At a recent girly evening with two friends my heart sank when one, fuelled by too much Sauvignon Blanc, disappeared to the loo, and the other leaned across with that confidential look you know is going to land you in the brown stuff draped across her face. Please, I begged mentally, please don’t make me the recipient of secrets that should never be told. Too late, her mouth was already flapping! ‘I,’ she announced brazenly, ‘am in love with Loo Friend’s husband.’ My jaw dropped. It’s one of the expressions I use to express disbelief. When really staggered, I blink furiously too and make mad mewling noises. In this case I did all three. Try it; it’s harder than you think. Anyway, the reason for this breadth of staggeredness is that Loo Friend’s husband could easily pass for the lovechild of Les Dawson and a pot-bellied pig, whilst she of the adulterous heart is married to nothing less than a Clooney clone. As my jaw reached the point of dislocation, she took pity on me and wafted a casual hand. ‘Oh, I don’t mean like that! What I mean is that I am in love with his manual dexterity.’ What on earth had she and Pot-belly been up to? I could feel the sweat start to bead my brow. ‘His DIY skills, idiot,’ she clarified and it all began to make sense. This woman, you see, has lived minus a staircase for, oh, something approaching five years now. Since her house is on three floors, this presents something of a problem and the rope rigged up by the Clooney Clone, whilst doing wonders for her bingo wings and inner thighs as she shimmies up and down, is not entirely practical. The children and her eighty-year-old mother ascend and descend in a wicker basket, and the Zimmer frame is a very tight fit. The Clooney Clone has every intention of getting round to it, just as he has every intention of getting round to plumbing in the bath, at present in the garden and serving as a herb garden, as well as finishing the 101 other DIY jobs commenced with great enthusiasm and abandoned with even greater enthusiasm.
I began to feel the first stirrings of envy in my own heart and, you know, there’s something endearing about pot-bellied pigs, though nothing will convince me of the merits of Les Dawson. I too am married to a man to whom DIY is a foreign body. Oh, he can walk the walk, especially up and down the tool aisles of Homebase and Wickes but, when you come down to it, he doesn’t torque the torque. His interest is more in the acquisition of said tools, than in the usage and all too often they lie abandoned and rusting, through failure to PUT THEM AWAY. Even though he has a toolbox. Several, in fact. On the other hand, if you want to know the in’s and out’s of the Hadron Collider, the strategies used in every naval or military battle since God was in nappies, or obscure facts generally known only to eggheads in top-secret Russian laboratories, he’s your man. But DIY? I write this whilst balanced precariously on a chair, the seat of which has long since parted company with the frame. The three matching chairs match, alas, in every way. The 1930s front door acquired recently and which I hoped might lend a semi-respectable appearance to the exterior of the house, has been painted with royal blue metal paint and is a right royal mess. A neighbour, giving it the once over, was reminded of the fact that she had forgotten to buy bubbles for her son’s birthday party. In our living room, the wallpaper folds gently across where the walls intersect, a magnet for small fingers feeling the urge to poke their way through and create a nice big hole. A tap bought three years ago to replace the leaky kitchen model has not yet been unwrapped. The leaky tap, in the meantime, now gushes from several places like the Trevi fountain, making me thank God that water meters are not yet compulsory.
The scales pinged from my eyes (not properly screwed in, you see). ‘I fancy Pot-belly Lawson too,’ I blurted. ‘And, when you think of it, Mary the mother of God was married to a carpenter. And, if it’s good enough for her . . .’ She of the adulterous heart nodded shrewdly. ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘Now that’s what I call a stable relationship.’
The conversation tapered off as Loo Friend returned, beaming smugness as only a woman who lives in a house where everything works can beam smug. ‘Why are you two looking so miserable?’ she asked. ‘Gimme a pen,’ she of the adulterous heart snapped, ‘or a carpenter’s pencil and I’ll write it all down for you.’
Yesterday, I stood in admiration watching an artist at work, or rather an elderly gent lovingly painting the front door of his house. Smooth, even strokes, not a bubble in sight, no paint splashed on the stained-glass window or confetti-ing the pavement. He stopped to take a breath and I found myself dusting off the flirtatious smile I’d long-since stowed away with my wedding dress and nights on the tiles. Just then, his granddaughter came out, except she wasn’t his granddaughter, but a nubile nymph with top-shelf attributes and a possessive expression. And his wedding ring! Just a fleeting glance was enough to convince her of my nefarious intentions. She let me have both barrels of her baby-blues and dragged Picasso away indoors. Later, as I passed the house, I heard the harmonious sound of hammering, sawing and chiselling. In the pauses between came the sweet singing of a contented wife. ‘You – oo – oo – oo drill me. Darling you do, darling you do, darling you do.’
To any man reading this who may be suffering from qualms regarding his appearance, fear not. Simply take up your arm & hammer and prepare for a deluge of DIY-deprived/botched desperate women.
As for me, I’m signing on for evening classes in carpentry, plastering, building, plumbing . . .