As we go through the third summer of the recession, optimism can be a precious commodity. But there is still one place where hope exists, where confidence and can-do attitude permeate the air – the home improvement store.
Walk through the doors of your local B&Q and suddenly you are in a world where everything is possible. We can do better.
I didn’t always realise the importance of these places for the national psyche. There was a time, when we first bought our house, when I regarded each minute spent in a home improvement store as some sort of brightly lit purgatory. A grim place populated by lost souls not virtuous enough to be out exercising but not naughty enough to be drinking cans in a park. I saw my balder, fatter future, condemned to spending endless afternoons buying ‘a few bits and pieces’, redecorating the spare room then redecorating every other room because the newly minted spare room was showing them up. Traipsing around looking for decking and returning the following afternoon to get furniture to put on it. Sitting on the decking with a relaxing glass of wine and noticing that the chutes need clearing and there’s moss on the flat roof. Life seemed to stretch out in a process of ‘continuous improvement’. At first, this seemed a dull existence.
Now I get it. These massive stores are not necessarily about what you buy, they’re about the little day dreams you have as you wander around the aisles. They may walk in together, but soon couples unconsciously separate, drawn to different things.
I’ve seen groups of women – sometimes three different generations – respectfully touching one of these trendy shallow wash basins, hand on chin saying things like “That would go lovely with…” They pause and try to check their hair in a mirror but it’s not a mirror! It’s a window through to another spotless bathroom. “Oh Bernie, come and look at this – that’s what Joan’s had done in her house now. Isn’t it gorgeous? It is Pauline, but c’mere ’till I tell you, she can well afford it. Didn’t she get the house from the aunt?”
Meanwhile the men drift away towards the darker reaches of the store – the ware gradually getting harder. The names get more ‘grrrrrr’ – Clout nail, Raw Aluminium Unequal Corner. These products don’t evoke Alpine meadows or Greek villas. The words are harsh and consonantal – Gyproc Wallboard, Rectangular Gulley Hopper. You’re gripped by the urge to hit something with a hammer or throw a washbasin out the bathroom window into a skip. Someone touches you on the shoulder, you nearly punch them in the face, such is the testosterone coursing through your veins. “Can I help you sir?” You can’t admit you’re just browsing in the rawlplug section so you make up a product you know they won’t have. “No I’m grand thanks. I was looking for a four inch nine-sply multi-horse with dual-action TwistyBox and a kryptonite pygmy-shrew leftswitch, but you seem to be out of them. No problem, I’ll try Woodies.”
Then you wander to the tools section. The brand names sound like companies that make real stuff – German, iron foundries and shovels: DeWalt, Bosch, Altendorf. There’s none of your Executive Solutions shite.
As you move over another aisle, you are now far away from the bathrooms and the cushions. It’s quieter here and there’s a cool breeze. You see the builder’s yard. A forklift is setting down a pallet of quarry dust. I want some. I don’t need quarry dust. I just want to be able to say something like “We were flying until we ran out of quarry dust. Myself and Mateusz had to go down in the van and get another couple of hundredweight.”
I’m about to ask the man about the price of the quarry dust when the mobile rings – “Where are you? I need you to help me look at paint colours for the spare room.” Worlds are colliding.
We meet at the one spot where everyone stops no matter who they are. The JML television. JML is not a Indonesian guerrilla group, it’s a mysterious company who specialise in telling you – via five-minute cheesy adverts – that what you’re currently doing is wrong and there is a better way.
Each JML ad has a familiar pattern. A man – sounding like an older Barry Scott from Cilit Bang – asks you “Are you TIRED of…?”. It can be any number of things – cutting crooked lines with a jigsaw, shattering the plaster while hanging up a picture, finding cat hairs in your tea. There will then follow a short grainy black and white video of someone doing something the wrong, pre-JML, way. Often they will show the error of their ways in an exaggerated manner – someone trying to hammer a nail in the wall will fall off a ladder. Their wife will stand nearby, hands on hips, disapproving. Their children will be laughing. Then JML steps in. Thanks to some sort of a knacky yoke, the next piece of video shows the man doing it right. His life is back together again. His wife has moved back in and his children now respect him.
To further reinforce the message, JML will interview people who talk about how their lives have been turned around by something similarly handy. Steve from Derby says “When you take a jumper out of the wardrobe, there’s nothing worse than finding bobbles on it . Before BobblesOff, I didn’t know what to do.”
At the far end of aisle 23, there’s now a group of us gathered now watching a man jigsaw a perfect shape with a JML Exakt Saw. If only all problems could be solved this way. What wonders could JML work for the country?
Are you TIRED of poor governance? Fed up of forking out for Civil Servant’s pensions? There IS another way. Try the new IronRule ™! Say goodbye to waster politicians – the new IronRule from JML runs the country, allowing you time to sit back and take the bobbles out of your jumper.