I am standing in my damp garden, holding an enamel birdhouse with my left hand, while with my right I’m brandishing a Ryobi combi drill. Shortly, my instructor Moira Tighe promises me, a momentous event will take place – I will drill a hole in a brick wall, into which I will insert a screw from which the bird house will hang.
It sounds pathetic, but for me, utterly cack-handed and with zero knowledge of tools, it’s a seismic moment of empowerment. My entire adult life I’ve felt self-disgust at my inability to tackle the simplest DIY task, meaning I’ve either had to wait months for enough jobs to make it worth our regular builder’s while to tackle them, or – like a 1950s cartoon housewife – endlessly nag my husband.
It’s humiliating and it’s unfeminist. In lockdown, our builder was sensibly distancing and my husband was too busy with his work to find the spanner. But with a cupboard door sagging, a loo leaking and piles of pictures that needed hanging, the frustration became unbearable. Knowing others used quarantine to transform their homes only made me feel worse.
DIY can be hardcore. Actress Cate Blanchett recently revealed she’d ‘had a little chainsaw accident’ at her East Sussex mansion. ‘Apart from the little nick to my head I’m fine,’ she added, nonchalantly yet unreassuringly.
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July 20, 2020