairly cheaply, as some people worry about the effects of electromagnetic radiation and won’t buy homes close to power lines. The Flat Cap thinks they’re just bonkers, and well a bargain is a bargain. The Flat Cap has never had any health issues from living near pylons though he did get chicken pox when he was 46. Coincidentally the next wire he saw was the chicken wire which Mr. Wilson at number 82 uses to keep his poultry livestock safe from foxes. Mr. Wilson sometimes lets The Flat Cap have half a dozen eggs and they are always tastier than the ones you can buy in shops. Mr. Wilson’s wife hasn’t been very well lately and needs a new hip.

Turning onto the main road The Flat Cap came across the chain wire fence that surrounds and protects his local GP surgery from vandals and unwanted intruders. According to Mrs. Poole, who works part time as a receptionist, at least half the people attending the surgery are “unwanted intruders” and could just as easily self treat themselves rather than wasting NHS time. Chain link fencing really took off during the Second World War when it was used to replace the iron and steel railings that enclosed parks. The railings were then melted down to make aeroplanes and submarines, although gradually they have been reintroduced because they look nicer. On his journey up towards the allotments The Flat Cap spotted plenty of wire netting protecting some of the vegetables. He stopped off to have a cup of tea with his friend Pete who has an allotment and occasionally exchanges some of his rhubarb and lettuce for a dozen of Mr. Wilson’s eggs. Pete also has a wooden shed where he stores his tools. He secures it with one of those padlocks that incorporate wire cable and which are harder to cut through. The Flat Cap added the padlock to his wiry list along with the telephone wires he could see on the top of a nearby telegraph pole.

It was at this point that Pete asked his friend what he was doing, and after a brief explanation the two men came up with a few more types of wire, and wire related trivia:

  • Pete said his nephew once had a trial for professional rugby league team, Warrington Wolves and that their nickname is “The Wire” because of Warrington’s proud tradition of wire manufacturing

  • There used to be a British crime drama television series called, “Wire in the Blood” which starred Geordie actor Robson Green. The series was discontinued because of its high production costs and this in turn allowed Robson to spend more time fishing

  • Obviously human beings don’t have wires in their blood but they do have various trace metals. The Flat Cap was given iron tablets when he had anaemia but they gave him an upset stomach

  • As a young boy Pete was forced to take piano lessons. The strings in any piano are really wires and called thus called “piano wire”

  • Despite its name the annual Wireless Festival requires over fourteen thousand metres of electric cable so that music lovers can actually hear the acts

  • Zip World in Wales claims to have the fastest zip wire, or zip line, ride in the world

  • Very old people still call a radio a wireless

  • English chemist William Hyde Wollaston was so clever that he invented a type of wire that was named after him. The chemists shop near where The Flat Cap lives shares its name with a major high street bank

  • Before the invention of cameras racecourses would string a wire above the finish line to help stewards decide which horse had crossed first. So any race that wasn’t decided until the last stride was said to have gone “down to the wire”

  • Wire baskets were invented in the late nineteenth century to cope with the increased weight of the weekly food shop

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