The Handy Man Can


Today I finally feel I belong. I feel my place in society is, once again, secure. I feel like I’ve been welcomed back, invited into the game that everyone else is playing. No, it’s not that I’ve got a job or as if any of my emails asking for work have even been replied to. No, I clearly need to lower my expectations on that front. What has happened is that I’ve noticed that my road, and more importantly my house, has finally been photographed by the chaps at Google Street View.

The Gamekeeper's Lodge, Railway Cuttings

Yes, just 18 months after the Sharp Single, the rest of the country, nay, world debated whether this new technology was intrusive, instructive, an aid to burglars or a gift to estate agents, Railway Cuttings is finally on the map. I think we were next on the the list after the High Street, Ulan Bator.

Go see for yourself: just tap in “Railway Cuttings, SE3” and you’ll see me wearing nothing but tight-fitting rugby shorts, watering my plants. There’s The Incumbent trimming her bush, and if you zoom in, you can see the dent on my front door which got damaged in an altercation with that door-to-door salesmen. Notice also that the window cleaner still hasn’t been.

I dunno when Google drove past in one of their funny little vans, but it can’t have been that long ago – the croquet lawn has a little straw-coloured tinge to it, the duck house is looking spick and span with it’s fresh coat of paint, and those ornamental stone meerkats are a recent edition, so the photos must have been taken within the last month. Yes the old place is looking pretty nice at the moment- both online and in real life.

Inside, I’ve had time to attend to those little jobs which I’ve been meaning to get around to for so long. Thanks to superglue, the front of the cutlery drawer no longer pulls away and drops onto my foot every time I go in search of the bottle opener (which happens more than you’d think). I no longer need to employ a shire-horse to open and shut the patio doors since I discovered the little adjustable screw at the bottom of the window, so it now glides smoothly to and fro.

That irritating bubble of paper in the lounge ceiling (evidence of a bathroom flood some years ago, I suspect) has been cut out, smoothed over and re-painted. Ok, it’s been repainted in brilliant white gloss, where the rest of the ceiling is in yellowing matt (I told you my eyes aren’t what the were) and I’m gonna have to paint the whole sodding ceiling, but it still looks better than it did. Ish.

The electrics are still a worry, of course.In the lounge I have the most pointless dimmer switch in Christendom. It’s either on or off, no inbetween. If I do try to dim the lights to create a mood the lights flicker like James Galway’s eyeballs. If you like eating your dinner in original Thomas Edison lighting, this is the place for you. Last year I decided to replace the switch, convinced as I was that the flicker was the result in faulty wiring. The result of my trip to Homebase and half and hour with my trusty screwdriver is that I have a lovely sparkly-white dimmer switch which I can have either the on, off or strobe. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference.

Elsewhere I have a double-switch which controls the kitchen and dining area, and is also linked to the dimmer in the next room. When I moved in this worked as double switches are supposed to: I could have the lights on in the kitchen, or in the dining room, or both, or neither. But having replaced the aforementioned dimmer switch, I wanted to replace the old double switch with a shiny new one too. So out came the screwdriver again, off came the old switch box, and on went the new one.

Perfect.

Except I must have mis-remembered how the original was wired, because I can now have the lights on in the kitchen, or in the dining room, but not both. And not neither, unless you perfect a Bletchley-Park series of combinations with the switches of the double AND the dimmer. Walk by my house when I’m going to bed, with all the lights going on and off in different permutations, and you’d think I was signaling a passing U-boat. If I have people round for a meal there a several interludes when the diners are plunged into darkness as I return to the kitchen to retrieve a serving spoon or another bottle of white from the fridge.

As with most things that are not quite right around the house, I’ve tended to leave them be, and get used to them. I did get my dad up the other week to attempt to fix the lighting situation, but after 3 hours of screwdrivers, circuit-testers and swearing at each other we gave it up as a bad job, But this week I’m gonna see a bloke, who knows a bloke, who knows a bloke (this is a bloke you know) who knows all about electrics. I shall cross his palm with tea and biscuits, and even silver if I have to, to get the bloody thing done. I’ve bought myself bucketloads of Homebase Economy Whitewash to go over the walls and ceiling, Polyfilla will sort out those couple of holes in the walls upstairs, and I will spend several lovely hours ridding my flower-beds of fox turds.

