Archives for the month of: July, 2013

‘You have to come back,’ she demanded over the phone.

‘What seems to be the problem,’ I asked.

‘You didn’t assemble the wardrobe properly.  The doors are all wrong so you have to come back.’

Not even a ‘please’.

Only the day before I’d assembled a double wardrobe with sliding doors without, it must be added, the benefit of instructions.  If you’re familiar with the Handyman Voyeur you know, as I’ve previously written, how I feel about flat-pack furniture.  But this wardrobe had been taken apart at the woman’s former flat, moved to the new flat in pieces and reassembled from its bare parts.  And if there’s one thing everyone knows about most flat-pack furniture, once you take it apart it’s usually not happy being put back together again.  The parts have warped, bent, loosened, broken or become misaligned in the process.  The fact that I’d gotten it back together in the first place was a triumph.

‘I think I did assemble it properly,’ I said, ‘But …’

‘You couldn’t of [sic].  The doors aren’t sliding right.  The track is sticking out all wrong.’

‘Well I …’

‘I told you before you left here yesterday.’

‘Told me what?’

‘The doors were wrong and you said they were right.’

‘Well, when I left they were fine.’

‘They were not.  How could you say that?’

Deep breath.  ‘I can’t really visualise what you’re talking about so I’ll come back and have a look.’

Which I did.  On a Saturday.  Despite the fact that she didn’t even say please.  She’s lucky I went at all.

It turned out I did assemble the wardrobe properly but one of the sliding doors had cheap little plastic wheels that were in the process of breaking because they were too delicate to support the heavy wooden door.  Still, I spent nearly an hour making adjustments, trying to fine tune the sliding system to make up for the fact that the plastic components were insufficient.

As I was showing her what I discovered, she handled the plastic wheel part and snapped a piece of it off completely.

‘You’ll have to fix that now too,’ she said.

‘I’ll do my best,’ I said, reluctantly, ‘But I can’t guarantee perfection here.’

‘Well it was perfect in my old flat.  And it was stored perfectly.  And now it’s back together and it’s not perfect.’

Another deep breath.  ‘Look, if I can’t fix it I’ll give you your money back and be out of your life forever.’

She accepted that proposal.  But I didn’t think it would come to that because surely she would understand, like any reasonable person, that I’d done my best to fix the unfixable.

‘I’m still not happy,’ she said a few minutes later.

‘Neither am I,’ I said returning the money she’d handed me the day before.  I packed up my tools and got out of there as fast as I could.

You can walk into any bank, supermarket, greasy spoon or laundrette in this country and be faced with signs telling their customers that the staff of the establishment have the right to be treated with respect otherwise the customer may be asked to leave.  How does this proclamation of reasonable behaviour not extend to tradespeople?  Just because your home is my workplace doesn’t mean you can treat me like you own me.

In over seven years of handymanning, this was the first occasion I’ve returned my fee.  I’d given up.  I’m too damn old to try and communicate with unreasonable people.  It’s not in my job description and it’s not worth my time.  Good luck unreasonable people everywhere.  Fix it yourself.


I don’t normally compile lists.  A list is like a manure spreader:  driven by one person and full of crap.  I also find them vague, unfulfilling and pointless.

Having said that, here is a list I’ve put together from my completely scientific research carried out in this local demographic.  Don’t argue.  It’s binding.

In no particular order …

Books I’ve seen on every bookshelf in southeast London:

-Life of Pi

-War Horse

-The Kite Runner


These four are a given.  If I see them missing from any home I assume they’ve been loaned out to someone who doesn’t own a library card.

-The Mysterious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

-Wolf Hall

-Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography

-Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

Is authorized and exclusive the same thing?  I suppose it’s possible to be exclusive but not authorized and vice versa.  I was once authorized to go backstage at a KT Tunstall concert but soon found out I was not exclusively granted access.  Damn fan clubs.

-Something in a Brontë  (There are so many titles from so many Brontës, it’s hardly surprising.)

-Pride and Prejudice

-Catch 22

-We Need to Talk About Kevin  (Let me tell you something, Kevin.  Everyone’s already talked about you and now you’re gathering dust between the bosomy paginations of the Brontë sisters.)

-Norwegian Wood

-Either High Fidelity, About a Boy or Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby (… but not in a house in which lives a Tottenham Hotspur supporter.  They’ve banned all things Hornby and his Gunner-loving ways.)

-Any book about or by the Rolling Stones

-My Booky Wook

-Margrave of the Marshes

-Anything by Zadie Smith  (I don’t think she’s ever written anything called Anything, I’m just referring to anything she may have written.)

-One of Obama’s books  (That’s Barack.  I’ve never spotted books by Floyd Obama.)

-The Rough Guides to Italy, Morocco and Barcelona.  (Clearly everyone’s been there.)

-Ian Banks and Ian M. Banks.  I just found out they were the same person.

By the way, I haven’t seen a single copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Kudos to my clients for having standards.   And there are more people reading Proust than I would ever have imagined.

For Younger Readers:

 -Someone called Harry Potter  (I thought he was the colonel on M*A*S*H.)

-Everything Jacqueline Wilson has ever written

-The Very Hungry Caterpillar (This title, to be fair, is normally found on the floor next to a pile of crumbs or jammed into a DVD player.)

-And you know the rest.  Your kids all have them.

And in kitchens:

-Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

-Ottolenghi’s Plenty

-Nigella Express


-Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

So we’re all eating the same stuff, which explains why my favourite ingredients are always missing from the shelves of my local mega-supermarket.

There it is then.  The official southeast London bookshelf stock list.  If you don’t like it you can make your own list.  Did I mention I don’t like lists?

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