It’s one of the hardest things, to realise when you’re being happy. My being happys scarcely register because they’re so short-lived and superimposed on a background of unremitting gloom and pessimism. A being happy, for me, is like a white bird drifting across thunderclouds, a spark in a fire that’s all-but gone out, a… well, that sort of stuff.
But today I was happy for a few seconds – nay, maybe even a minute – and the reason? Because I had come up with an elegant solution to the broken rabbit-hutch catch. Yes – it was broken. The rabbit hutch – I don’t have a rabbit, by the way – for reasons I won’t go into had been out in the garden for some time, getting rained on. It had a catch shaped like a heart, which I rather liked, but the damp had de-laminated it; it had blown out like a rose and the screw had rusted. Every time I tried to turn the catch another plywood petal fell off. Months, this has been going on.
I had been thinking – as I do with all DIY, which I was brought up to believe only men could do – oh, I’ll wait for my brother-in-law to come over from Canada in the autumn. Or fall, as they say in Canada. My brother-in-law is extremely clever and practical and loves to have a series of ‘projects’ to keep him busy. He builds shelves for his sister and mends the garden fence for his mother. He cleaned out the gutter for my mother one year, and mowed her lawn. Last autumn he painted my bathroom green. Unfortunately he has now fallen rather ill. There are lots of tests and an operation ahead of him, and other nasty stuff. I am not sure they will make it to the UK this year. Or it may have to be Christmas instead. I suddenly thought – this is no good. You must mend the rabbit-hutch catch, you lazy old moo.
I regarded the rabbit hutch for a while, where it sat in the corner of my kitchen, drying out. Waiting for inspiration to strike. I walked past that rabbit hutch with cups of coffee, with plates of cat food, on my way to the sink, after passing the fridge, and my brain was positively whirring. What you need, I murmured, is something that already has a hole in it. This is because my toolkit consists of:
- A claw-hammer
- Duct tape
- Cereal packets
- Clothes pegs
Brother-in-law was surprised that I didn’t have a drill. I was surprised that he thought I would have one. Ladies don’t have drills. But his sister does have a drill. She is also very clever and capable. But whatever I have fixed about the house I have fixed with one of the above, or a combination. First, I tried out a measuring spoon. I had a set of those American spoons. British recipes give quantities in ounces – or did, before we went, theoretically, metric. American recipes usually quantify in spoons. I realised I would never need the ¼ teaspoon one. I am quite capable of quartering a teaspoonful of flour, mustard or whatever with a knife, having done Cookery at school (see Blancmange ). Also, I never cook now. But the ¼ teaspoon wasn’t man enough for the job, and a bit wobbly. Also, it looked silly. Then I thought – a peg! A peg already has a hole in it.
Then I hit a snag. The screw was rusted into the hole and screw and screw as I might, (anti-clockwise) with my trusty Phillips screwdriver (with the pretty orange handle) it would not come out of the rabbit hutch. So I pulled it out with the pliers which left a bigger hole than anticipated. I found a single long screw left over from a bookcase kit and tried screwing it into the hole but it wobbled and fell out because the hole was too big. Unsatisfactory.
I rummaged around in the back of Grampa’s roll-top desk and found… a whole plastic bagful of nuts and bolts left behind by various builders and handymen. I collect stuff like that. I even go round the outside of the house, picking up nails. Also the elastic bands discarded by the post-lady, and fallen bird-feathers. Waste not, want not.
And in the whole plastic bagful of nuts and bolts I found – well, I’m not sure what it was – masonry bolt is the terms that springs to mind – a very long, very thick screw with a flat end. I poked it into the hole and screwed (clockwise) with my Phillips screwdriver for some considerable time and eventually all of the screw part of the – thingy – disappeared into the hole in the rabbit hutch and didn’t wobble. This left just enough – thingy – projecting from the rabbit hutch to clip the clothes-peg onto. It looks rustic and arty, and works a treat.
Just for a second there I knew how Whatisname felt when he dreamed the structure of the DNA double-helix.