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A drop of the hard stuff

By BARRIE MAHONEY [email protected]

Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.

A couple of years ago I bought a rather good camera on Ebay. It was only slightly used and I reasoned that it would serve my interest in photography for a few years to come.

It was one of those, to some, unnecessarily large single lens reflex digital cameras with all the bells and whistles and megapixels that anyone could wish for.

For the last two years, the camera has served me well, taking high quality photographs in readiness for my next book. As and when I could afford it, I bought an additional lens, better flash and so on.

Imagine my horror when, towards the end of August, I retrieved the camera from its resting place in a cupboard and discovered that it had partly melted.

Maybe ‘melted’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but the rubber/plastic handgrip and side panel were now oozing a sticky black gunge – very similar to melting tarmac that we see in the UK after a particularly hot day.

The black stickiness was so unpleasant that I could not hold the camera without it leaving a thick black residue on my hand. It covered my shirt in a black oily stain when it brushed against the rubber handgrip and side of the camera. Obviously, it was almost impossible to compose a decent photograph!

I know we have had a very hot August with temperatures approaching 40ºC on our terrace, but I am quite sure that cameras are meant to withstand extremes of heat and cold, otherwise there would be no jungle or arctic photos to be seen anywhere!

My first port of call was, of course, the internet, as this is the modern way to solve most problems. There are few things in life that have not happened to someone else, somewhere before.

My search proved fruitless and so I posted a message on one of the camera web-forums asking for help. I received one reply suggesting that I may wish to apply Johnson’s Baby Powder regularly to the offending parts of the camera.

Now, I know that this stuff is great for babies’ bottoms, but I also know sufficient about cameras to be aware that applying a fine dust, however gentle on the skin, anywhere near an expensive camera is just asking for trouble.

I visited several camera shops whose sales staff looked at the camera with disgust. One suggested that I may like to buy a new one, and the other two sales assistants made that sharp sucking-in-of-breath-between-the-teeth sound that I hate so much.

It always means expensive trouble. I was right, and fled on both occasions.

I sent emails to two camera repair specialists in the UK. One resisted the temptation to reply and the other suggested it might be my sweaty hands – I think not!

Eventually, I received a reply from the camera manufacturer suggesting that I may like to send the camera to their service division and that the cost would be about £200 to replace the handgrip and side panel! This, I suspect, is rather more than the camera is worth.

I sat and reflected over the day’s problems with my favourite tipple – a neat Scotch. I came to the conclusion that I was yet again the victim of planned obsolescence that affects so many appliances and gadgets nowadays.

Suddenly, I had an idea! I grabbed the nearest piece of clean cloth to hand – my unused handkerchief – and dipped it into my glass of the wonderful golden liquid. I then rubbed the cloth gently over the rubber handgrip and, to my immense surprise and pleasure the black sticky residue began to disappear.

I poured more Scotch onto the cloth and rubbed the offending pieces of rubber.

I am now pleased to report that my camera once again looks like new. The black rubber handgrip and side panels now gleam, and they are no longer sticky or leave a residue on my shirt. All it took was a very small quantity of whisky and a clean handkerchief!

Not only does my favourite tipple taste good and help me to unwind, and is a wonderful cure for colds and flu, but is now highly recommended to clean black, sticky gunge off expensive cameras. Cheers.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his latest novel, ‘Journeys and Jigsaws’

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