For the want of a screw – don’t let a marriage be lost!

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 . . .

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Goodbye Old Friend!

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my old friend, Jago, who ‘fell asleep’ in the middle of the road recently as my husband was driving back from Birchington. Just round that dangerous corner near Quex, it was. Distraught, he phoned the emergency services, who arrived an hour and a half later, by which time Jago was no longer asleep, but had completely flatlined.

   Arriving on the scene, the knight-of-the-road errant took one look and shook his head in that sorry-for-your-trouble-mate fashion reserved for grieving relatives. ‘Knackered,’ he pronounced after a cursory examination, following it up with ‘Banjaxed,’ in case he had failed to make his diagnosis abundantly clear. ‘How old?’ he asked, head still in sorrowful metronome mode.

‘Er, nineteen,’ my husband confessed, manfully trying to hold back the tears, which resulted in his voice skidding into the girlish register and making him look, and sound, very silly indeed. A bit like Dolly Parton.

‘Yer ‘avin a larf!’ came the response, although it was clear from the machinations of said husband’s face that his funny bone was not at that precise moment tuned to comedy.  Belatedly observing this, the knight tried for sensitivity. ‘Hovis!’ he said in a voice sonorous with empathy. ‘Brown bread! You wuz lucky you ‘ad ‘im so long. These days yer lucky if they survive the first frost. I blame China!’

‘Is . . . is there anything . . .’ the husband asked hesitantly?

The knight made so bold as to scratch his head. A long groan issued from between his lips. ‘Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Told ya. Ee’s a gonner. As gone as me granny’s teeth and they went back in nineteen-undred-and-frozen-to-death.’

‘So there’s nothing you can do? Nothing at all?’

‘Do I look like Jesus, mate?’ The knight sighed? ‘Does that sign on me truck read worker of miracles? The best I can do is chuck him up back and drop him off at your friendly local mechanic. ’

Which he did and maybe the mechanic there really was Jesus because, in a few days, Jago had staged a Lazarus-like resurrection and was back on the road again.  ‘Timer-belt,’ Jesus aka the mechanic  said. ‘Lucky it didn’t knacker the pistons’.

Sadly, our joy didn’t last for long. Jago is due for his MOT next month and there are not enough donor organs in the world to get him through. So, we have taken the decision to retire him to that great scrap yard in the sky or somewhere nearer if we can find one.   And, silly though it sounds, my heart is broken because Jago was more than just a car. He was emblematic of great changes in my life.  I bought him when I took the decision to move from London to Thanet. He was my first ‘fun’ car, a two-seater rag-top, kept purely for the joy of meandering up and down country-lanes with the roof down. I drove him down to the beach and sat, sun streaming in, roof down, stereo playing gently, whilst I worked on a novel one blissful summer a few years ago.  He was with me when I met my husband, a confirmed Jag man. He is now a reformed MX5 man.

So, goodbye my lovely, little, British racing-green friend. Thank you for the good times.  And even though I am replacing you with a slightly younger model – yes, exactly like you, only in black – I want you to know I still love you and always will.  Toot! Toot!