Then I shall contact Google and ask them to drive past again with their camera to photograph a TO LET sign in my front garden (knowing my luck the local kids will paint an ‘i’ between the two words). As no bugger seems to want to employ me (go figure) I shall just have to make my living out of my property portfolio (which currently contains one house). Street View are not due to pass by this way again for another six years but I’m sure they’d come round much sooner to rid their pages of the photo of me holding my belly in and my hose out.

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No Hammer, Just a House of Horrors


In a rare moment of sobriety this weekend I decided to do a few jobs around the house. Nothing major, you understand, just a few little bits that needed doing. I’ve never been Mr.D.I.Y for several reasons : I’m crap at it; I’m a lazy little bastard; there’s something I wanna watch on telly; Dad will do it for me; I can pay a mate / local tradesman to do it for me. But times being as they are with the piggy-bank being empty, I need to forget my lack of enthusiasm for or skill with a screwdriver, drill or hammer, act like a man, get off my arse and do it.

I limbered up with a doorknob. That’s not something I’d admit to in public, but nevertheless it’s true. I’ve had to open my kitchen door with a teaspoon ever since the knob fell off a few weeks ago. The spoon makes a good jemmy, and doesn’t scratch the paint. I have gotten quite used to it. It even has it’s own little home on top of the heater beside the door and The Incumbent has pronounced it all to be ‘funny’ as opposed to it being a pain in the arse . But what with the imminent arrival of Mum , who will not see the funny side of it, and having invited some pals round next weekend for beer and curry, I knew I had to get my act together. Railway Cuttings is no mansion, no show-home, but it’s a slippery slope down to Trampsville when you have to open doors with cutlery. Next stop: J-cloths as reusable toilet paper. I don’t wanna go there again.

Two squirts of ‘No More Nails’ later and my two new knobs were affixed (one each side of the door, DO keep up!). What was dad thinking of, using screws and nails and things ? This is the future of DIY!. Yes, yes I realise they’ll last about ten days. I realise this stuff isn’t quite the miracle cure for sticking everything they tell us it is, but once the guests have left and my knob falls off I’m happy to go back to the spoon. (God this is thrilling stuff! Dick Francis ??? Pah!) Encouraged by my success, I moved on to repairing the curtains. This too seemed to go swimmingly, with the aid of another ‘labour-saving’ device, some iron-on adhesive tape ( a bit like Wonderweb- the batchelor’s friend). “End Curtain-Sticking Misery Now ” Why get out the needle and thread when there’s stuff like this on the market ? Back of the net!. (continued after this advert)

Wales Rugby T-shirt

As I knelt on the floor, ironing two halves of some purple curtains together I wondered if this was the sort of thing that other male icons such as Humphrey Bogart or David Niven would be doing on a Saturday afternoon ? Try as I could to convince myself they would, deep down I suspected not. They would be doing something far more mundane: A glass of scotch on the porch while shooting tigers, a quick fumble with the missus (or somebody else’s missus) on the polar-bear rug, then off to play poker all-night with the guys in some smokey bar, Claudia Cardinale draped around their shoulders, vodka martinis coming our of their ears. Hmmmm…………

I was deamily immersed in my thoughts, all the time making sure my seams were straight, when suddenly I was roused by the unmistakable of a wooden doorknob hitting a veneered floor : ‘Clunk’, followed by the unmistakable sound of an annoyed bloke. ‘Oh Bollocks !!. The Incumbent, bless her, did her best not to titter. I had to leave the ‘no more cotton’ activity on the floor and return to the ‘No More Nails’ scenario in the kitchen. I refused to be defeated by this fucking doorknob, even if I had to go down the path of ‘Some More Nails’.

A mere several hours passed and both jobs were finished. The curtains were back on their rods and, if you sit in just the right position (and ignore where the glue is already coming unstuck) they’re looking magnificent, if a little pissed in places (as oft am I). In the kitchen, the knobs are stuck securely to the door, as long as you don’t touch them. Apparently, the trick is to hold them in place for 35 minutes while the adhesive dries and hardens. I might as well have used my own faeces. Next time it’s hammer and nails time.

Tomorrow I’m fixing a heater to a wall in the hallway. Or maybe I’ll get my dad to do it.