Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Doing it yourself--or trying to---with Elisabeth Rose

I grew up on a farm with a Dad who could fix anything, do wood and metal work and knew about engines. My brother is the same. As a child I naively assumed men could do those things.


My husband’s idea of fixing something is to give it a whack with a hammer or stick it together with gaffer tape. Or throw it away. Once, he was doing the vacuuming and stopped to announce, ‘This thing doesn’t work anymore, it’s got no suck. We need a new one.’
‘Have you emptied it and checked the filter?’

‘No.’ Accompanied by an astonished expression.
Don’t get me wrong. He’s very good at other things—a top flight drummer and percussionist, a teacher, a great father, a good cook, does his own ironing now, and vacuums on occasion, including emptying out the dirt. We’ve been together about forty years — he’s my husband, my best friend and we laugh a lot.
As I write he is attempting to assemble a garden hose stand. The type that winds the hose up. We’ve been talking about getting one for ages to avoid tripping over loops of hose when we go out the back door. Today he came home with the thing in a box, which he put in the laundry.

‘I had to get this as well,’ he said. A short piece of hose to connect our hose on the winder to the tap. ‘It says here,’ he went on. ‘That this is an accessory. It also says a hose is an accessory. Why would you buy a hose winder stand if you didn’t own a hose?’
He then went off to read the paper. 

‘Aren’t you going to get it out of the box?’ I could see that box sitting untouched in the laundry for weeks. He’s newly retired, he has no excuse.
‘Oh, okay. I was waiting for the sun to go round a bit so I’d be in the shade.’ Of course he was. Admittedly it is midsummer and we’ve had a series of blistering days.

He took the box outside and opened it to reveal multiple plastic bits.
‘Oh no!’ Followed by a laugh.

In it came to the dining table and while I made coffee he began assembly.
‘This doesn’t seem to work. I don’t understand.’ Staring at the large sheet of instructions, then at the black plastic pieces.

Five minutes later. ‘Now I know! There are two versions. One with wheels and one without. 2691A and 2691B.’ Full steam ahead for a couple of minutes.
‘Come and look at this and see if it looks right.’

I went and had a look. He was on Step 1. ‘Aren’t there two parts here?’ It looked to me as though he had to attach a U shaped metal stand as well as the straight axle bit he’d successfully screwed on.
He held up two U curved metal things. ‘But which one?’

‘The one with holes in it for screws.’

‘They’ve both got…oh no they haven’t.’ He held it against the already assembled part. ‘How can it go on there? It won’t fit between the sides. I’ll have to take that bit off.’
I studied the plan.

‘Turn it up the other way and slot it into those.’

I left him with coffee and a biscuit for brain food and went off to start writing this. I’d been wondering what to blog about and it dawned on me that the frustrating self assembly of purchases is something we can all relate to.
I bought a new desk for my writing room. The big flat box only just fitted in the car and it took both of us several hours to put together. It’d be impossible for one person. Apart from the struggle of getting it inside the house from the car (luckily we don’t have flights of steps), the pieces were too big to hold flat at the same time as putting in the screws. In an aside, my ninety two year old Dad cut down the shelves from my old computer desk and made a bookshelf for my new desk. He likes to keep busy in his workshop on little projects.


‘I think I’ve got it.’ Here he is in the doorway with the stand, winding the orange handle proudly.
Excellent.’ And it is.

He peers at it from different angles. ‘I can’t screw anything tighter. I suppose it won’t fall apart.’
We go outside for a test. A minor hitch when he thought the inner piece of hose was being flattened as he wound but no, water spurted forth on demand.

Perfect. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of wrestling with a do-it-yourself assembly kit and winning.      Sweet contemporary romance


  1. This is almost like writing a book. We start with a project, in our case a blank piece of paper and an idea, and then try to figure out to put them together. We try this, we try that, we doubt ourselves, discard things, add things and eventually, like the desk and the hose winder, we get a pretty darn good result.

    Your post made me laugh. A bright spot in an otherwise cold and busy day at work - where I should not be reading the blog, but I needed the smile.

  2. I grew up on a farm, also, and don't even get me started on the differences between my farmer Dad and my husband. Some good, some not so good. How funny - I enjoyed this!

  3. I so get what you're saying. We're all just meant to do different things. You made me laugh. Thanks.

  4. It is a different skills set! My husband is a "follow the directions to the letter." I'm a "look at the pictures" kinda gal. (I usually finish assembly first.) :o) What a great couple the two of you make!

  5. Ah, yes. I'm the handy one in our marriage. Have my own tools and everything. Hubster does the "heavy lifting." :-)

  6. Great post, and thanks for the humor. I'm married to a wonderful man, who can put anything together as long as it has pictures, but then he's always amazed at how many screws he has left over.