Friday, 28 December 2007

I am not the King of DIY

The Universe has a number of ways of ensuring we keep our feet firmly on the ground. One of the most popular, as I'm sure you're already aware, is gravity - "it's not just a good idea, it's the law". Only slightly less well known is what is often referred to as a Kick in the Teeth. Usually delivered in response to some small pride, or minor hubris, it's a way of reminding us not to get too big for our proverbial boots.

Let's be clear about one thing right now. I am not the King of DIY. I'm not even a resident of the kingdom. Even if I knew where it was, I wouldn't be able to find my way there, or get over the well-made hand-built fence to get in.

I'm patently rubbish at DIY. My dear old dad did his best, teaching me everything he knew about hammering screws into bits of wood; it just didn't stick. These days, even the most trivial DIY jobs require a full weekend of my time. They also need three or more increasingly desperate trips to the local DIY stores to buy the tools that are necessary for the job, or to buy whatever is needed to bodge-fix the errors I make, or the things I break whilst attempting to do the usually-laughably-simple job.

The past few days have seen something of a sea change. Only yesterday I was disproportionately pleased with a relatively minor bicycle maintenance success. Today, I've been wrestling with the hot tap in the bathroom, which has not been leaking for quite some time. Quite the opposite in fact, to the extent that even with the tap fully open, there was barely a trickle of water coming from the faucet. Every visitor to the house has commented on this, with some helpful hint about the cause (low pressure, or a furred-up tap) but with no offer to resolve the problem.

Earlier this morning, I succeeded in fixing this very problem, and it only took a scant few hours. And with only a single trip to a DIY store (to purchase an excellent tool called a Boa Constrictor multi-purpose strap wrench - you'll have to google it; their home page is knackered. I thoroughly recommend it; I'll doubtless be buying another one, when I attempt the next job that requires one, and I can't find the one I bought today). But the happy news is that the tap now gushes on demand, after a swift and easy turn of the tap.

I spent some time this morning turning it on and off, waiting for it to break, or leak or something. I even left my tools out for an hour or so in case the tap was waiting to break when I wasn't looking.

The second time I tripped over them, I put them away. Or started to, until I remembered another unstarted project: the Curtain Pole Job.

Last winter, in the height of the cold, I had decided that my kitchen needed a draft-excluder curtain and so, after several weeks dithering and deciding, a suitable one had been sourced and left on the back of a chair, where it would be most in the way whilst it waited to be put up. Some months later, it had been moved into a cupboard, where it could be conveniently forgotten about and nothing more said about the matter. But in that time a secondhand curtain pole had also been acquired; this had spent the remainder of the year leaning against the wall by the back door.

Today, though, the King of DIY was in the house. Today was surely the most auspicious day to attempt to hang the curtain.

And so it was, slightly dizzy with previous success, that I decided to tackle the Curtain Pole Job.

I assembled my tools, laid out my mismatched screws, and began my symphonic attack on the engineering block walls with my trusty hammer drill.

I will spare you the details of the process. Suffice to say that I successfully hung the curtain pole, and curtain, at the correct height, without further incident or injury, without breakage or bleeding or damage.

It was beginning to look as if the King of DIY was resident in the house.

I put all my tools away, tidied up after myself, and admired my handiwork. Yes, it's only a curtain hanging over a door, but I don't mind admitting that there was a happy little smile playing about my lips.

Flushed with success, I lifted a fresh pint of orange juice out of the fridge for a victory toast. Looking around for a glass, I spotted the frying pan I'd used for my lunch time double-fried egg sandwich, cleaned and drying on the draining board. In the spirit of tidying up, I responsibly put it away, stretching to hang it in its place on the ceiling mounted pan rack (helpfully installed by the previous owner of the house, naturally).

Twisting to reach the high hook, I felt my left elbow nudge something and knew instantly that I'd knocked the orange juice over. A quick glance over my shoulder was sufficient to confirm the truth. I watched helpless as the bottle hit the ground in that slow motion that often accompanies such incidents.

I even had time to think that cleaning up broken glass was hardly fair punishment for my mild successes.

But it did not shatter. Instead, I watched it tumble, spilling its contents onto the floor, and fall onto its side.

Now I had a dilemma; which was the more urgent task? Should I abandon the pan in order to pick the bottle up before more spilled? Or should I accept the inevitable, and calmly replace the pan before turning to the bottle?

Pondering the matter, I continued with the hanging of the pan, and lost in my thoughts, fumbled it so badly that by the time I had turned back to the spilled orange nectar, the bottle had emptied itself fully over the floor. Fully, that is, except for a mockingly small amount trapped by the neck of the bottle.

I wish I could say that I allowed myself a small sigh. I think I may actually have said a naughty word or two. But I hung my head and accepted the punishment for my hubris.

Now, cleaning up a nearly-full pint of orange juice from the floor, the plinth under the cooker, and the cupboard doors in one thing. But one of the cupboard doors is currently missing, the result - you guessed it! - of a failed bit of DIY seven or eight months ago. So it was that the front contents of the corner cupboard (also known as the Tupperware Graveyard) were splashed extravagrantly with sticky orange juice. To whit: two stainless steel steamer inserts (and lid), one Le Creuset casserole and lid, one further pan lid, three assorted bowls (two of stainless steel), a Pyrex jug, and countless tupperware reusable containers.

It dawned on me that the Universe had realised that gravity was not sufficient, and had given me a nudge. Not quite foot-dental contact, but in that area.

To what I hope is my credit, I believe I smiled.

I am not the King of DIY. But I do have a decent hot tap in the bathroom, and a draft-excluder curtain in the kitchen.

And that orange juice was past its date.

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