The excitement is building. Literally. After a few years of moaning about a small bathroom and walking around the rooms with our ‘what-if’ faces on, we’re getting some work done to our little mid-terraced house.
Unfortunately it’s not 1989, so we’re not getting cladding. That is a small pity. When I see a row of conventionally finished houses, I have a sneaking admiration for the one dwelling that is pretending to be the only remnant of a mediaeval, and possibly, enchanted castle.
Building work requires men. Not me. Proper men. My earlier brushes with DIY have been embarrassing. Painting I can do. Or at least I thought I could do until we got a painter in and realised the previous efforts were more of the Jackson Pollock variety. That was an eye-opener. I used to love painting as it brought back memories of painting with my father. He with the nice brush, me with ‘the other one’. He doing the big open spaces, me doing the annoying corners. I was always convinced that if I had the big brush and the big open spaces I could cover the same area. I can. But we might need to get someone else in afterwards.
The other embarrassment has been in the area of drilling holes. Specifically not drilling holes in the area where they were supposed to be drilled. After an earlier ‘hames’ made of hanging a bathroom cabinet, I had retired from the sport but I returned controversially last month to hang a curtain pole.
Apart from the minimal lateral pressure being applied by my atrophied shoulders, my other problem was the drill. Here’s the thing about drills – when you are in the hardware shop and there is a choice between drills, it is not a time for parsimony. One is more expensive but is made by a company with strong no-nonsense German name (and about which there may be some doubts as to its precise record during the war). The other is a more wishy-washy affair with a brand called something like Drilly-Drillington and offers you two drills for less than the price of the Hammer Action HoleBastard, I should have known the two-drill offer consists of two-crap-drills.
For whatever reason, the curtain pole incident resulted in the drilling up of a number of ‘trial holes’ The holes we settled on were also too big meaning one of the rawl plugs is now falling out, causing the curtain pole to list to one side. It means that for the first time outside quantum physics, parallel lines appear to be meeting.
Now it’s time to do things right. Some men are here to price the jobs to be done around the house. They have arrived early. We talk about what needs to be done. I enjoy this bit as you can say things like “Well we’d be looking to take that wall out, and open up the space”. Verbally taking out walls is great fun. No one gets hurt and it’s impossible to make a mistake. I use the word ‘joist’ a lot.
Things are going well. “And is that a load bearing wall?” they ask. I’m ready for this and have done some homework. “No it’s a stud partition. The joists are going the other way. But I’d say that one there is, so if we need an RSJ that’s fine.” BOOM. Stud partitions, Joists and RSJs in one go. It’s a ‘Triple Threat Move’. The man taps some walls and concurs. “Yeah, that’s right. Just a stud-partition.” I feel good. Until he notices what’s on my desk.
In this business, you take every piece of work you can get. If RTE Radio rings up asking if you would like to review Celebrity Workout DVDs, you say yes. As the builders were early in arriving, in my excitement to talk about Joists, Stud-Partitions and RSJs, I neglected to tidy away the source material for my radio appearance. The source material that is now the main focus of the builder and plumber standing in our house. If it was just the one DVD, it wouldn’t have looked so bad. After all ‘Essexercise’, the DVD starring Sam, Billie and Lydia – the girls from The Only Way Is Essex – could be dismissed as a little bit of innocent fun. However the additional presence of DVDs starring Colleen Nolan, The Wan Who Used to play Sonia in EastEnders and Claire Who Used To Be In Steps now make me look like some sort of pervert. The phrase “I can explain..” never sounds good in any setting. “No you don’t understand. I’m reviewing them for the radio.” doesn’t make it any better. Now I’m some sort of pervert who works in the media. Which is the worst kind.
I try to change the subject, bringing out the big guns. “We’re also thinking of improving the insulation here but I don’t think these are cavity walls so it’lll probably have to be externally applied.”
It’s no good. “So which one is your favourite?” says the plumber gesturing at the DVD pile of perversion and looks are exchanged with the others. There are certain types of respect that we all crave. While people will say stand-up comedy is brave and ‘I don’t know how you do it’, that doesn’t mean much to me. When the world starts to end later on this year, the people will be looking to the men and women who can drill holes straight, knock walls and tile bathrooms. Not people who just talk about it.
There’s still a bit of time to change that however. I could at least look like I do manual labour and try and work-out a bit more. And I know just the DVD to help me with it…