The Handyman Voyeur, you may have noticed, has not written for while.  This is because he is no longer working as a handyman.  While this may leave more employment opportunities for his South London competitors, it generally dismisses any chance of meeting potential blog subjects.

Therefore the Handyman Voyeur is officially on hiatus.  It may turn out to be a permanent move but for now let’s just say … he’s on a break.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

It was a conventional London terraced home, recently renovated for twenty-first century dwellers with an enlarged rear kitchen opening up onto a generous, city-sized garden.  The front lounge had an overstuffed sofa and a big screen television, both of which were too large for the room.  The rear lounge was typically dark; it could only be used as a playroom for the kids.  The whole house had been painted in all the latest trendy tones of grey and white-on-white.  I’m sure you’ve seen it.

The woman who lived there led me to the corridor where I was to set up the Family Photo Wall.

‘This is the last thing I have to do before my mother comes to live with me,’ she said showing me the pile of black picture frames on the floor leaning against the wall.  ‘I’ll have the whole family up here and then my mother can see them every time she walks through to the kitchen.’

‘Very nice,’ I said.  I counted eighteen frames.  Most of them were those multi-photo extravaganzas so you can put all of your favourite people in one collection.  Other frames were your standard, single-photo ones.  ‘How would you like them arranged?’

‘You decide; I’m not really fussed.’

Oh no you don’t, I thought.  I’ve heard that before only to be told the job was not to their liking.  This is an aesthetic choice, ergo it’s not up to me.

‘I’d just as soon have you decide,’ I said.  ‘Just to be sure.’

We spent the next three hours carefully placing the frames in just the right positions on the wall with the most pleasing allocation of sizes, shapes and numbers of photos; each frame evenly spaced from the one next to it.

‘I’m so happy with this,’ she said when we’d finished.  ‘I can’t wait for my mother to see the family up here.’

I was pleased too.  It looked good; if I’d had the inclination to hang family photos on my corridor wall I might go about it this way.  It was easy work too and I was relieved of all decision-making.  So when the same woman called me up three months later to do some more jobs for her, I looked forward to another relaxed day in her terraced home.

She offered me tea and as I followed her to the kitchen we passed the Family Photo Wall, hung to perfection exactly as I’d left it months before.  I mean exactly.  Each frame still contained those perfectly nauseating, black and white, airbrushed model photos that came with the frames; beautiful couples embracing on a beach; children with textbook dimples holding a flower.  I swear their eyes followed me as I passed by, whispering in desperation through their perfect teeth, ‘It’s been three months. Get us out of here.’

I didn’t say anything to my employer, but I didn’t have to.  She turned to look at me as I passed by and gave an embarrassed smile.  I just hoped her elderly mother didn’t think these exquisite people in the frames were her own family.

According to a recent poll carried out by a soap company, 51% of men and 46% of women consider the most important lesson a father can teach his children to be basic DIY.  Fixing stuff.   How to be handy.

What this has to do with soap I’ll never understand.  Although I do often require a good scrubbing after a day’s work.

I’ve tried to convey my invaluable do-it-yourself knowledge to my son, even going so far as to dragging him along with me on unofficial Bring Your Child to Work days.  As I’ve written before, he has a great sense of humour, his observations are keen and he certainly understands the long-term effects of applying paint.  But overall his interest in basic tool functions is low and his initiative levels are in the red.  After all, why should he have to know how to plumb a washing machine when his dad is quite capable of carrying out the task?

I once asked him to cut a one-by-two piece of timber along a line I’d drawn for him and was shocked to find out he had to be told to face the pointy side of the saw down.  He still can’t distinguish the difference between a nail and a screw.  Even Blu-Tacking posters to his bedroom wall leaves him with the sticky blue putty under his finger nails, in his hair, his ears.  I should have known from the start; when he was a toddler I bought him a set of plastic tools with which to pretend-fix his toys.  He was more interested in how they tasted.

I blame myself.  It’s not his fault he hasn’t inherited my genetic predisposition for repairs.  But how do you teach a man to fish if he’s constantly looking toward the land?

Number two in the soap poll is How to Drive, which in our family is not a priority since we don’t own a car.  But if and when he does learn, both he and I will enjoy it more if he’s taught by someone who’s less likely to disown him should he not demonstrate a proper three-point-turn.   Number three in the poll is Avoiding Debt, which I’m afraid will have to come down to ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.

So do I go back to the drawing board for the great south London DIY legacy?  If that’s the most important lesson I can teach my son then I feel sorry for whomever he ends up sharing a house with when he grows up.  I suppose he could always sell soap.

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