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Masonry - Best Left to the Experts

By Ashleylister @ashleylister

There's only one topic I can possibly write about under the heading of Masonry, and that's the husband and his DIY skills.  I use the word 'skills' very, very, very loosely.
I think I might have mentioned previously that Dave makes Frank Spencer (King of the DIY Disaster) look like Barry Bucknall (Google him if you're under fort) on a good day.  In the past, friends have looked at me with indulgent disbelief as I've regaled them with tales of the husband's attempts at even the most basic of DIY tasks.
'But surely he can....?' they begin, with broad smiles and encouraging nods.
'No,' I say firmly with a shake of the head.
'Not even.....?'
'Nope!' I respond with more vigorous head shaking.
Unless you've been married to a Frank Spencer (to the power of 10) you've no idea of the disasters that could befall you.
When we got our first house forty years ago I was quietly confident that I could knock the husband into DIY shape.  I'd always been a pretty practical sort of person, sorting out broken hoovers, building makeshift shelves from bricks and planks of wood, upholstering furniture etc.  I was sure I could talk the husband through how to tile a bathroom or put up a curtain rail.
After all, as a wedding present, we'd received a giant tome, covering everything from roofs to flooring, which hammer to buy and how to use it most effectively (by the end of our second year of marriage I was considering writing to the authors to dispute their most effective use of a large claw hammer....)  Admittedly, the book had been propping open a door that annoyingly swung shut every time you wanted to leave the room; and the huge toolbox my parents had optimistically bought us as a moving in present had been stuck under the stairs beneath a pile of old picture frames, shoe polish, light bulbs and redundant rolls of wallpaper.  Nevertheless, hope still sprung eternal in this naive twenty four year old head.
That is, until the day the husband decided to replace the bathroom tiles.  

When your two year old comes running into the kitchen to ask why his bedroom wall is falling on to his bed then you know there is a problem.  Taking the stairs two at a time, a worried toddler hot on my heels, I hear the unmistakable crashing of mallet on wall.

'It's fine,' is the calm response to my frantic questioning yell.  The banging continues,
'Mummy, wall - on Dan's bed.' says the child plaintively, pointing to the chunk of crumbling masonry that has exploded over his pillow.  I look up at the huge hole in the wall just as the mallet makes its trajectory past the opening towards the next disaster.
The plumber we employed to fix the bathroom sucked in air through his teeth, shook his head with a sigh and got on with filling in the hole.  He made no direct comment to us although I'm sure he and his mates lived out for weeks on the buffoon who tried to remove tiles with a mallet and ended up knocking half the wall down.  The toddler has finally got over his PTSD and now, thirty odd years later will sleep happily in a bed again. I, meanwhile, have lived through another three decades of disasters.
There were minor ones such as the time I made the mistake of complaining that the wallpaper in the attic was beginning to peel off the walls.  The next time I ventured up there to prepare the room for guests I was greeted by the sight of several dozen large headed masonry nails knocked haphazardly along the joins.  And the relief map of Africa that mysteriously appeared on the boys' bedroom ceiling after the husband had been despatched with a trowel and a bucket of plaster to fill a small hole.
Then there was the brick built barbecue that resembled a mausoleum.  That was one project I decided I would roll with.  I knew full well that the job would never be completed singlehandedly, and with a bit of luck the husband would accidentally entomb himself in the middle of this circular design and at least be out of action for any further projects in the near future.  At the end of three days, he stood back to admire his handiwork.  As if in slow motion the gigantic structure began to tip like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For a few seconds, Dave stared, open mouthed as bricks and mortar parted company and fell to the ground in an undignified heap.  The next time I looked out of the window he was sitting head in hands, on the rubble.  I put the kettle on, fired up the computer and ordered a portable barbecue from Amazon.

Masonry - Best Left to the Experts

These days the husband is much safer laid on a beach

There were numerous incidents over the years, most of them more annoying than disastrous, but nonetheless the husband, much to his delight, was soon banned from opening either the DIY manual or the toolbox.  One of the more serious incidents concerned a blowtorch, a four year old and several glasses of water (which I later heard - from the child - was to put out the fire between floors). Oh, and Dave up a ladder.  It's too long a story to retell here but suffice to say the four year old saved the day.
There was the performance with the curtain rail (the smashed window, broken table, injured husband) but as I've already written about that in an earlier post I'll leave you with another abiding memory of when DIY goes wrong.  Picture the scene: I am in the kitchen, cooking tea, the husband is upstairs, and has been quiet for a while. I'm guessing he's fallen asleep on the bed (this is pre children or I might have been alerted earlier). There is a knock at the door, I answer and find a strange woman on my doorstep.  Looking puzzled, she points up towards the front of the house, where the husband is standing on the flat roof, above the bay window. In his hands he holds a paint scraper and a blow torch.  Behind him are the scorched remains of some paintwork.
'I was passing,' she says, apologetically, 'your husband waved me down. He's stuck.'
I thank her as if this is a normal occurrence.  Ignoring the husband's cries I close the front door, ascend wearily to the attic, open the window and look down upon the top of his head.

'Put down the blowtorch,' I say patiently as though talking down a terrorist.  The husband obliges, looking sheepish. 'And the scraper,' I add. It clatters to the ground.

'How the hell....?' I begin.

'I jumped out the window,' he says, 'I was going to - '
'Never mind,' I hiss, 'jump up and I'll pull you back through the window.'
The husband crouches, stretches his arms above his head  and jumps.  I grab his hands and, feeling like the Incredible Hulk, hoist him back through the attic window.

'What about the blowtorch?' he asks.

'Leave it.' I command, 'you'll not be needing it any time soon.'


If I Had a Hammer by Jill Reidy, with apologies to Pete Seegar

If I had a hammer

I'd hammer off the tiles
I'd hammer down the bricks
I'd hammer up the wallpaper
I'd hammer and I'd hammer
All over this house

If I had a blowtorch

I'd blowtorch off the paintwork
I'd blowtorch through the gaps
I'd blowtorch till the flames come
I'd blowtorch and I'd blowtorch
All over this house

If I had a scraper

I'd scrape off last year's paint
I'd scrape at all the wallpaper
I'd scrape off every mark
I'd scrape and scrape and scrape
All over this house

If I had a toolbox...

The wife says I'm not to open it

Anywhere in this house.....


Thanks for reading   Jill



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