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» DIY disasters

My dad, DIY legend.
Let's be clear, my dad knows how to make and fix stuff - for 40-odd years he was an engineer. He built his own cars, as a youngster and, in later life, has restored the odd classic or two. He is a dab hand with plumbing and electrical work and has even built a passable granite garden wall...

However, there are times that this seems to fail him and te profanity-ridden aftermath is often a sight to behold.

1) The kitchen lino.
It is a firmly held belief of my dad's that any substance, once poured on the floor, will "find it's own level". This included the bitumen he upended on the kitchen floor to hold the new lino down. The fact it came out of the three-gallon can in once piece and stood upright didn't seem to faze him. No, he could wait. It was only after twenty minutes that he decided the best thing to do would be to level it out - using the yard broom. We now have a kitchen floor that has a nasty dog-leg break akin to the longer holes at St Andrews. This is ignoring the fact he glued his slippers to the floor, stepped back, glued his socks to the floor and, in the process of removing himself glued his gloves and feet to the floor.

2) Plasterboard + dog +stepladder.
I don't understand why my usually sensible dad would choose to plasterboard the stairwell ceiling without shutting the (large) dog out of the way. Nor do I understand why he thought propping one end of the board up with a broom on a stepladder was a good idea. Nor, I'll admit, do I understand why he felt that covering the stepladder he was on, the bannister and everything below three feet in height in dust sheets was a good idea. I do know that, when the doorbell rang, the crash, yelps, barking and ensuing dust cloud that billowed out of the front door were worth the price of admission. Oh, and that you can comfortable turn a large labrador/alsation cross white with only one 6x4 sheet of plasterboard if it is smashed finely enough in the chaos.

There are more...most recently he sat in his van and watched my car roll down the drive and into a neighbours' car as he felt that having it parked with the handbrake on wasn't good for it and only realised he'd forgotten to put the brake back on when he reversed his van out of the way (it had been holding my car in place)...thanks dad.

Oddly enough, I wouldn't trust hiim to wire the Sky box to the TV, but I'd let him do my boiler....
(Fri 4th Apr 2008, 15:30, More)

» Kids

Genius of my dad
I've spoken about my dad before - he of DIY slipper-sock-floor glue fame, but occasionally he has flashes of sheer brilliance.

Like the "levitation" trick. Me and a friend (actually the guy who was best man at my recent wedding) were about 4 at the time, I guess, no more than 6 anyway. We were tearing round the garden like idiots and generally getting in my dad's way (he was re-felting the shed roof, I believe). In an attempt to occupy us and keep us out of his hair for five minutes (where was mum when he needed her?), he had a wave of sheer inspiration.

He calls us over and says "can you stand on one leg?"

Yerrrrs, we think and demonstrate.

"Ok, can you stand on the other one?"

Of course, we're not fazed by this feat.

"Ok, you've got one leg off the ground, now lift the other one".

We switch legs.

"No, I meant while you already had one off the ground".

We were 4, but we weren't stupid. We knew we'd fall over. We pointed this out.

Here's the genius part - he goes into the shed and gets two buckets.

"If you stand in these and, if you concentrate really hard, you'll be able to pick yourself up by the handle and levitate"

We must have been there for two hours, convinced we could see clear space under each other's buckets at times.

The man's a marvel and I will sure as hell do that to my kids...I know my best mate is already doing it to his.
(Fri 18th Apr 2008, 17:01, More)

» Kids

random child-related things...
In response to skitllemcfluff's post - I once was so enraged by our local newspaper that I actually wrote a letter of comaplaint and, thus, spawned a generational war on the letters peage.

The short version is that, since the Barracks and the Mental Hospital (hell, call it a loony bin, as we all did) closed, most of the bigger houses in the area were sold off to become nursing homes, with the result that the town became full of whining old bastards and the piss-smelling haiirdans they married.

So, now that we are CodgerVille, we start to get the obligatory flower baskets, lowered curbs and, of course, complaints. Like the old bitch who bought a private flat opposite a pub, then complained about the noise. The pub had been there 100+ years and, you know what, it always tended to get rowdy at closing time on a friday night.

But the big rants usually come along at hallowe'en, which is where this tale begins. Basically, there was a Daily Mail-esque piece in the local chip-wrapper that covered pages 1, 2, 3, 4 and a couple in the middle going on about this "Reign of Terror" that had happened on hallowe'en. Things smashed, old farts intimidated and gangs of marauding hoodies roaming the streets looking for pensioners to happy-slap. You get the idea.

Here's the thing, though. I was out on the streets they were talking about, at the time it was supposed to be a riot zone. I was, at it happens, walking home from a quiet evening watching horror films with a mate to mark the event. I decided that, as I hadn't been raped, murdered or pillaged, I might share the truth of the matter with the general populace:

1) "Vandals cause chaos and damage on main road". Actually, three kids wlaking home from a party played football with a pumpkin. Thier pumpkin, as the candle in it had burned out.

2) "I was terrified for my life by thugs". Actually, the miserable old bastard used to swear at me when I was a kid and I have no doubt that, when some kids Trick or Treated him, he swore and threatened them, so they (like all good kids) replied with "fuck off, grandad, you don't scare us"

3) "Vandals destroyed property" Contrary to popular opinion, knocking a branch off a dead shrub as you walk back up the driveway after being sworn at is not an act of war, it's an act of bad gardening.

I also pointed out that, whilst obviously all kids nowadays are hoodie-asbo-chav-scum who happyslap nuns, the generation of whingers were perfectly within thier rights to go scrumping for apples on private property during a time of NATIONAL FOOD RATIONING. I pointed out that either what they did was burglary, or having your TV nicked is "urban scrumping". Needless to say, it stirred to old bastards up. I hope it gave a few of them strokes, too. Serves them right - kids are just kids - if you're scared of them, they'll get lairy, but they also have a right to have some fun, laugh and be young.

