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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Crowning is bad for you

I'm not against DIY. How would I dare? - I'm so bad at it. But the sanctimony it tends to generate among its practitioners can be a turn-off.

Years ago I bought 20 m of garden hose spooled on to a wind-up pulley. But the pulley's lack of stability and the weight of the extended hose undermined winding-up. Any attempt at speed and the pulley "walked" leading to hose tangles and user irritation.

The pulley came with a mounting plate for attachment to a wall. This was supposed to promote stability. But the irregular forces generated by winding always unshipped the pulley from the plate.

I attached four eyebolts to the wall and used wire to hold the pulley in a fixed position as it sat on the floor. It was difficult to tension the wire which, in any case, quickly broke.

So I wired the pulley to a heavy paving stone and this worked for a year or two until the wire broke. This weekend I drilled holes in the paving stone, introduced bolts to which I attached wire, knowing before I'd finished, that this would fail. It did.

Yesterday I used three metal "laths", bolted down at either end, to hold the pulley's frame to the paving stone. This worked. You can see a "lath" bestriding the front bar of the pulley frame.

Then the sanctimony started. Last night when it was almost dark I went out simply to look at the secured pulley. This morning at 06.25, in my pyjamas, I photographed the pulley for this post. Simultaneously  the smugness grew.

This post is not about DIY (which only provides the background). It is about the effect DIY has on those who do it and communicate the fact. I liken it to self-coronation. 


  1. Working out and fixing problems of a mechanical nature can be immensely satisfying, RR. As I have found all my life, working on and improving the many motorcycles that have been through my hands. (Although I have never been out at dawn, in my pyjamas, photographing the results!)

    But, bully for you - you deserve your "crowning".

  2. Avus: Sorry about this but the phrase "immensely satisfying" is symptomatic of the main topic I seek to address. It's only a tiny step from "immensely satisfying" to "self-satisfaction" and this becomes apparent when DIY-ers pur sang start reflecting on their achievements and the implied belief that such successes set them apart from, and superior to, non DIY-ers. "We're saving the world," these celebrants say, "because we're avoiding waste." This is true but only incidental to their view of themselves. Nor are they amenable to any other interpretation: DIY is good! Could DIY corrupt? Absolute bollocks!

    I attempted to shine light on this complex matter by showing that I too - mainly a failed DIY-er - was vulnerable to these delusions. That pyjamas proclaimed it. Incipient unreality.

  3. Am obliquely reminded of the knitters' axiom: it's not a hobby it's a post-apocalyptic life skill.

    Having spent twenty years in which bricolage has been something akin to one of the vows taken by a religious order (I invite you to suggest the other two along the lines of poverty, chastity and obedience), I am now contemplating the prospect of a year in a rented home with almost no garden, gas central heating, and someone else calling in a paid artisan if anything goes wrong. I can't wait.

  4. Lucy: It is clear we are are poles apart. In fact if I didn't know you better, and treasure what I knew, I'd conclude that sanctimony and smugness were your essential lodestars. None of which matters a hoot. What you have recognised is that any activity, opinion or belief that promotes strong feelings in us deserves a second or third look, beneath the immediate layer of platitude.

    I associate DIY with having to do it. Now, given my baronial estate, I command artisans even though this is not a complete answer - commands may be misunderstood and (hidden) priorities may lead to a botch. But then most of my DIY was also botched, since I always became unmanned if the job couldn't be finished before sunset.

    I am in any case more sympathetic with your situation than my own. And you and I have been here before. I mentioned in one post how impatient I felt when we returned to the UK from the US and the vagaries of house-buying forced us to remain living for several months with my in-laws (Generous, hospitable and warm-hearted people, I should add), sleeping in a bed under which were all the books we had brought back, temporarily inaccessible. It was, you said, the nearness of those books that caught the poignancy of the situation for you.

