Keep Calm and DIY

Remember the notion of challenge I mentioned recently? Challenge is all right really – at least, the ones that you think you can actually manage.

What when they are ones that pick you? The DIY jobs that you really can’t put off any longer – the ones you also don’t know how to do?


Here’s how it goes. You agree that there is a task that must be done: taking out the old sealant round the bath and putting in new.

You don’t know how to do it – but one day, your local supermarket happens to do a deal on tools to scrape out the old stuff. So you pick those up, and a sealant tube, and hope that that will spur you on.

You invite your dad round – not to do the job, but to supervise, and show how to start it. He gets out the Trusty Penknife, starts things off. You learn how to keep going, without worrying that you are carving up things that you shouldn’t.

Your dad shows you a new and exciting sharp tool to add to the collection: a Stanley knife that you can use for DIY. It’s meant to be for getting paint off the edge of windows, but you discover you can degrime shower screens with it. Bonus.

Then you realise that you also need to regrout the tiles around the bath. You don’t know how to do that either.

But your dad tells you how to mix up grout, and you discover some left over from when friends did the job in the first place. So you add that to the list.

You begin to scrape out all the old grout around the bath. It makes a mess, it takes a long time, you work up a sweat. You start to learn that preparation in DIY really does take longer than the job itself.

You like the scraper tool, so you buy one. And a different sealant. And take the first back. And go back to the DIY place a few more times, now that you’re in the swing of things, to get radiator paint.

Because your dad has told you that you can seal the rust on the bathroom radiator that you’re embarrassed by, and the hall radiator would probably benefit from a lick of paint…and so on.

One time, you go to the DIY place twice in the same morning. The first time, because you’ve left your bank card in the wrong place. They smile and park your trolley somewhere helpful.

You discover that you have overcome another challenge, namely, driving a new route to the DIY place. And the supermarket nearby.

You touch up paintwork on the walls in the bathroom. And find yourself repainting the bathroom. With a very small brush, because there’s lots of fiddly bits. Good job it’s a small bathroom.


You enlist the help of your spouse. You seek out YouTube videos on how to do grouting and sealant. Or rather, he does, and you nod approvingly.

And go back to the DIY place, because now you need masking tape to do the sealant properly. And your spouse informs you that the local supermarket does not stock it. (But it does stock quick cook pasta. That helps. You’re tired by now.)

In the end, you chicken out, and let your better half do the actual grouting and sealant. He doesn’t seem to be as nervous.

You stand alongside and provide kitchen roll when asked for, and dig out one of those primary school style glue spreaders that happens to be the right size for pushing grout between tiles.


You discover that you don’t need to repaint the woodwork. What you really needed to do was to clean it properly in the first place.

You hunt around the attic for the sugar soap, and it does the trick. You are simultaneously pleased at the result and depressed that you let the grot hang around that long.


You have to remove part of a significant sticker collection around the window to repaint – and breathe a sigh of relief when you can do so safely and return them to their owner without ripping them.

You use one of those masks for painting the radiator. Because the DIY place doesn’t seem to stock radiator paint without significant fumes.

You feel halfway to a proper tradesman, but don’t understand why he doesn’t get headaches from the fumes if he’s doing this all the time.


You show up for school pick up in painting clothes. Three days running.

It’s only when you’ve finally finished the job that your child informs you that, one more day of painting clothes at pick up, and they might start to get embarrassed.


All of a sudden, you discover that you can redo a bathroom by doing the cheap bits that freshen it up. You feel very pleased with yourself.

But in the meantime, you eat a whole pork pie on your own, for lunch, because it turns out DIY can take it out of you. Even if you’re keeping as calm as you can.

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