*rant over*

Apologies for length
(Fri 18th Apr 2008, 16:31, More)

» This book changed my life

Books that made me who I am....
I love to read - in fact, I think it's one of the great pleasures in life. Nothing is nicer than a warm afternoon, a chair in the sun a cold drink and a good book. I'd say it's a sign of getting old, but I've always enjoyed it...

There are many books that have influenced me, but those that really made an impact on how I am today are:

1) Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Yes, I loved Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but Dirk Gently was a book I read at school (from the school library, no less) that was funny, interesting and had enough about computers in it to grab my attention. I was a computer nerd at school and lusted after a Mac (back in those days you could buy a 386 PC with VGA graphics for £1000, or a Mac Classic with a 9 inch black and white screen for rather more money). Besides, Dirk himself reminded me of my best friend at school and, on re-reading it, I still wish that he was part of my life (a long and bitter story - short version: don't start a business with a friend that drinks).

2) Neuromancer by William Gibson. I can read this and literally start over as soon as I am done. I love the pacing, the feel of the society and I ached for technology to speed up to the point that we could jack into the matrix. Again, I read this when I was maybe 12 or 13, so it'd be 1989-ish. In those days there were many more competing computer standards and many esoteric things being created that to be a computer nerd felt like surfing the wave of the future and this book was like a beacon to us youngsters who were coding for fun.

3) Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Given to me by a Spanish girl I met at University. She broke my heart, but this book has always had a great ability to help me get my shit together when things are bleak - I can't recommend it enough if you are feeling lost or alone. Just follow the story and let go of life for five minutes and I guarantee it'll help you get perspective on things.

4) Jeeves and The Feudal Spirit. In fact, anything Jeeves and Wooster, but this was the first I bought and read once I'd grown up enough to see past the initial "Bertie's an idiot, Jeeves is clever, it's a bit of a farce" impression the books create. I rediscovered a pride in my Britishness and Public School education by realising that Bertie is actually quite bright, yet self-effacing (he does, after all, narrate the books in a beautiful style), as well as being unselfish and honest (he'd do anything to help a friend). Basically, if more people acted like Bertie, we would not have 12 year olds stabbing each other. I wish, with all my heart, that I could join the Drones.

4) The Young Bond series of books - less pompous than Harry Potter and a return to the rip-roaring boys' own adventures that are a) good to read and b) a way of getting young boys to be interested in reading - too much has been made of girls' abilities in the classroom when compared to boys in the last ten years, so that boys are seen as under-acheiving hoodies who just want to happy-slap the teacher. By engaging them at a young age with books like these, maybe we'll see the balance returned to the classroom and a bit less aggro on the streets. If we don't, they are still a great little read - ideal for the train ride after work. I can also recommend the Alex Rider books and the Power of Five series (more supernatural/horror than spy, though). They are like a modern-day Willard Price series, which can't be a bad thing.

5) iWoz and iCon: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business - two books about the founders of Apple Computers that encapsulate everything that was so exciting about the early to mid-80s in terms of computing (ok, the 70s to mid-80s. It doesn't matter that, on a commercial basis, Microsoft ended up dominating - so much of their design is stolen from Apple (and others) that it is really what Jobs and Woz did that shaped how the world sees computers. Jobs goes from the Apple/Apple 2 to the Macintosh, to being fired and starting NeXT (a great OS and some drool-worthy hardware back in 1990, much like my beloved SGI), then selling NeXT to Apple to give it the basis for OSX (the second UI revolution). Oh, and he got Pixar up and running and is now a major force in that whole field. Woz left Apple to pursue his passions (after the whole plane crash thing) and now works on teaching computers to kids, amongst other things. Big personalities, a whole new business ethos and a pair of role models for the 30-something tech nerds amongst us.

and, finally

The house at Pooh Corner, if only because it introduces the themes of growing up and the end of that innocent stay-at-home-with-mum period of life. In fact, my mother never read me the last chapter and I can see why - it's genuinely heart-breaking: Christopher Robin tells Pooh and the others that he's got to go away to School and won't be allowed to come back to the Hundred Acre Wood as he has to be a grown-up boy... It made me sad when I was 23 and re-read the book, so it would destroy a four year old!
(Wed 21st May 2008, 14:51, More)

» DIY disasters

DIY legend part 2
Just remembered the time we were having a garage built and my dad, being the sort who follows the tradesmen around tutting and saying "are you sure you wantt o do it like that?" had decided that the builders hadn't stacked the windows properly when they'd been delivered.

My mum and I came back from shopping to find him standing up to his ankles in an icy cold bath. My mum just thought it was an attempt to cool down on a hot day, but I subsequently found out it was because he'd been wearing sandals when he'd been poking around on the building site and had guillottined every one of his toes when the windows that were happily stacked slipped due to his trying to move them to prove they weren't stacked right...

Then there is the time he decided to wrap lagging round his van's engine bay to deaden the sound, despite the fact it tended to absorb the oil that leaked out of the engine...he thought the guy flashing his lights and pointing was trying to overtake, so cue much swearing and flicking of V's. Until my dad saw the flames billowing out of the cooling slots... So he pulls over to the sound of flames crackling around the fuel line and empties the fire extinguisher into the bay, only to have it still be hot and threatening to burn. So, he figures he needs some sort of liquid to cool it...does he use the flat bottle of coke? Nope. The de-ionised water for car batteries? No. He uses anti-freeze. two litres of Ethyl-butyl-Combustable-blue-stuff onto smouldering wires and bubbling plastic. How he is still alive, I don't know....
(Fri 4th Apr 2008, 16:08, More)
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