Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Ness 1


Necessity is the Mother of Invention. It’s about those moments in life when you are forced to do something creative. That’s what this story is about.

‘What is that thing Mummy?’

‘It’s Daddy’s toy. Our boat.’

‘But – it’s so BIG!’

‘Yes, darling. Big boys have big toys.’

We were standing looking at the view from our kitchen window. It wasn’t very exciting. Just an expanse of grey cement and a set of wooden stairs.

This imaginary conversation of course never happened. But it could have. Our children grew up with this 52’9” monstrosity in our backyard. It was accepted with childlike innocence. After all, it had always been there. It was there before they were born. It was there throughout their childhood. It was there well into their teens. It – just was. Fact of life. Not questioned.

Over the years of boat building there were many occasions when necessity forced creative solutions not thought of before. One of the first I recall was in the early days. The ribs had been hung. Months and months of mindless hours tying layers of chicken wire followed. It was the job of us girls to sit and cut rolls of tie wire into 3 – 4 inch lengths ready for use. Blistered, bleeding hands got a workout equivalent to using one of those hand grips for improving strength. Demand began to outstrip supply. Then one day three of us cutting hell for leather could no longer keep up with the supply. One of the fellas had a light bulb moment. Out came the power saw. Zip, zip zip!! A whole roll of tie wire was cut in a matter of seconds. Done out of a job just like that! It did raise a few barbed questions about why now, why not before?! There never was a satisfactory response to that question. Just smirking grins.

Ness 2


The other memorable occasion was of a more serious nature. For years there was a set of wooden stairs that led up to the deck. Climbing up and down ladders countless times a day carrying supplies had become tedious. With only one hand to hang on to the ladder, the other hand was limited to just how much could be carried in one trip. Large items – well, that was just outright frustrating. And possibly even dangerous.

Over time the stairs started to weather. A groove had been worn in the middle with feet stomping up and down. Wood rot had set in on some bits. Comments were made in passing about having to fix them. “One day.” That day kept getting put off to another more convenient time. In the meantime they simply avoided stepping on the worst steps. Easy!! Problem solved.

Ness 3


Until – the now Retired Husband, in a hurry, stepped on the worst wood rotted step. At this point I am going to pause the story for a moment. Just imagine this if you will. The boat was attached to a solid steel cradle girded by hefty I beams. Over time the weight in the boat had grown. It needed a more solid support structure. Engineering consults and designs  led to the construction of an impressive support cradle. As the weight increased, the beams slowly but surely sank deeper into the ground. It had been lifted back up a couple of times with railway sleepers placed under the I beams. What I’m trying to explain here is that there was a substantial amount of heavy steel structures in very close proximity to the stairs.

Ness 4


So, back to that moment: the Retired Husband stepped on the rotten step. It was a good ten foot or more above ground level. His brother was on deck. I was in the kitchen. There was a loud crash. I watched from the kitchen window as himself slipped down in slow motion out of my view and disappeared. Followed by silence. I somehow knew that was not a good sign. Experience gleaned over many years had taught me that the men in the Tanska family were very accident prone. It’s like some weird family tradition that has been passed down from father to son through generations. Not one that I’m keen on! And when I say accident prone, I mean SERIOUS accident prone. Life threatening accident prone even. I could tell you lots of stories. Let’s see. There’s the crushed spinal discs. The broken bones. The snapped Achilles tendon. The fall off the roof. The severed fingers… but I digress.

As I launched out of the laundry door onto the back veranda I noticed several things all at the same time. Himself was lying on the ground his head only a hair’s breadth away from the I beam. By then he was beginning to curse roundly. He was alive and breathing then, I thought with relief. Poking his head over the edge of the deck to have a look was my brother-in-law. “You OK then?” he asked. “Yeah #%@#!” Without another word, the brother-in-law climbed down, grabbed a saw, cut off the offending step and replaced it with a brand new one. Problem solved. No lives lost.  Necessity may not have been the Mother of Invention this time but it was certainly a necessity!


© Raili Tanska

Images Pixabay and personal album


6 thoughts on “Necessity is the Mother of Invention

  1. Oh my goodness, so lucky not a more serious accident happened! Why is it normally the case that a faulty “item” gets replaced when an accident has taken place? Human nature I guess.
    I enjoyed reading your story.


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