Monday, 8 November 2010

Destroy it yourself

Recent reports allege that modern men are becoming increasingly useless.  Not only are we less likely to carry out running maintenance, we're not even pitching-in when it comes to domestic repairs.

I have some sympathy with this view, as I remember when things were different.  Growing up in the seventies, everything was in black and white - apart from the brown polyester trousers my mom made me wear to school.   On any given Saturday, you could have wandered along the street where we lived and seen the bonnets up on at least one in four cars.  Chaps would be merrily servicing their steeds or simply fettling them for the week ahead.  Whether this was down to the general unreliability of cars of the day or not, I can't say.  In the case of our next-door-neighbour, proud owner of a swimming-pool-blue Ford Cortina, we suspected it was because he was tired from constantly arguing with his wife - a woman who could be heard through several timezones, never mind our party wall - and considered the weekly fiddling with his carburettors to be less of a hassle.

It was the same indoors.  Dad avoided the weekly car-care by being the first on our street to own a Japanese car, which didn't break down, giving him more time for extensive house remodelling.  I remember him rebuilding the family bathroom over the course of a weekend with a pine tongue-and-groove effect on one side and tiles on the other, all combined with an avocado coloured suite. I know - I could only provide you with a more typical seventies image if I described Tony Manero riding past on a Raleigh Chopper.

But these days it's all different.  On the odd occasion I need to lift the bonnet of my car, the contents therein scream at me: "You're out of your depth here, sunshine."  And I had to get a man in when replacing my kitchen and bathroom.  Which is probably just as well.

I have had the odd success, though.  The other week the WC started emitting an awful noise when refilling after flushing.  It's not unusual for worrying sounds to come from this area of the house, but normally one tends to hear them somewhat earlier in the toilet-using cycle.  But this time the loud juddering moan was coming out even when neither of us were in position, so to speak.

Eventually I traced it down to an unlubricated ballcock, which is the most Carry On type of domestic mishap I think it's possible to have; the equivalent of a 'worn big end' in a car.  Fnarr fnarr.  But I had the measure of this one.  I knew what to do.  I girded my loins and strode manfully to do with battle with this non-functioning nubbin.  A quick squirt of WD-40 and things were going up and down nice and smoothly once more.

I'm sorry.  I can't stop myself when I get going.

But, these minimal successes aside, I am not particularly handy around the house.  So are these reports of the demise of homo domesticus to be believed?  Well, perhaps not.  Because although we're not building retaining walls, pipe clenched firmly between manly teeth, some of us at least do attempt to pull our weight in other areas.

I do all of the washing-up in chez fatboyfat.  It seems only fair.  I'm no stranger to laundry and do the majority of the ironing, too.  And I quite like doing the weekly shop, as well.  I don't mention this to show off - I know plenty of other blokes, chaps and gents who do the same, if not more.  Could any of us imagine our forefathers doing the same?  No. My dad would be more likely to be seen on the moon than near the kitchen sink.  My grandfather?  He engineered the Lancaster bombers used on the Dambuster raids.  Would you have asked him to sort out a pastels wash?

In conclusion, we're not useless, we're just useful in a different way.  Now if you don't mind, I've got some pots and pans from last night that really need doing.

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