Is your cave full of useful junk?

In 1967 I was 16 when I bought my TC for £60 from a teacher at school. Although it had an MOT it was not in the best condition. My father and I spent the next two years stripping it down to the chassis and “patching” it back together to make it road worthy. I had no money for anything more.

Nearly everything I took off and replaced ended up boxed in my bedroom. My mother used to say “why are you saving all that rubbish, you will never use it again”. As I have grown older, I have continued to squirrel away “rubbish”. Yes, I still have the bits from 1967 and yes, my mother was mostly right. You never know when things may come in useful. A half shaft that broke in 1973, is now new pivots for my brakes. I have even kept the broken end as a souvenir.

My garage is full, not just with cars; I have pieces of wood, boxes full of all sorts of “useful” things, pieces of metal, assorted nuts and bolts, wire, bits of pipe – not to mention a stack of worn or broken TC parts. Need I go on? The list is endless.

I am sure I am not alone. This raises the question, why do we save things that may be useful?

I have a theory to explain this behaviour. I blame evolution.

Humans are the most successful mammals on the planet. The main reason, our big brain. A brain which depends on a high protein diet. We are, in the main, carnivores to support our big brains. Compared to other successful carnivores, we are not even in the same league. Long sharp claws, no; big canine teeth, definitely not. When modern man evolved some 200,000 years ago, what then made us successful hunters?

We relied on tools, spears, bows, flint knives and axes to kill and butcher our prey. The success of our ancient ancestors as carnivores depended on the quality of their tools. A broken spear, a missed kill, could mean starvation for a family and the end of those genes.

Imagine a hunter who, when they saw a nice straight piece of wood, thought “humm – that will make a good spear handle. I will take it back to my cave. It may come in useful one day.” The wood probably joined a handy lump of stone, a nice looking piece of flint and a plethora of other things. When this hunter’s spear broke, somewhere at the back of his cave, he had a new handle ready to hand. Soon back to hunting. Natural selection favoured those with the inclination to collect and store things. Need I say more?

In evolutionary terms 200,000 years is nothing. We no longer use spears or stone axes, but the bolt…, the bracket…, the broken half shaft…. This list goes on. You never know when something may come in useful. All we are doing is following our evolved behaviours. Behaviours that made the human race so successful. At least, that is my excuse. You can take this analogy even further. Whenever my wife and I go on tour with other MG owners, I often get accused of spending too much time in the car park talking about boring old crank rods or comparing push valves.

You can imagine a conversation between two of our ancient ancestors. “Hey, that’s a rather nice looking spear, how many boars have you killed with it. Six! That’s fantastic. What makes it so good? It is the sharp piece of flint on the end? Mine is only fire hardened wood. Where did you get the flint and how is it fitted? In my view it is definitely worth upgrading your spear”. The better the tools, the greater the chances of evolutionary success. Learning how others have improved their spears is a great way to improve your chances of survival.

We no longer have spears, just classic MGs. “Is that a supercharger? How is it fitted?” We are still cave dwelling hunter-gatherers at heart.

Paul Ireland (evolved from cavemen and women)

5 thoughts on “Is your cave full of useful junk?

  1. RayWhite says:

    I am reminded of a dispute with an anthropology lecturer that I once had when I was a College student. Your argument concurs with the opinion that I held quite strongly at the time… and for which I was, I believe, unfairly admonished.!

    The Lecturer insisted that in the distant past, when a hunter – gatherer found an improved method of survival he would most likely have used it as a bargaining chip to better his personal position within the group. Fair enough, one might think, except for the possibility that the notion of any kind of personal betterment may not have occurred to early man; not I would submit until the development of agriculture and trade.

    If, for example, an individual found that a particular technique of flint knapping produced a better tool, it would then have been in the best interests of the group as a whole that they also learn how to do it. It was my assertion that sharing would have been far more likely that selfish behaviour; which is, I believe, an unfortunate trait of modern, rather than early Man.

    Maybe the camaraderie and co operation that us old car enthusiasts are renowned for stems from evolved behaviour dating back to pre historic times? I like to think so.


    • irelandp says:

      I think the point that Ray makes is a very interesting one. In a sense I think his lecturer is partially correct.

      The difficult we men have (sorry for being politically incorrect – yes I mean men) is that we face a real dilemma. In many other species there is fierce competition between the males. The strongest wins and it is their genes that survive.

      Unfortunately a human child takes many years to become self-sufficient. A successful woman will give birth to a lot of children to carry her genes. These will take virtually all her time caring for them to ensure they survive. Unlike lions, for example, it is not in the best interest of a human women to leave her children to go hunting.

      This leaves the hunting to men who must both cooperate to be successful hunters and compete to ensure their genes survive. I guess the harder the times, a strategy of cooperation is best but as society grows and we have sufficient food, there is a greater tendency to compete.

      It is interesting that most competitive sports are male dominated.

  2. Chris Parkhurst says:

    I only have one thing to say to you Paul and that’s my store of ”Stuff” is probably bigger than your store of ‘Stuff’ !!
    Feel free to visit my cave at anytime !

    Best regards


  3. Tim Parrott says:

    Please join the MG T Spares Facebook group. It is a forum to request items or to offer spares that have be hidden away for decades. There are over 600 members.

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