One of the more arcane pieces of knowledge I picked up as a youth was the certainty that you could use a pair of stockings to fix the fan-belt on your roadster’s engine.

“Take off your stockings,” I’d murmur to the woman in the bucket seat next to mine at the first sign of trouble.

She’d oblige, and two seconds later off we’d purr once again into the warm evening, my white shirt unsullied and crisp, her naked legs gleaming softly in the gloaming.

I did not, of course, know exactly how to use a pair of stockings to repair a fan belt, nor did I possess a roadster, or a woman, but at least I knew that it could be done.

I was reminded of this quite forcefully a couple of days ago. The car had been sitting in the parking lot at work all day and was extremely hot. I got in, turned the key and pressed the window switch. There was a snap, and the window fell blam down into the door frame. I pressed the switch again and could hear the broken cable whizzing around dementedly.

Rats! I don’t use the car from one week to the next, but I’ve got to go off on a little jaunt and here I am with a window stuck permanently open. And with these new fangled all-electric windows, there isn’t even an emergency handle or anything, like there was for the sun-roof of a previous roadster.

So much stuff these days is just a paperweight if its electrics go. And so much stuff these days is also sealed tight, so that you couldn’t fix it even if you knew how.

Fortunately, Umberto’s mechanics are just around the corner, and it wasn’t too late. I drove over, and Umberto sucked his teeth before telling me he could do it, but I’d have to wait a bit. Fair enough. Somehow he got the window out of the door and, with a little judicious wiggling of the switch, raised it right up. But it immediately started to slide slowly down again.

Ci penso io -- that most reassuring of Italian phrases, and off he went home (50 metres away) to steal a clothes-peg from the wife’s washing line. Separated the two pieces, jammed them down between the glass and the door and bashed in with a screw-driver.

Perfect. It was exactly as if they had been made -- designed -- for that job and no other.

I’m still a washout with stockings and fan-belts, but at least I can attempt to fix a broken electric window, should that ever happen again.

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