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Mike Byrne: 'Don't do it yourself'

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

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WE are about to install a new kitchen at home. I say we when in fact I mean Kevin, a man of considerable skill who does this sort of thing for a living, as opposed to me, who does that sort of thing only if I am a bit slow in seeing the opportunity arising and fail to take avoiding action.

In my early years of marriage DIY was called saving money, but the terrible experiences which followed served only to show that it was a false economy. It is all but impossible to underrate my DIY skills.

Rather like those old wartime trenches they have in Belgium, some evidence of my handiwork in the kitchen still survives and is available for inspection by experts and enthusiasts – at least, that is, those bits which have yet to fall off, break off or become unglued.

Funnily enough, while the word handyman has never been associated with my name, I often find myself behind a warm screwdriver or Thor-like hammer.

I also have an electric drill but I don't use that for reasons that I don't want to talk about but which are closely associated with wearing the wrong sort of plastic goggles.

I should say that, despite my open confessions to all as to my DIY shortcomings, I always give of my best, looking to effort, goodwill and a kind heart to overcome my inability to hit a nail twice in anything like rapid succession.

And so it pains me when my wife casts what I would deem a too-critical eye over any finished project.

Take the kitchen cupboards. I admit they are a bit like pen friends in that they get on well enough but never actually meet. And in any case m'lud, the gap between them is no great chasm and by no means enough to let the average tin of beans or chopped zucchini escape.

Similarly, I can see that the drawers need a little two-handed effort to open and the absence of handles suggest an unorthodox design which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact it led to my incorporation of a cunning innovation whereby to open the drawers you first have to open the cupboard below, then slip your fingers under the shelf drawer and pull.

I may be naive but I have to say I am sure there are many kitchens in Exeter and perhaps beyond where such intriguing features would not excite any great comment.

Sadly the homespun workplace of my darling wife is not such a place.

Although honest to the core, I would in no means be offended if my wife found it within her to look beyond any small flaws and blemishes – visible, I stress, only to the naked eye – and concentrate on the grander picture.

In fairness she has been trying to do just that for more than 10 years but finally cracked when one of the cupboard doors came off without any preamble, followed as if in sympathy, just a week later by another.

If I did not know my wife, regarded as my better half for very good reasons, I might have thought there was a little under-handiwork going on here so quickly had door followed door to the floor below.

In any event, as quick on my toes as I am slow on the set square, I suggested the new, open-plan look had much to commend it.

Her eyebrows suggested this was perhaps not the right tack so a I played my trump card.

I suggested I would fix it myself.

In the past this has serenely spelled the end of any conversation, my wife falling to her knees, grasping the children, whimpering, begging my forgiveness and asking how could I treat a poor maiden so.

This time was different. I was out-bluffed with my wife pointing out, in an all too matter-of-fact way, that my time was up, my tool locker should remain coffin-like closed and that there was no alternative to bringing in what she insisted on calling, with peculiar stress on the third word, "a proper man."

So I can now only stand idly by as plans are drawn up, various articles ordered and delivered and the redoubtable Kevin, a proper man in all required respects, moves in and does the business. I hope to be able to offer advice as I am considerably older than the aforesaid Master of the Universe and can boast experience of every pitfall and hazard likely to envelop the unwary – particularly any matter requiring a power drill and a pair of goggles.

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