a suffolk genius??
Whilst most content on this blog is cycling-related, there is room for other stuff if it is interesting, and my recent post on the wayward genius that is Sheldon Brown led me to create a new category on the blog for eccentric stuff in general.
So, this is about an eccentric who, whilst he doesn’t have explicit links with the world of cycling, does live in Suffolk, like me, and therefore is of interest since he is quite clearly also very, very eccentric. I first came across the work of Tim Hunkin a couple of years ago on a rain-sodden Sunday afternoon when, weekending with pals, we ended up on the afore-illustrated pier. We subsequently ended up in the Lord Nelson down the road where we consumed a foolishly lavish amount of beer, but that, as they say, is another strory.
Hunkin’s influence is everywhere, from the wind-powered sign to the exhibition of eccentric gadgets such as the autofrisk machine.
The sheer madness of the inventions, all Heath Robinson styled creations made from commonplace leftover bits and pieces, is tempered by their inventiveness. Another exhibit is ‘test your nerve’, whereby according to the instructions, “Put your hand in the cage and hold then red button for as long as you dare. The dog starts panting and the dial starts revolving. When its about half way round the dog starts dribbling saliva (warm foamy water) on your hand. If you hang on, the dog finally barks loudly.”
I have made a habit in the last couple of years of visiting Hunkin’s excellent website, which seems to grow like a giant slug every time I arrive there. A true renaissance man, he casts himself as engineer and cartoonist, but can also bring his skills to bear in the world of spectacular bonfires, of which he has had a few successes over the years. In the 70’s, he was responsible for the flying, exploding sheep that were part of Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ tour – the website even has a video of one of the sheep being fired from a cannon by a young, hippyish Hunkin.
The talent for bringing together whimsical irrelevance and the modern and relevant has led to a few interesting inventions over time. The current one has to be his ‘whack a banker’ machine at Southwold, which allows you to enjoy a highly satisfying interaction with the world of finance without leaving town.
Hunkin, who is obviously an accomplished engineer, is not a stuffy, institutional kind of cat. He sums his approach up beautifully by saying:
“A few years ago, while doing a short fellowship at Xerox parc, the director asked me if I was attached to an institution or if I was a floater. He said it implying that being a floater was a good thing. I was amazed, as in Britain people like this are regarded as mad eccentrics, and the word ‘floater’ means a turd that won’t sink.”