Growing up, one abiding memory I have of my father is of him fixing things. Whether up a ladder, in the loft, under a cupboard or amidst an assortment of tools, he would spend much of the weekend attempting to put right the myriad of broken or disintegrating things around our house.
Occasionally his hard work would be accompanied by profuse swearing, and every now and again by a foot through the ceiling or a ruptured pipe. Regardless though, I thought he was simply doing what all dads do and keeping his home in tip top shape for his family.
In reality, of course, for the most part my father hadn’t got a clue what he was doing and was probably doing more damage than good. The wonky nature of our cupboards, the death defying electrics and the oddly sounding plumbing were, in hindsight, a bit of a giveaway.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve inherited my dad’s DIY skills and in this modern age – when the internet can teach anyone to do anything – I’m seemingly far worse at DIY than my forefathers and my present day peers.
I also lack a lot of the knowledge that most men seem to instinctively possess; how to fix a leaking tap; how to replaster a small bit of wall; how to install something electrical; how to work out why a plug that used to work now isn’t working; how to paint different surfaces with the right type of paint and how to use a chainsaw.
Facebook has made matters worse.
Every now and again I swipe through my feed, only to be met by the images of a smug friend’s ‘little project.’
“New loft conversion’s coming along nicely.”
“Almost there with the new kitchen.”
“Just putting the finishing touches to my 100% organic eco home.”
I’m tempted one of these days to post an image of the off-centre, strangely angled curtains in my daughter’s bedroom, with the simple caption: ‘Nailed it!’ just to see what reaction I’d get.
Lower your DIY expectations
The sad fact, though, is that I am simply no good at DIY. I don’t have the correct tools for anything other than changing the batteries in children’s toys and, when presented with a project of any kind, I go into it fully expecting it to end badly.
When drilling into a wall, for example, despite using the handheld beeper thing to check that I’m not going to be going through the mains, I can guarantee that I’ll cock it up somehow. Cracked plaster, hole only millimetres off its mark, but enough to mean the bracket doesn’t fit. If it’s possible, I’ll find a way to make a simple job, a hundred times more difficult.
But I think I’m in the minority. Most middle aged men seem to be good at this stuff. So, why am I so rubbish? I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t enjoy it. I don’t take pride in a DIY job well done, I just feel overwhelming relief that I haven’t killed anyone or burned the house down.
The concept of enjoying DIY is entirely alien to me. How can anyone enjoy approaching and attempting a task, as an amateur, that professionals have trained years for? We wouldn’t attempt it in any other field.
I can’t, for example, imagine there is much enthusiasm out there for DIY dentistry, or DIY nuclear fission. But rewiring a house? Let’s all just give it a go shall we?!
However, I accept that a lot of people do enjoy DIY, and most of them have psychopathically well organised garages. These are people who organise their tools in function and size order, and then hang them on their garage walls. How do these people have the time? My small collection of tools are crammed into a broken tool box. I have no need for 15 different spanners and no inclination to make them into some kind of OCD art display.
Our next door neighbour, however, has just such a garage and, whenever I open mine in an attempt to find something buried under the pile of old toys, unused bikes and broken electricals, I am sure he is looking out of his window, feeling a blend of both disgust and pity.
This is a man who has two snow shovels. Not one, but two. In a country that has no more than two snow days a year, he has 200% more snow shovels than the average Briton. He is prepared for all eventualities, including, I assume, the frightful situation when a snow shovel breaks attempting to clear the single inch of snow on his drive. The backup shovel will come in to its own at that point, and where will the rest of us be hey? Not shovelling snow, that’s where we’ll be.
But at times there is no escape from DIY and I have been prompted to write this post after being asked – incessantly, for weeks – by my daughter to give her room a makeover. There will be painting, there will be shelving, there will be furniture construction and there will certainly be profuse foul language and bad temper. I will therefore have to instruct the rest of the family to leave the house when I can no longer put this fated project off.
Standby for updates along the way, and wish me luck. Now, how the hell can you tell whether there’s a mains wire behind the bit of wall I’m about to drill into?