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Put down the fucking screwdriver, idiot

With the US election looming there’s been much debate about how far the government should interfere in the day to day lives of its citizens. One key area that’s been overlooked, however, is this: people should have to pass some sort of basic intelligence test before being allowed to undertake any kind of DIY.

Witness, for example, our flat, or rather the previous owners thereof. These are people who should not be allowed near a rubber mallet, let alone anything metal with a pointy end. In fact, they should be fitted with state-supplied idiot mittens. Let me explain.

We first encountered our predecessors’ amazing DIY skills the day after moving into the flat. They had fitted a kitchen, complete with a kitchen sink. We used said sink on the first day, then on the second noticed an unusual smell – one quick look in the cupboard revealed that the waste water pipes hadn’t been fitted together properly, and were leaking. One trip to B&Q and three hours under the sink later we had new, leak-free pipes – here they are, all shiny and white:

no more leaks

.. but apparently rather than doing this the previous owner had been living with a leaking sink for who knows how long, smelling the water as it dripped into the floorboards, without bothering to do anything. Nice. Oh, and a bonus sink-related anecdote: the drainer next to our sink doesn’t actually drain. Because they fucked that up too. But that’s only a minor inconvenience.

But onto the electrics. A while later I was commissioned to write an article about home automation, so I spent a day replacing the light-switches with new, remote controlled ones. This is really pretty simple, as you simply wire a new switch onto the existing location, which looks like this:

Step 2

.. or at least, that’s the theory. On fitting the last switch, half the house went dark. I panicked – evidently I’d overreached my limited abilities and done something catastrophically stupid, condemning us to a life of darkness and horror. Four hours of crawling around the loft with a torch later, though, and I found the culprit: rather than linking the two circuits with a proper junction box, our predecessors had simply twisted the two wires together and placed them lovingly in an upended margarine tub – my handling the other end of one wire had merely dislodged this elegant but fragile arrangement. Ten minutes later, and at a cost of less than £2, I fixed it properly – something they evidently were not able, or could not be bothered, to do.

Incidentally, as well as electric junction boxes, the previous owners had evidently never heard of rawl-plugs. This did not prevent them from putting screws into brick walls, hence the shower falling off the wall a few months ago. Oh, and also: when we came here, the oven hood fan blew all exhaust air straight into the brick wall behind it. Duh. I suppose it looked as if it were working.

And the reason for today’s rant? On Monday builders will be coming to fix the windows (that’s another sad story), and I’ll need to lock Hunter and Ralph, with all their bedding, food and assorted home comforts, into the front of the house. This requires finally working out why the front room door doesn’t stay shut. A quick examination reveals that the hole in the doorframe isn’t in line with the bolt that’s supposed to fit into it. And not just a little out of line, either – I could understand messing it up and placing the hole a few millimetres out – but so far out that the bolt and its associated hole must have never even made one another’s acquaintance these past few years. And the hole wasn’t made large enough, so it wouldn’t have worked even if it was in the right place. And the screws were put in at almost a 45-degree angle because nobody bothered to drill a hole for them. At what point did this particular gobshite not realise that, maybe, it was time to give up and call in a handyman?

Oh, and so far I haven’t even mentioned what repairmen found in the roof when we moved in:

Professional roofing

Yes, that’s a Def Jam 7″ single – something by LL Cool J – rather than a slate. What the fuck?

So, there you go. Memo to Gordon Brown: in this time of economic crisis, nothing you can do or say about the economy will appease the readers of the Daily Mail. So, why not spend some time doing something simple and beneficial to the country as a whole: introduce some sort of simple driving test for DIY. Nothing fancy – just a quick quiz to be completed online, perhaps. The nation will, eventually, thank you for it.

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