    And now - in suspended time - you are waiting for DIY to liberate you. For me DIY would be a burden, for you it will be symbolic of life now under control. I bleed for you. It is not exactly a year out your life, more akin to a stretch in one of the more humane open prisons. National service endured for two years and the passage of time (or lack of it) became almost tangible: 730 days, 104 weeks, 525,600 minutes, 31m seconds. You must find an extra occupation: learn Mandarin, walk backwards 200 metres three times a day, regularly create and serve Petites Bombes de Volailles, read The Man Without Qualities, cure earworm-ocide by whistling the tunes instead of humming or singing.

    I'll not raise the elephant-in-the-room question.

  5. Generally, seriously, DIY is overrated. Keep the economy going, I say, and employ a local or Polish person who can do this whole thing so much better and much faster.
    Last year, I watched two men painting our entire downstairs, incl. ceilings and door/window frames one short day, singing as they worked. Cash in hand, coffee refills and no complaints.

    We have a similar garden hose wind up whatever, only much older. Ancient in fact. I have lost count of the injuries sustained while knocking it over. Myself and various priceless garden plants and ornaments. I am not making sense. But your ingenious DIY does.

  6. Sabine: It's nice of you to say so. But implicit in DIY - for a real DIY-er - is the effortlessness. My eventual success was preceded by four failures, three of which failed before they started, failed as concepts. No smugness there, only frustration. Only when I succeeded did the smugness start to invade me. Mind you, there are intellectuals who would say that DIY failures are essential elements in their claim that they are able to dwell on abtract matters. That material success would corrupt this delicate process.

    I too would warm to a couple of guys who were able to paint one's "entire downstairs... in one short day, singing as they worked." This is rarer in the UK. Most set up a paint-splashed transistor radio (called a "tranny" and at least 25 years old) and let it burble throughout the working day.

    Of course you are making sense.

  7. Call it a reel. Call it a spool. Hose storage is always problematic, but you're onto a good solution here, unless or until you want to move the whole apparatus. A pulley, or a pulley system might then help to lift it or drag it to a new location. Out in pajamas with a camera, huh? Oh, we are cut from the same cloth.

  8. MikeM: "Cut from the same cloth" - it's ambiguous but I'm prepared to accept it at face value. After all it may mean (unlikely) I share skills that have brought about absolute prodigies of DIY as detailed in your blog. On the other hand (more likely) you may be referring to your eccentricities which again I'd be pleased to share given that they reveal heroic if rural attitudes that I regard as peculiarly North American. Never look a gift-horse...

    Move it to another location. In fact I did just that (twice) during the abortive and successful efforts to solve the problem. Lifted it on to the wheelbarrow and carefully - for it was shockingly out of balance - transferred it to the garage. The first time it seemed to be at my outer limit as a lifter but on reflection I decided that this was due to the pain my effete hands suffered. Next time I wore heavy leather garden gloves which I had forgotten I owned and it felt as if I had muscle power to spare. One learns or, I suppose, one dies. And with DIY it would be a squalid death for me.

    Reels, spools. pulleys. Well that's definitely something we share - a fascination with the vocabulary of technology.

  9. Yes, by now your brain has no doubt been neurologically re-wired as a result!

  10. Marly: I've had it with wire, a treacherous way of achieving physical (ie, non-electrical and/or non-electronic) connections. Theoretically it flexes, in actuality it breaks. Nuts and bolts - a metaphor for that which is ordinary and uninspired - are visually honest; treated as friends they provide the service they announce. There's a sensual(sensuous?) thrill as you tighten them and they start to resist the spanner's pressure, proof that security is both occurring and increasing.

    Not sure about re-wired brains. There are physical gaps, you know, At which point capacitative or inductive effects take over and they're invisible. Quite often I sense that my brain is all gap, into which the ruins of invention fall. My powers of invention are reduced to zero in the afternoon, thus I am writing this at 07.10, a tribute to our friendship and an urgent need to connect.