DIY: Household Chores and the Retention of Sanity

We have been busy catching up on the home front, trying to pull in all those niggling little household jobs that have been outstanding for months. The Captain refuses to pay the exorbitant cost of having a man do the job when he is perfectly capable of doing it himself.

This is not a process the Captain or myself enjoy and we face it together with gritted teeth, agreeing that whatever is said or happens between the two of us during a project will stay within the project. I’m talking violence, abusive language and threatening behaviour, either towards each other or inanimate objects.

The Captain has decided he can no longer live with the curtain rails in our bedroom. We won’t go into it, but they have been a problem for some months leading to issues when the drapes need to be drawn. The matter came to a head when new drapes were purchased (the reason for that is a very long story) and it seemed an ideal time to purchase new rails.

He was very keen on some remote-control curtain rods he’d discovered online. With that I headed down to our local DIY store to purchase some perfectly adequate window furnishings before any online purchases could be made. Top Gear has a lot to answer for in our household.

In our younger days when the Captain was away on the high seas I had no problem undertaking these minor household chores myself. However, since fracturing a rib in the spring I find myself reluctant to stand on the top of a seven-foot ladder clutching a hammer drill in one hand and a vacuum tool in the other – doesn’t everyone use the suction tool when drilling, thus eliminating plaster dust? The Captain agreed this was a job we should undertake together.

Before I go further I would like to make it clear I love and adore my spouse. He is a wonderful man of warmth and humour – smart, witty, well-read and tolerant. He has skills and knowledge in many areas but sadly DIY is not one of them, which he will cheerfully attest to if asked. It is rare a DIY job is completed without loss of blood, injury and on one occasion a visit to the local Emergency Room.

This morning at the mention of ‘drill’ and ‘toolbox’ both Missy and Harry left the building, refusing to return until the job was completed. The Archster retreated to his kennel at the sight of the stepladder.

Every time we decide to do a project together I have an immediate visual of Uncle Podger (as the Captain is affectionately known at DIY times). He is a character in my favourite book, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.

We’re sure Uncle Podger must have been an ancestor of the Captain’s – the similarities can only be attributed to sharing the same gene pool. I pulled out the book this afternoon  to re-read the section relating to Podger and have decided rather than explain what I’m talking about, it would be easier to share the experience with you.

I would also like to make very clear that I did ask the Captain if he’d mind me writing this post, and lovely man replied, ‘Darling I’m not your censor, you must write what you think best, although I have a feeling I’m not going to come out of this awfully well.’

By reading the extract you will get a feel for why we are exhausted and have no plans for the rest of the weekend except to sit in the sun with a good book and a nice cup of tea – hope you have a moment to sit back and enjoy.

‘You never saw such a commotion up and down a house, in all your life, as when my Uncle Podger undertook to do a job. A picture would have come home from the frame-maker’s, and be standing in the dining-room, waiting to be put up; and Aunt Podger would ask what was to be done with it, and Uncle Podger would say:

‘Oh, you leave that to me. Don’t you, any of you, worry yourselves about that. I’ll do all that.’

And then he would take off his coat, and begin. He would send the girl out for sixpen’orth of nails, and then one of the boys after her to tell her what size to get; and, from that, he would gradually work down, and start the whole house.

‘Now you go and get me my hammer, Will,’ he would shout; ‘and you bring me the rule, Tom; and I shall want the step-ladder, and I had better have a kitchen-chair, too; and, Jim! you run round to Mr. Goggles, and tell him, ‘Pa’s kind regards, and hopes his leg’s better; and will he lend him his spirit-level?’ And don’t you go, Maria, because I shall want somebody to hold me the light; and when the girl comes back, she must go out again for a bit of picture-cord; and Tom!—where’s Tom?—Tom, you come here; I shall want you to hand me up the picture.’

And then he would lift up the picture, and drop it, and it would come out of the frame, and he would try to save the glass, and cut himself; and then he would spring round the room, looking for his handkerchief. He could not find his handkerchief, because it was in the pocket of the coat he had taken off, and he did not know where he had put the coat, and all the house had to leave off looking for his tools, and start looking for his coat; while he would dance round and hinder them.

‘Doesn’t anybody in the whole house know where my coat is? I never came across such a set in all my life—upon my word I didn’t. Six of you!—and you can’t find a coat that I put down not five minutes ago! Well, of all the—’

Then he’d get up, and find that he had been sitting on it, and would call out:

‘Oh, you can give it up! I’ve found it myself now. Might just as well ask the cat to find anything as expect you people to find it.’

