This week, I found myself in the surprising position of bemoaning to a male friend the absence of the once-in-residence C.
“I think every household should have a Maintenance Man.” I declared. “Much in the same way as they might have a cleaner….though perhaps less regularly. Half a day, every month. Instructed to work through all those little jobs that you think you must get around to at some point but never do….”
He looked back at me, aghast.
“It would be brilliant….” I sighed.
I was perhaps insensitively forgetting that a man’s masculinity is oft measured by the size of his toolbox….and I’m referring here to the Black and Decker type, ‘nowt else…….and in my experience, (coming from a family of renovators and married to an engineer/technology expert/project manager ….my inability to concisely describe what S does as a profession now embarrassingly apparent), men don’t generally enjoy paying another male to do the jobs they are perfectly capable, albeit lacking the time, to do themselves. So my comment, relayed within earshot of S was expressed at considerable risk of ego injury. Whilst indignance at my suggestion was more than likely felt, nothing was said and I wonder if secretly the logic of it rather appealed to the exhausted S….a man with a daily three hour commute and a son who does not take kindly to his mother increasingly occupying his father with her ever-growing list of jobs. O has other more important activities in mind which rival his request for ice cream in the regularity of their expression.
“Um on Daddy! Ball. Garden. Um on!”
However, as I consider the feasibility of setting up a Property Maintenance Service for impatient maidens such as I, S must in the meantime be called to arms and this weekend he did so enthusiastically in a slightly frantic and somewhat un-strategic attempt at getting the house presentable for O’s 2nd birthday party.
“Just tell me what you want done.” he said as he set about assembling a professional looking kit complete with WorkMate, an infrared measuring gadget and a formidable looking camera stand in which to hold it steady.
I handed over my list.
Glancing at it, he made his own…of the additional equipment he would need in order to complete each task…and shot off to B&Q. In his absence and seeing the original lying temptingly on the island I optimistically snuck another few items on the list before deciding I had best make myself scarce before he started charging for extras. Braving the queues on both the M25 and the tills my mum, O and I swept our way around Ikea instead, on the focussed mission to purchase specifically sized frames for the poster wall.
“Frames” I think I heard S mutter as we departed…”the house has sunk an inch due to the hundred or so we already have in the loft…..”
Whilst we struggled to curtail the inherent need to buy all manner of Scandinavian storage items and kitchenware one doesn’t actually need, S made considerable headway back at chez Pebbledashed….the glass splashback going up in the Worlds Smallest WC, a couple of pictures hung in the kitchen and a row of cast iron stagheads lined up on the wall to serve as coat hooks. But as the daylight hours escaped and the sun made its descent in the sky we realised, or rather S did, that priorities were needed. He surveyed the list again.
“Which jobs on here do you really want done before tomorrow?” he asked.
I rattled off most of the remainder, albeit in a different order than scribed, as if to somehow fool him that it were less.
“I’d love the poster wall to be hung…and the curtain poles to be fixed in the lounge and bedroom so mum can help me hang the curtains….the grass cut…..maybe this picture put here……” I held it up “I think that’s it…”
We both eyed the clock.
“I’ll start with the curtain pole”
Unlike the docile stags who obligingly assumed their new positions, the curtain pole proved to be considerably more feisty and had decided that fixation to the wall was not where it wanted to be. As a blanket of darkness fell to find S still hacking bits off the ‘made to measure’ pole in order to make it fit the space within which it had been made to measure, I realised a night had to be called with no further progress on the list made. No-one, it was to transpire, appeared to mind. Sunday afternoon, having determinedly picked their way through a maze of discarded kitchen cabinetry and cardboard boxes in a bid to reach our sky blue door, friends seemed simply relieved to arrive uninjured. They may, upon entering, have then thrown a cursory glance into the lounge and caught sight of the curtains piled there but admirably they appeared not to allow the un-hanged state to hamper their enjoyment of a two year olds tea party. Nor did the absence of a poster wall appear to trouble anyone but me…though admittedly the flapping presence of taped sections of Topps Tile brochures did raise some eyebrows…my explanation of their purpose raising them further though this time only in recognition of my apparent OCD and admiration for S for putting up with it.
Considering, however, that the majority of our guests were under the age of five I had indeed omitted some planning of significant importance.
“Do you have party bags?” one little girl innocently asked me.
Convinced the she wouldn’t be satisfied with the reply of “No, but I do have a loo roll holder on the back of the door” I managed to narrowly escape her disappointed stare by a sudden brainwave to carefully wrap a piece of O’s expertly made (by a talented friend….not me) robot birthday cake.
So, for what its worth, these are my party tips:
1) People are rarely interested in the existence of loo roll holders though it is deemed good manners to provide loo roll itself…
2) You will always have provided enough food (my mums words and wise ones) -last minute trips to M&S in a panic are unnecessary
3) Listen to your husband and never make a salad..ours remained largely uneaten despite it (or perhaps because of) containing lentils
4) Cake is, in the majority of instances, the answer to everything. (Thank you A x)