Building skills


In ancient times home building belonged to the basic skills of every man. Just as every woman knew how to cook and how to care for children, every man knew how to provide food for his family and how to build a house. But as time passed, human beings ‘developed’. This means that nowadays we know how to do a few things much better, but that we have lost many other skills.

Most people are no longer able to build their own house. Of course, in most countries you are not even allowed to simply start building a chicken coop. Laws regulate where people are allowed to settle and to build, and you cannot do your own construction work unless you have a stack of diplomas and have secured a load of permits. I have the impression that in this area things are not quite as over-regulated in Sweden as they are in the Netherlands, and that many Swedes—in particular outside the larger cities—have acquired considerable skills in home improvements or even extensive reconstructions.

The fact that my son ventures to undertake some major alterations to his house does not make him an exception, even though perhaps the assistance of a retired father from the Netherlands does.  A few days ago my wife and I arrived safely at our destination, some 600 kilometers North of Stockholm and today (Friday) was my first real working day.  The fortunate circumstance that I happen to be a Sabbath keeper means that I can have a slow start, as tomorrow—just after one day of labor—I will have my day of rest. (Although I must add that even yesterday was already pretty full, as we went shopping for building materials and for some extra tools.

In the past five years, since we live in a newly built apartment in Zeewolde, I have hardly touched a hammer or a saw. The only tool that I handled occasionally was a drill and even now my wife reminds me from time to time, that there are still a few holes to be drilled and a few things to be hung. So, today it felt a little unusual to operate a power screw driver and a power saw, etcetera. Tonight, a few muscles are more than a little sore.

However, apart from this (for me) somewhat unusual physical work, I hope in the next few weeks to enjoy the company of my two little grand daughters, and I expect to have time for a bit of reading and even a little ‘normal’ work. As far as this last aspect is concerned, I have begun the job of providing a new translation in contemporary Dutch of Ellen White’s book Christ’s Object Lessons. The Adventist Church in the Netherlands is planning to publish a brand new edition of this popular devotional commentary on Jesus’ parables.

And when it comes to reading: it will take me some time to go through the 600 pages of a History of the Arab World (by Eugene Rogan). It is quite amazing how little most people (myself included) know about the complicated history of the Arab world—in particular of the area we now know refer to as the Middle East. When recently I spent a week in Lebanon, I was once again confronted with the complexity of that small country, with its Christians, Muslims, Druzes and other population segments, and its utterly complex international relationships. It seemed high time to do something about my relative ignorance. But it will take a fair amount of reading  before I get to the modern history of Lebanon. At present I have not proceeded beyond the transfer of power from the Mamaluks to the Ottomans as the rulers of the Arab world.

The Dutch soap story about the Fyra seems a world away. Anyhow, my weekly trips to Belgium are now a thing of the past, and the high speed train troubles between my native country and Brussels do not bother me a great deal. This may sound a bit selfish, but so be it. For the next few weeks my focus will be on other things.