What I am slowly beginning to realise is that the whole D.I.Y industry is an intricate plot to fleece the average unpractical man out of his hard earned money. What the industry first does is it cunningly suggests that if you can't hang a door by yourself then you are not a real man. Immediately insecure, you grasp at the salvation they offer you through their fancy adverts and magazines that tell you that you, good old Joe "can't change a light bulb" Average, can take control of your domain, fix anything and finally be a real man. Gone are the days of having to call out an expert who has spent years learning how to do these things, all you need to do now is read the paragraph and a half in your D.I.Y magazine (or on Google) that deals with the problem you are facing and then head off to the local D.I.Y shop. In a trice you will be home and in a second trice you will be standing on your stoep with a Castle in one hand smoking a Camel with a wry grin of satisfaction on your stubbly face.
Of course what they don't tell you is that there is a reason the professionals have spent a fair amount of time learning how to do what it is that they do. And that's before you even make it back from the D.I.Y shop in one piece. As for me, I have the magazines and I know where the shop is but beyond that I haven't made it to the Castle and Camel stage yet. I still sit on my stoep with a wine cooler and a plate of assorted canapés grimacing that the crème fraîche is a tad warm.
But seriously, navigating a D.I.Y shop is no easy task. Do you have any idea how much stuff (there is probably a D.I.Y term for it but I don't know what it is so I just call it 'stuff') they have inside one of those shops? Case in point. Just the other day the Lovely Jacs and I decided to put a security gate on our front door. So I went out and bought a gate. As it turns out there is a little more to buying a security gate than choosing the colour, as I discovered when I got the gate home. The first major problem was that the gate did not come with anything to help stick it to the wall. Realising I was out of my depth I phoned a friend who reliably informed me that I could screw the hinges to the gate and thereafter I should screw the other side of the hinges to my door frame. I had no idea that one could screw metal to metal. I thought you had to weld it or do something else involving huge bottles of compressed gasses, sparks flying all over the show, and rivers of sweat. I watched Flashdance in the 80's. I'm not a complete idiot!
So off I headed to my local friendly D.I.Y shop. Let me tell you there were at least a million screws in that shop: blackish screws and gold screws and silver screws and long screws and short screws and fat screws and thin screws. I honestly walked up and down that aisle about a hundred times. Eventually I asked an assistant to assist me. After thirty seconds with him I was back in the car to fetch the hinges from home so that I could determine how thick my screws had to be.
After presenting the hinge to the assistant I was back in the car to go home for a second time to measure how thick the gate was so that I knew how long the screws should be. Once we had pretty much sorted out the length/breadth issue we got down to the nitty-gritty. I distinctly remember a question about self-something screws and I think he also might have mentioned something about a pie. Not having the faintest idea what he was talking about, I adopted my serious expression and casually reached across and started playing with a luminous orange hammer I had been eyeing out earlier. I have been to that shop on four different occasions and I now own four hammers. A man walking out of a D.I.Y shop with nothing in his hands is a man screaming "I have no idea what is going on in there and therefore I am abdicating my masculinity – pass me my pashmina". And what tool screams "Out of my way! I am a man and there are important things to be hammered!" more than a hammer.
After playing it extremely cool with the shop assistant and alternating my "umming" and "ahhhing" for a few minutes. I asked him what he would do if it were his gate. He had obviously seen my type before and so sighed, shook his head and handed me some rather unattractive grey screws. When I got home with my new luminous orange hammer and dull grey screws (if you are walking out of the D.I.Y shop with 12 screws you might as well be walking out with nothing) I proudly pronounced to the Lovely Jacs that I would have the gate up in mere moments.
Four hours later my friend informed me that there are drill bits for wood, masonry and metal! I didn't mention to him that it was his masonry bit I was using. Having negotiated the mire of drill bits, self-tapping screws, hinges on the wrong way round and Phillips head v Normal screwdrivers (not to be confused with the landmark Freedom of Speech trial of the same name) I finally mounted my gate to my doorframe. Unfortunately and yet at the same time quite predictably it turned out my door way was some anachronistic vestige of 1980's architecture which made it not a 'regular' size doorway with the result that the gate closed a full two inches short of the other side of the door frame.
Not only would the shop not take the gate back but the D.I.Y shop refused to take the screws back (that I spent hours unscrewing out of the gate and the door frame) and to add insult injury I ended up buying another hammer.
I would like to say that sound reason has prevailed and that that was my last attempt at D.I.Y but I am not about to be emasculated quite so easily. No, I suspect that will happen when I try to build the planned built in cupboards in our spare room. Have you seen how sharp those saws are?
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