DIY: Don’t do it yourself 5



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I’ve gone beyond bemused about this do it yourself fad and am now getting bloody irritated.

What I find particularly loathsome are those folk who bore everybody silly with their interminably long and insufferably boring sagas about their latest triumph with the sub-text being “I know you couldn’t do this which makes me a better person”.

One chap of my acquaintance who once was a middle ranking public servant doing nothing more energetic than making notations on files has taken to DIY with a passion he never showed while he was in Accounts Payable. The fool now boasts that he is a “fully rounded” human being which I could have told him just by contemplating his profile.

My late father was a dab hand at anything involving a hammer, screwdriver or drill and he had a tool box the size of one of those trunks that the leisured classes once took on around the world trips. You could be sure that it contained the right tool, the right nail, the right screw and everything else and just looking at it gave me the shudders even as a kiddie.

Dear old dad was a builder and his half-hearted attempts to get me interested in building sites were more out of sense of duty than anything else. Boys, he thought, should know these things but he knew and I knew that the tool box would not be part of my inheritance. It wasn’t.

We dropped by Bunnings last weekend to try and find an adhesive product to repair a broken terra cotta pot and it resulted in a spirited debate by three helpful employees in front of me and my partner as to which product would be the best. There was a vast range and I tried to look suitably interested but, secretly, I was bored silly and not a little ashamed of the fact that two of these experts were women.

It didn’t help that my partner was looking at me with barely disguised contempt and undisguised amusement as I made “oh, yes, I see” sorts of comments while nodding in what I hoped was a fair impersonation of a DIY old hand.

By the time we got home I was ready for a nice lie down and – surprise surprise – when I awoke the aforementioned partner had mended the broken pot. Of course I would have got around to it sooner or later, wouldn’t I?

The DIY fad is not a modern invention.

The remains of a temple-like building have been dug up in southern Italy and I understand that the various sections were inscribed with coded symbols by the manufacturing mason to show how the bits fitted together. And this was from the 6th century BC.

I’m reading a fascinating book by the classics scholar Richard Miles at the moment, “Carthage Must Be Destroyed” which tells the story of the rise and fall of this ancient Mediterranean civilisation. Carthage was ancient Rome’s chief rival and the principal naval power for quite a while.

He writes that a Carthaginian warship from the mid third century has been discovered and, “On close inspection, archaeologists were amazed to discover that each piece of the boat was carefully marked with a letter which ensured that the complex design could be easily and swiftly assembled.” He concludes it, “had, in effect, been a flat-pack warship.”

The fact is that this DIY craze is even infecting the once sacred preserves of lawyers. The Family Law Court website has a section entitled, “Do It Yourself Kits” for people who were so stupid that they entered into a disastrous arrangement to get themselves out of it by themselves. Is that likely?

There are DIY Will kits and DIY conveyancing kits and, in the darker recesses of the web, DIY suicide tips – such as “Take a heavy hammer and hold it over your head and slam it down repeatedly.” That should work unlike many other DIY tips and the world will be less one idiot.

What I find galling also is that the DY craze now includes the womenfolk which, quite frankly, I think is unfeminine. Has the modern miss no shame and no appreciation of her proper role?

I’m a modern and aware sort of chap and do acknowledge that there are some ladies – albeit few hopefully – who could be DYI experts after a fashion. I’m talking here about those invariably larger ladies with very short haircuts and sensible shoes who could not only put up shelving but change tractor tyres with their teeth.

I am not going to put up new shelves and should there be a need for them, I will get a man in. I find it’s quicker, safer and ultimately much better to get a man in.

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Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. I’ve been doing DIY for 60 years. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. It even helps on the odd occasions if you are short of a present.

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