When I was a kid, we had a knife-sharpener man who would walk up and down every street in the neighbourhood every couple of weeks, ringing his bell in a very particular way (you never mistook the sound for anything else).

He toted around a really interesting super-solid stand and grinding wheel (and a few finishing-tools), which would plant firmly on any patch of sidewalk, and yet also tilt onto wheels for travel – many decades before any suitcases were known to adopt that trick. to make great weight manageable without great strength!

His skill at sharpening really was extraordinary, and he was always delighted to demonstrate how fine a job he’d done – especially to kids (never once failing to mention that “sharper knives are safer than dull ones” – which remains true, and a nice example of counterintuitive functional-wisdom).

I haven’t seen an old-style cart (or an old man with that very particular gait, skill, physicality, and sublimely-battered cap) for a few decades now, but I am delighted to report that we do still hear the bell of the knife-man on a regular basis, in our strange jumbled neighbourhood.

And while this one does indeed drive what must be technically classed as a vehicle, it is more a gently powered mobile toolbox than a beast of fearsome horsepower, by (to me) a truly charming margin.

Bell and string still lively – and still the very same one-note song I remember!

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