Icons of design

I don’t know for certain how long I’ve had a Swiss Army Knife.  I do know that the one pictured here has been part of my life for the last 22 years, it’s predecessor having taken on the role of impromptu camera support for a self-portrait of Gill and I taken before the fountains of the Grande Arche at La Défense in Paris.  One the timer had finished beeping and the shutter clicked I retrieved the camera, but foolishly left behind the small red solution to getting the angle right.

Over the years I’ve been bicycle repair-man, photocopier paper-clearer, wine bottle-opener and the hero who saves the day whenever the cry goes up “anyone got a pair of scissors”.  An occasional sharpen and a drop of oil every so often is all it needs and it still functions as well as when I took it from its box 22 years ago.  Once upon a time I could honestly have said that I never go anywhere without it, but nowadays it would be frowned upon to be carrying an offensive weapon, particularly when working in the field of education, and of course it must travel in the hold when I take flight.

For well over a century, the Swiss Army has issued these handy items to their soldiers, the dimensions of the knives issued being precisely set to facilitate the reassembly of their rifles after cleaning.  It remains an essential part of their equipment.

I love mine; its size, weight, feel and look are all spot on, and for years it has answered the question of “What is that little pocket for in your 501’s?”.  It’s a design classic.

Another icon of European design (and one that is still manufactured today in Brazil) is the VW camper van, which although it has been with us only half as long as the Swiss Army Knife has still endured well beyond its original designer’s wildest dreams.  Loved by surfers they are a staple of any Cornish holiday scene, and have recently become very popular for transporting brides to and from their weddings.

The couple I met today had a Type 2 (the camper being VW’s second design after the “beetle”) and were in the supermarket car park.  They’d borrowed the van, and were having problems getting the rear hatch unlocked to put their shopping away.  This gave me the perfect chance to shoot Julie while her other half continued to struggle with the lock. 

Bet I could have got in with my Swiss Army Knife!

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