Tag Archives: DIY

The last walnut

It’s important to get a picture of the setup in your mind for any of this to make sense.

The living room is compact, and space for something like a standard-size desktop computer, on which to try to work for a living, is limited. As a result it sits in the corner of the room with the monitor facing back into the room. If someone suddenly removed the computer but left me and my chair where they were it would take me back some 32 years to when I was banished, forbidden to look at my classmates for having told a lurid story about nose-picking to five-year-old Wendy Jones.

The way I have to position the chair means I can see part of my minuscule back garden through the rear glass door of the flat. I paid a premium of some thousands for a tiny garden in London, so that I could watch it grow with increasing hatred that at some point I’ll have to get cutting implements and/or the mower out of the shed. The shed, which I erected myself to some acclaim, is the main thing I can see through the glass door.

And, above the shed, a little old man who I would dearly love to hack to pieces with a bolo machete.

The setup involves me staring at the monitor for long periods of the day, when I’m not typing, because obviously I never thought typing would be a required life skill and never learned to do it without staring at the bloody keyboard. I particularly enjoy looking up to admire a lengthy sentence only to find I accidentALLY HIT cAPS lOCK HALFWAY THROUGH AND HAVE TO RETYPE IT.

When I’m looking at the monitor, the roof of next door’s extension is in my peripheral vision. It just sits there, as roofs do, inoffensively. And then whenever whoever lives in the flat diagonally up and to the right of me decides to go on a little expedition, his greying dome and little round glasses pop into the side of my eye and I look up and across.

I fucking have to. There was nothing there and suddenly there’s movement, so up and across I look. Maybe once every couple of minutes he’ll pop his head over the little parapet and my brain will think “What’s that?” even though it knows full well it’s a little old man searching in vain for a long-lost contact lens.

Every single time he’s in my line of sight for no more than a couple of seconds, and every time I see him he’s looking down – not at me, at the floor beneath him. Peering down, more accurately, at the floor which he will, fucking please, fall through at any moment. I can only assume he’s wondering if the extension’s roof is going to give way beneath him, walking around on it stamping and muttering “It’s going to break in a minute, it’s going to break in a minute” like the relative who comes round to break your previously intact belongings to prove how poorly made they are, and thus how cheaply you live.

The worst thing is I brought this on myself. A couple of years ago the side wall of that extension was covered with ivy which crept up and over the top. In a fit of misguided garden maintenance I stripped it all off. Later that day a little old man peered confusedly down into my garden for the first time, like a kidnap victim released blinking into the light, bewildered by the unfamiliar sights of a world that’s moved on about three decades while he was getting raped in the basement.

Two nights ago I apparently slept with my head at 90 degrees to my body and woke with a neck pain akin to that of the T1000 when he gets blown up in the metal factory at the end of Terminator 2, and making a similar screeching sound. Perhaps, just perhaps, the sudden urge to snap my head to the right could be fucking skipped, just for a day or two. But no, there he is, scrabbling around for the last walnut or Werthers Original or whatever old people drop through their decaying digits these days.

And as you can imagine it plays havoc with both schedule and lifestyle. Working without distraction is impossible, while a cheeky one off the wrist is now a terrifying race to finish before the head appears. I can now complete that particular task with hand movements like Neo out of the Matrix, and when it ends seconds later it’s with an image of a little old man with glasses in my mind.

There’s no happy ending to any of this. In the only successful piece of gardening I’ve ever done, the ivy now won’t grow back. The extension looks sturdy enough to hold him, no matter how often he tries to shuffle his way through to the room beneath. There’s nowhere to move the computer to, and I’m still stubbornly refusing to get a job, though it’s tempting to do so just to get this damnable pillock out of my sight.

So stalemate it is. Perhaps I could buy a thousand jigsaw puzzles and sit on the roof of the shed throwing the pieces one by one into next door’s garden, in the hope he’ll be unable to resist grabbing at one and falling over the edge to his death. And when you find me on my shed clutching that one final piece, unable to let it go, don’t forget to look up and give a little wave to the chuckling OAP who finally drove me to the insanity I’m fast realising is already irreversible.

Polystyrene inners

Weary from a long walk, I hobbled through the front door to be met by the sight of my new vacuum cleaner. I feared another two hours trying to put it together and fighting with the polystyrene inners.

