With the family at home for Easter, I decided to embark on a day out on my own to the border between Wales and England. It is here that Malcolm Taylor, one the most highly regarded Leica repairman, lives and who I had recently sent a couple of lenses. I had spoken to him several times on the phone and he had always been most helpful and clearly has a huge knowledge about all things Leica. All reports on the internet suggest fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Here is an example of his work and I believe he has even been used by Leica for some of their restoration work.
My Leica IIIF with 50mm Summitar
It is as well that I took the sat nav with me as I doubt I would have found the place. It was a long way up a single track road, north west of Leominster on the England side of the border. The kind that has stuff growing in the middle, that signals you are now off the beaten track. It is a curious things about these navigation devices that, while they share with maps the ability to show you the way to your destination, they don’t really give you an idea of the path you have taken. I found it oddly unsettling that I did not really know the route I was on. No matter, it was a beautiful day and after speeding past sheep and daffodils in equal measure, I finally found myself in the great man’s company.
My Leica M2 with 50mm Summicron DR
He showed me my repaired Summicron DR 50mm and explained the intricasies of the work he had carried out. A new front element and various bench tested adjustments. All the while I was keenly aware that the room had the feel of an eccentic professor’s study. Any number of cameras lined the shelves, table and desk, some assembled but most not. There was a 10×8 camera with a make-shift handle and some very old huge brass lenses so he does not confine himself to Leica. He is a proper engineer, unlike my good self, and seems a man driven to achieve quality. It is an odd combination; this quest for technical perfection on a farm amidst the beauty of the English borders. I for one find it very reassuring in the digital age ,where convience has won the battle against quality, there exists this kind of purist. I felt like I was letting the side down when he used a technical term I failed to grasp. He had me scurrying to the internet on my return to check the Inverse Square Law as my lack of knowledge was met with some disbelief. It is impossible to imagine a day on which Mr Taylor would ever be dumbed down.
We then discussed the work he is doing to code older leica lenses to work correctly on the new Leica M8 digital bodies. Malcolm is not a man to cut corners and has the abilty to engrave these on the mounts of various lenses. There is some dicussion on the internet as to whether Leica hold a patent for this and how they will react to third party coding. So far his experiments using his loyal customer base as guinea pigs have been a success, so he may offer this service soon. He allowed me to fondle a Nikon RF that I’d never seen before and how I wish I could afford one. I spent a happy hour in his company and a more charming and interesting fellow you’d be hard pressed to find. As we stepped outside he seemed rather pleased I was driving a Skoda and, contrary to most peoples’ view, regards them as a company with a fine engineering tradition. He informed me that the spindle for the London Eye was made by those good people of Skoda which is a very impresssive piece of triva. My only regret is I didn’t ask him more about how he got into all this and I failed to get a peak at his workshop. Maybe when my M2 and IIIf need servicing I’ll call again.
From there I went to visit Presteigne the home town of Ian Marchant , well known writer and broadcaster. His address suggests a Square, but it is in fact more of a small rectangle. Imagination and reality seldom agree, like a face that does not match the voice. Naturally he was not at home but the old lady next door encouraged me to go in and shout up the stairs and was certain she had seen him earlier. I was even encouraged to ask in the cafe at the front but they were none the wiser. So I had a wander around, what is a very fine little place just waiting to star in a TVdrama about where the high tide of the 60’s washed its participants. You don’t have to have seen Ian in the Cafe to know he’d be right at home here amongest the secondhand brickabrack, books and organic bread. To visit such a place and drive through the spring sunshine of the borders is to be reassured that some parts of Britain have yet to be tainted with the deconstructed bling of fast mood, slow brained, all consuming mediatropolis nothingness …… summed up best in my song Reaction Contagion . We are all guilty, mind, as earlier it had been a shock to discover the words “no network coverage” on my phone as I stood outside Malcolm’s Taylor’s door.
It was left only for me to drive home accompanied by the sat nav lady who didn’t want a cup of tea in Builth Wells but urged me on home to a mug of peppermint tea ….. I kid you not.