And, when half an hour had been spent in tying up his finger, and a new glass had been got, and the tools, and the ladder, and the chair, and the candle had been brought, he would have another go, the whole family, including the girl and the charwoman, standing round in a semi-circle, ready to help. Two people would have to hold the chair, and a third would help him up on it, and hold him there, and a fourth would hand him a nail, and a fifth would pass him up the hammer, and he would take hold of the nail, and drop it.

‘There!’ he would say, in an injured tone, ‘now the nail’s gone.’

And we would all have to go down on our knees and grovel for it, while he would stand on the chair, and grunt, and want to know if he was to be kept there all the evening.

The nail would be found at last, but by that time he would have lost the hammer.

‘Where’s the hammer? What did I do with the hammer? Great heavens! Seven of you, gaping round there, and you don’t know what I did with the hammer!’

We would find the hammer for him, and then he would have lost sight of the mark he had made on the wall, where the nail was to go in, and each of us had to get up on the chair, beside him, and see if we could find it; and we would each discover it in a different place, and he would call us all fools, one after another, and tell us to get down. And he would take the rule, and re-measure, and find that he wanted half thirty-one and three-eighths inches from the corner, and would try to do it in his head, and go mad.

And we would all try to do it in our heads, and all arrive at different results, and sneer at one another. And in the general row, the original number would be forgotten, and Uncle Podger would have to measure it again.

He would use a bit of string this time, and at the critical moment, when the old gent was leaning over the chair at an angle of forty-five, and trying to reach a point three inches beyond what was possible for him to reach, the string would slip, and down he would slide on to the piano, a really fine musical effect being produced by the suddenness with which his head and body struck all the notes at the same time.

And Aunt Maria would say that she would not allow the children to stand round and hear such language.

At last, Uncle Podger would get the spot fixed again, and put the point of the nail on it with his left hand, and take the hammer in his right hand. And, with the first blow, he would smash his thumb, and drop the hammer, with a yell, on somebody’s toes.

Aunt Maria would mildly observe that, next time Uncle Podger was going to hammer a nail into the wall, she hoped he’d let her know in time, so that she could make arrangements to go and spend a week with her mother while it was being done.

‘Oh! you women, you make such a fuss over everything,’ Uncle Podger would reply, picking himself up. ‘Why, I like doing a little job of this sort.’

And then he would have another try, and, at the second blow, the nail would go clean through the plaster, and half the hammer after it, and Uncle Podger be precipitated against the wall with force nearly sufficient to flatten his nose.

Then we had to find the rule and the string again, and a new hole was made; and, about midnight, the picture would be up—very crooked and insecure, the wall for yards round looking as if it had been smoothed down with a rake, and everybody dead beat and wretched—except Uncle Podger.

‘There you are,’ he would say, stepping heavily off the chair on to the charwoman’s corns, and surveying the mess he had made with evident pride. ‘Why, some people would have had a man in to do a little thing like that!’

Extract from Chapter Three

Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome

First edition 1889



About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
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13 Responses to DIY: Household Chores and the Retention of Sanity

  1. Your Captain sounds English…I mean who else says ‘awfully well’?

    • wordgeyser says:

      Bit of a give away isn’t it? You’re right, can’t think of another nation that would use that expression. Although Canada, maybe? And he did actually say that . . .

  2. Pingback: When the Captain decided to check out the quality of Canadian Emergency Care | wordgeyser

  3. Liz Cameron says:

    I can just picture the scene, you really made me laugh out loud today my friend !!

  4. Jane says:

    Brilliant… G wants to know what on earth I am laughing at. I am not sure he would truly understand…

  5. Byron Eaton says:

    You should know the ‘drill’ by now, ask your dad to do it.
    Or as Churchhill said in those dark days ‘give us the tools and we will finish the job’.

  6. Ellen Worling says:

    Jane, you have brought me so many smiles and so much laughter these past few weeks. Thank you for writing this wonderful blog and sharing your experiences. I look forward to opening your email every time it comes.


    • wordgeyser says:

      Thank you so much Ellen; I really appreciate your kind words and for thinking of me when your life has taken such a sad blow. Hope I can continue to deliver and raise your spirits, if only for a while.

  7. Great post! Hope you and the Captain have survived, er I mean, revived. Loved the scene from the book, I’d like to borrow it for end of June vacation, if I may.

  8. "The Captain" in question says:

    Absolute slander. Totally untrue. We have neither an Aunt Maria nor a charwoman.

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