Monday, September 12, 2016

D.I.Y. - My Father's Daughter?

At my father's funeral last January, the Rabbi spoke about his many years of service to the community. He said Dad was the local Bob the Builder. He recalled Dad arriving at the community centre several times a month with his tool box and a list of jobs to fix, build, or decorate.

At home we had a garage big enough for the family car but never vacant. Apart from our bicycles, the only things that went in and out of the garage were wood, paint, and tools (in) and homemade shelves, cupboards, and desks (out). There were thousands of little drawers filled with supplies of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, hinges, hooks, etc.... to rival any d.i.y. megastore. There were stashes of light bulbs, string, brown paper, selotape, glue, sisal, planks of wood, paint and varnish for any occasion.

There was a workbench at the back of the garage. Not your little Black & Decker toy but an enormous table that he'd built himself and attached all sorts of gadgets for holding tools and keeping planks of wood aligned and in place. Hooks, vices, pockets, and holders. When we moved house Dad attached wheels to the bottom of the workbench and pushed it the half mile to our new house along the roads.
Dad would have seen this and made his own.

Us three kids each had home-built wardrobes, bookcases and desks in our bedrooms. If I'm honest, I hated this furniture and craved exquisitely finished, dainty carpentry in my bedroom. In the living-room the wall cabinate made of three varnished wooden boxes, two with drop down doors and one with glass siding doors, were used for a bar and stationery/household papers. A big wooden bench-seat lined one side of the kitchen table, with a padded lid that opened for storage inside the box. Think of a large coffin with a blue vynal lid and you've got the picture.

Dad also did his own car maintenance in ways that aren't possible today now that engines are computerised. Dad had jacks, jump-start cables, oil cans, dip sticks and even a little trolley that allowed him to lie in his back and roll under the elevated car. Whereas my friends might buy their father a bottle of aftershave for his birthday, mine would have been delighted with jar of Swarfega.

Behind the garage was a garden shed that he built himself, obviously. This was filled with gardening equipment. Dad wasn't much of a gardener but there's no such thing as too much equipment. We had a hovver mower, a strimmer, a fork, a shoval, two rakes (one for soil and one for grass), a hoe, a selection of trowels and spades, a wheelbarrow, a hose, a composter, and an incinerator.

All the camping and caravaning equipment was also stored in the shed. Tents, the caravan awning, pumps, deckchairs, tables and deck loungers, jerry cans, Elsan Blue for the porta-loo, calor gas cylinders, special mirrors for driving with a caravan, special headlamp filters for driving on The Continent (as we called Europe in those days), groundsheets, mosquito repelling candles, torches and bungee chords with hooks on either end. Hands up those who didn't believe me when I said I was an experienced camper?

File photo - not Dad
Dad had all the kits too. Overalls for doing the car, a thick plastic apron, gardening gloves and wellies for gardening, safety goggles for welding and sawing, earplugs for when he used the electric drill, a tool belt, and plastic ponchoes for pitching tents in torrential rain.

It was the early 1970s, years before B&Q and Texas Homecare became the weekend Meccas for d.i.y. enthusiasts. Dad was ahead of the times by decades. His favourite treat was to drive over to the local Danny Shop (or was it Dani or any other spelling?) for a browse and usually a buy. Today Engelbert Strauss would cover all the bases.

In many ways I am my father's daughter. I have his face, I have his sense of humour, his sense of justice and community spirit. I am a joiner (as in I join groups and committees, I don't do carpentry) and I volunteer. On the other hand, when the lightbulb went in my bathroom I waited for almost three weeks because I knew my nephew was coming to stay. As he walked in the door and after flying across Europe to visit us, I greeted him with the new bulb in my hand for him to fix the light.

Collaborative post


  1. I actually have a fair bit in common with your dad - the first piano I purchased was pushed home by me on an old set of pram wheels. I have more DIY and gardening kit than I can really justify and I used to love fiddling with my first and old (even then) car. Thought I've never bought a strimmer...

  2. My husband has three large sheds (one he built himself plank by plank twice) and a double garage, I need say no more!

    1. LOL, I feel like I know your husband already.

    2. Oh and today he is putting together a new shed in our daughter's garden, so she can be her fathers daughter hahaha.

    3. Ah, but does she change her own lightbulbs?

    4. Only if her dad isn't there already fixing something else.

  3. Your father sounds like one of a generation of great self sufficient types whose numbers are unfortunately dwindling. Younger people would do well to learn from them whilst they still can!

    1. You're right. Sadly none of his children learned from him and he passed away last December.