Do it yourself

DIY isn’t one of my strongpoints. It never has been really. With a father and brother both brilliant with their hands there just wasn’t much handiwork skills left in the gene pool for me.

But I do try, and there are times when I feel a vague sense of satisfaction or even smugness when a shelf stays up or a hugely complex wardrobe doesn’t fall to bits. I have to admit I do get myself into a bit of a state when DIY looms: mood descends and I have to mentally prepare.

Over the years, I have developed tried and tested strategies to help me deal with the traumatic experience that is DIY or more accurately, Ikea flat pack furniture:

1. Send wife and children out for a few hours to make sure long-lasting damage isn’t done to the marriage or childhood trauma is caused.

2. Ensure power drill is fully charged and all kit is within easy reach to guard against garage trips in freezing cold.

3. Close all windows to protect neighbours from highly creative, industrial strength foul language.

4. Soothing music in the background to aid concentration.

5. Open windows and turn off central heating otherwise you’ll sweat like a racehorse.

What I’ve found in recent years is that it’s not actually as bad as you think it’s going to be. In truth, the Ikea instructions are actually pretty good and my top tip is to get everything out of the bags first and check them against the instructions. What I don’t like though is if you have a spare screw or a dowel (little wood thingy) – am I meant to have one left over? Is it if I lose one or have I missed some vital instruction?

It’s a minefield, building a bed made from aluminium tubing or a bookcase from MDF, I can tell you.

And the instructions! I have learnt to follow them faithfully and dutifully, even if it goes against my (rather poor I admit) DIY instincts. On top of this, the Ikea instructions contain no words…but they have evolved over time into this highly efficient, pictogram-led, super manual. The trick here is not to look too far ahead, take one page at a time. Carefully study the positioning of the holes and reference these to the real thing – they don’t always correspond 100%, but press on regardless, checking everything as you go.

I cannot honestly say I feel a sense of pride at the end of a DIY flat pack construction exercise, more a sense of relief that the thing has been successfully put together and hopefulness it’ll stand the rigours of use without collapsing or the ridicule of family members. I recall speaking with a friend years ago who actually enjoyed DIY and felt a real sense of achievement and I have to say that he might have been speaking Venusian, so alien is the concept of screwdrivers and satisfaction.

Either way, I write this post in the smug afterglow of a moderately successful erection – only a broken bone and three completely new swearwords invented, which I count as a success.