Saturday, August 16, 2003
Man At Work
I'm not the most practical of Strangers. I never learnt to drive or ride a bike, sometimes forget which way's up, and anything green in a pot dies within the month. I'm a lousy cook, apart from sausage sarnies, and, if I really must wire a plug, then I'm going to need a diagram to work out which coloured wire goes where. And on the rare occasions I attempt DIY, I make Frank Spencer look like Frank Lloyd Wright.
I bought a set of wooden blinds recently. Well, recently as in six months ago. They've been in the hallway ever since, glaring at me accusingly every time I leave or enter my flat, demanding I stop being so ineffectual and girly, and put them up. Once upon a time, I'd have paid someone to come round. Sadly, over the years I've discovered that call-out handymen, rather like pizza delivery boys and motorcycle couriers, never look like, or do the things, they do in the videos, so what's the point? If anyone's going to do it then it's going to have to be me.
So, by mid-morning today the floor was strewn with back-copies of the Pink Paper and everything was neatly laid out - blinds, mounting brackets, borrowed spirit-level, borrowed power-drill, borrowed selection of screwdrivers, screws and rawl-plugs. I made sure I looked the part too: grubby vest, too-tight shorts and one day's growth of stubble. Sizing myself up in my bathroom mirror, trimmed with faux pink fur, I looked ever so butch.
Of course, despite careful measuring, the blinds were way too big for the window space. This had something to do with the fact I'd previously done the measurements after an all-nighter in Farringdon, and with the tape-measure I use when sewing. (Apparently not the professional way to go about such things.) Undaunted, a determined stride down the road to the local hardware shop was called for, to buy my very first hacksaw. Knowing a DIY virgin when he saw one, the shop owner suggested I needed a "junior" hacksaw. Nah, mate, chewing the imaginary piece of Wrigley's in my mouth, give us the sort the trade uses. Cheers.
Back home and fifteen quid poorer, I supported the first blind on a chair (the kind Liza Minnelli danced around in Cabaret, only painted lilac), and, with a hardback set of the complete works of Oscar Wilde as counterweight, manfully set to sawing away at the metal and wood of the blind. A breeze, my dears; I reckon I could add "straight-acting and sweaty" to my Gaydar profile if only I had one. It was only halfway through the second blind I realised the CD playing in the background was Judy At Carnegie Hall Deciding Liza's mum wasn't the most appropriate choice of soundtrack, I switched the player over to Bruce Springsteen.
With all three blinds now chopped to their correct size, and only one splattered with blood, Bruce and I set to screwing the mounting brackets into the wall. Pounding power-tool in my hands for the first time (well, one made by Black & Decker anyway), I handled it like the DIY pro I'm sure you've realised I've now become. Even when I worked out that the holes I'd marked on the wall now no longer corresponded to the length of the sawn-down blinds, I didn't pout and stamp my feet and throw a queeny fit. No, I just said "f**k-s**t, f**k-s**t, f**k-s**t", like any respected workman would, downed tools, went to the pub, and two Stellas later returned to start all over again.
They're up now. With a bit of luck they might just stay up too: I've liberally applied some No More Nails, that lifesaver of the DIY-inept, to the mounting brackets just to be on the safe side. I swallowed only one rawl-plug, and the whole place is covered in a light layer of plaster-dust. I might just leave it like that: it lends a glamour of butch masculinity to balance the camp nelliness of the zebra-skin cushions and rugs, and the framed portraits of Louise Brooks. The sun is shining through the wooden slats now, turning the flat into something out of a 70s Hockney.
No-one's more impressed than me. You know, I could get into the hang of this do-it-yourself lark. I'm thinking of sorting out the plumbing next weekend, and after that putting down a parquet floor. I might even come round to yours and knock up some shelves, and a walk-in wardrobe.
I'm a man, my dears. Oooh, I am sooo glad I'm a man!