Over the past year or so, I have chronicled my
demise transformation from Alpha Breadwinning Male to Beta Breadmaking Housedad.
Well, this week, I was given the Godsent opportunity to become a Real Man – the kind who doesn’t worry about dirty underpants; the kind who gets his HANDS dirty in the name of proper hard graft.
My next door neighbour has very considerately decided to completely renovate the two flats he owns next door while he swans around on the other side of the world doing whatever he enjoys doing over there.
We, in the meantime, have been left with the most horrendous noise, dust and confusion which has meant that, at times, I have barely been able to hear Jeremy Kyle’s guests bawling at each other.
Well, you know what they say: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
My anti-resentment strategy started by taking the builder to the local pub and politely explaining that I write a
very powerful popular blog and that any bad publicity – albeit to my devoted followers who couldn’t care less – would be bad for business. He bought the next round, nodded and agreed.
But what he couldn’t control was the drilling, the hammering, the sawing and the scraping which reverberates around my flat like a sledgehammer on a kettle drum. Which, to be honest, is fair enough. I know it won’t last forever and I can always mete my revenge when the neighbour gets back by buying my boys a set of drums and an electric guitar.
But instead of finding myself gnashing at the teeth with annoyance at the constant cacophany, I found myself getting used to it, to the point where they downed tools for a cup of builder’s, the silence felt strangely eery.
More than that, I found myself becoming more and more fascinated by what they were up to: the process of taking apart a 100 year-old building as easily as my lads destroy a tower of Lego; and the process of putting it all back together again.
My curiousity reached such a stage that I started to morph into Harry Enfield’s interfering ‘Only meeeee’ character, sticking my nose in where it wasn’t wanted, inquiring about each stage, wondering what went where and why?
And then my moment of satiation arrived in the form of a huge flatbed truck which had a massive hydraulic crane on top of it. I asked the guys what its official name was, and they told me, but I’ve forgotten. Suffice to say, it was like all of Bob the Builder’s wheely-based mates rolled into one.
This beast was to deliver the RSJ – no, not the Royal Shakespeare Junket, but a Rolled Steel Joist. A bespoke steel girder that would support the new floors that were to be installed.
The guy operating the crane was about 60 and had a fag on and didn’t look able enough to control such a sophisticated piece of equipment, but he was adept as it as my kids are on their DSi’s.
Left a bit, right a bit, up a bit, down a bit. It hovered over the building, then was lowered into the hole where the roof used to be.
And then it got stuck…
The five builders on site huffed and heaved, but it wouldn’t shift. And then Chief Builder looked towards me as I snapped away on my camera phone.
‘Give us a hand?’ he said.
The nearest I’d ever come to building something was erecting a Jenga Tower for the family to destroy, and even then not very successfuly, but I didn’t need asking twice. I dropped my hypothetical iron and clambered over the fence and joined in with the huffing and heaving until the joist found its mantle.
Then I stood back. Admired my contribution to the handiwork and felt a glow of pride. My brothers – a builder, a painter & decorator, and an electrician – would have been proud of me.
‘Anyone fancy a cup of tea?’ I asked. ‘Milk, sugar?’
You can take the Man out of Housedadding, but you can’t take the Housedad out of the Man!