If the mark of a man is to be handy then I am no man at all. If we talk pure hypothetical and I advertised myself as a handyman and you called me and showed me all the work you needed doing and left me to it for a day then at the end of that day your house would be a fucking disaster. Last night our dishwasher stopped working properly. It was still alive but it was coughing up blood. Clearly I’m no dishwasher repair man, or even a dishwasher aficionado, so there was no way I could diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. What is sad is that I was also unable to identify the water pipe that fed it and, even worse, it took 10 minutes just to find the electric socket to turn it off. Pathetic.
When anything breaks in our house ‘the wife’ and I split in to two factions which are utterly irreconcilable with the other. I go into a blind panic and worry that the whole house is about to explode while she just presses as many buttons in as many variations as possible. The combined result of both approaches amounts to absolutely no progress, with the exception of generating tension. It irritates me deeply that machines break down so easily and that they cost so much to repair (because I am a human being), and it is also a bit of a sore point that I am expected to keep on top of things like this when in fact I am the last person you would want to entrust with any such a responsibility. My ability to fold under pressure is inexhaustible.
Likewise my DIY is another bottomless pool of sludgy incompetence. I have a tool box in the loft which holds all the basics but quite what I can do with the contents is the subject of endless debate, down our way. That I can hammer a nail into a wall is not up for dispute but whether I can do it properly very much is. I have learnt in the past that using the wrong kind of nail in the wrong kind of wall is quite likely to send huge chunks of plaster flying around the room; and as science teaches us plaster was not designed to fly. I am so ungifted with a drill that I have concluded it is best for everyone to just not own one. Instead I have made it a mission to ensure that when making new friends they have at least one practical skill that I do not possess; and that is to say that they have one practical skill. Every job from patio repair to barbequing is now sourced out to chums, and beyond that we simply have to put our hands into our deeper pockets. Painting? Painting I can do.
I don’t feel bad about this, mind you. Mildly ashamed I suppose, but you can’t be good at everything. I was not raised in the world of DIY. My brother and Dad are both pretty useless at it and Dad’s Dad’s DIY bordered on graphically criminal. Once in a while I will try my hand at something and by sheer good luck and ignorance it will work, but often I just make it worse. The worlds of plumbing and electrics are as far away from me as advanced algebra and quantum physics. I’d rather be thinking about the best way of getting a laugh and when did any of those subjects ever come up with something funny? I don’t know whether ‘the wife’ regrets marrying me because of this but surely even she can see that I’m hardly the type to swagger around wearing a tool belt, whistling inanely and asking for a cuppa.
So the dishwasher is broken and the freezer beeps in the night and may also need a good looking at. The front window needs some serious putty attention, as does most of the bathroom. We need to put up a blind and some curtains and at some point before we both die ‘the wife’ would like outside lighting, which will require some manner of dance with electricity that I simply refuse to even consider. What I’m good at I’m quite good at, and what I’m brilliant at is anyone’s guess. But I think there’s a lot to be said for admitting you’re terrible at something. It pierces the ego and saves a hell of a lot of time for everyone involved. Besides, it’s not the house that needs the most care and attention, it’s the people (including hairy creatures) that live in it, and when they work well together then the sun is always shining. And that takes real skill.
G B Hewitt. 26.04.2019.
Footnote. At time of breakdown dishwasher filled and on a 30 minute cycle. Time to take dirty dishes out, wash, dry and put away between us? 10 minutes. Interesting.