I come from a practical family, all of whom have had practical skills. My granddad was a mechanic, although with a help from a few books from the local library, he turned his hand to almost all the trades at one point or another. With the help of a few labourers (and my dad) he built his own summer home (impressive), and extended it many times (even more impressive). My grandmother was a dressmaker, but again, with a little acquired knowledge could make anything you could ever imagine from fabric.
In the following generation, my mother can do things with wool that would make sheep happy to be shorn, to call it knitting undersells the creativity involved. My dad is great around the house (and although cooking is where he excels), painting, decorating, fixing and repairing are all well within his range of skills. Bar advanced plumbing and electrics there is really nothing he cannot turn his hand to.
And then we come to my generation. And well, we are, well, a bit rubbish to be honest. I can’t really cook and my husband is not that handy. If this were the 1950s we would be held up as the cautionary tale. Perhaps we were pampered as children, perhaps it’s from years of renting and calling the landlord when something goes wrong, perhaps the education system is to blame (that’s always a reliable fall back). Whatever is to blame, we are honestly just not that good around the house.
However when we bought our first home, we soon learned the value in becoming more practical, mainly because we were broke.
When we first bought our home, I had grand ideas about doing it up, from the basement (which I was going to build) to the attic (which I was going to convert) there would be a homogenous yet diverse, eclectic yet homely design, filled with bespoke designs and one-off pieces.
Then I broke the washing machine.
I washed a dry-clean only blanket in a 60’ wash which caused it to unfelt and basically melt into clumps of red thread, which blocked everything – the pump, the drum, the drain, everything. I rang the repair guy who wanted a nights drinking money to come look at the thing, and that was before he repaired it, and he only lived 10 doors away. I rang others who wanted more.
I rang my Dad who said he would come over and look at it the next weekend (by which time we were wearing a clothes which hadn’t been seen outside since the 90s). Painstakingly Dad showed me how to unplug the machine (I didn’t even know it had a plug), remove the back and began to pull clumps of red thread from everywhere. We drained it, and washed it out best we could, put it all back together, plugged it in, let it run through a cycle, unplugged it, cleaned it out and repeated the process until there were no more clumps of red, or even stray red threads.
Then Dad sat down at the table with his calculator.
“Call out fee is e50. Trades-men conservatively get about e15 per hour, and we had been at it for about 10 hours, give or take breaks, that’s e150 +e50 giving us a grand total of e200.”
I was momentarily horrified. There was no way my Dad was sitting there, knowing how broke we were, asking me for e200.
“Now” he said “You should take that theoretical e200 that you have “earned” by doing this work, and learning how to do it yourself in the future, and put it towards something for yourselves. Be it a night in the cinema, a takeaway when you really should cook, or a few pints in the local.”
And there you have it – the reason you should DIY instead of PAM , where you can – aside from being too broke to pay someone else, it gives you another way to “earn” money for more enjoyable pursuits.
And to be honest, once we got the knack of it, we became more confident and slowly but surely this generation is learning some practical skills that hopefully we will pass on to the next lot.