Begrudgingly, I opened the box and pleasantly found only one polystyrene brick yet annoyingly, two instruction manuals. I was immediately disheartened. One was always enough, two meant an inevitable sweat-infused, foul language bust up with an inanimate object.

Undeterred, I removed the polythene bags to reveal a cherry red Miele S6220. My conscience was telling me I would need the stupid literature imminently. My cavalier attitude forbade such defeatist actions though. Out it popped, without much fuss or exertion. Very light I thought. I parked it and could not but help admire the sleek lines. I rewarded myself a few minutes break to dispose of the packaging, and used the time wisely to congratulate myself on my progress so far.

This level of motivation was crucial to the success of the task at hand. Take the points when you get offered them. So I did. So far so good. I sat down next to the hoover and beckoned the cat over to have a look. Here we go then, the first attachment.

A long telescopic pole that clearly snaps into the brush plate. It did too! And what an extension it is. I mounted the pole to my arm pit, in readiness for the spiders that lurk in the recesses and was immediately reminded of my Smith and Wesson pump-action, such is the fine balance. This was real progress. Excited, I moved on, albeit with a little trepidation. There was no need though, as the other end of the pole snapped straight into the hoover itself. I stood up, walked around the room and, satisfied, re-joined the cat on the sofa. Where is your sting, white goods thing?

I regarded the cat for some form of acknowledgement and got nothing. He knew this was a big deal though, because on returning from the toilet I found him sniffing the plug attachment.

Admiring the curves of the section that housed the motor, I noticed that there were two dials.

How refreshing I thought. One for power on and one for the speed. I was getting quite excited.

There, fully assembled just waiting for the switch to be gladiatorially thrown. Ah, what about the bag, I had forgotten that. I stared at the thing, not wanting to touch it till I found the exact spot, the clicking mechanism, the switch, anything to indicate how to open it. Nothing. A flaw at last…

I scoured the predictably intelligence-insulting and rubbish manual. Frustration began to mount and I swiped at the cat. The sensible thing would be to get up, walk away and sit down to think more clearly.

And then I realised that there was no catch, no switch or any other obvious lid to flip open. The top simply came away from the bottom with minimal force. How clever. How clever indeed. On inspection, there was already a bag in the machine, and I had to marvel at the quality of the rubber seals.

I plugged it in, and turned it on.

Oh, I say, a mere whisper of air and I thought of autumnal leaves and Angel Delight. I dared turn the dial to 6.15, and was astonished at the increase in suction and yet not in noise. More please, so I raced to 6.30.The cat sat up with a bolt and the carpet began to rise. 6.45 and the noise was now most significant. At full tilt, I was reminded of a Dan Air aircraft; I was aboard, sipping affordable cocktails, served by attractive hostesses and about to eat a palatable meal.

I turned the machine off to control my excitement.

It did not last long as the need for the rush visited me quickly. I pulled the beast along effortlessly. It moved like a gazelle. So taken with its serenity I ran over the cat. A certain other hoover, far more exalted than this, would whine and screech and fail to do anything other than get the deserved kick to its cyclone. Never has there been such a shit product.

The acid test cometh. Spotting a cluster of feline hair, I charged towards it. “Ave some of this” I roared, noticing too late that the living room window was open.

A few neighbours cast a startled look in my direction. The machine snaffled up the object of my perpetual torment. Hair today gone tomorrow. I ran the Miele over the hard floor of the bathroom and kitchen, previous no go zones for that last piece of crap. With that, you were instructed to drop the clutch and engage the “special” hard floor cleaning brush for this task. They should have branded this hoover PLACEBO, followed up of course with PLACEBO 11 or PLACEBO UNIVERSAL. MILLENNIUM PLACEBO would work not to account for the millionth sale, but the millionth fool of a customer who bought their dire product. Perhaps they will re-brand it ‘The Emperor`s New Vacuum Cleaner’.

Suffice to say, my Miele sucked up everything in its path. I had to wrestle it off the floor, but never before was breaking suction so utterly pleasurable. The stairs were a dream to clean. I felt like Fred Astaire carouseling Ginger Rogers. I couldn’t help but burst into “They can`t take that away from me”.

I love this Miele. It has the reassurance one associates when slamming an old fashioned Smeg fridge door and, in equal measure, when applying Anusol.

I have consigned my old hoover to the shed. Here it stands prim and proud with an arrogance that masks the utter uselessness of it. I keep it as a memento of the “buy anything that is overpriced, useless and multi-coloured” era.