The shittiest end of the shittiest stick

Remember the May bank holiday we’ve just had? You know, the one that was watched over by that strange glowing, yellow orb that bathed us in warm air…now, what the hell is it called… wait, I’ll get there… oh yes, that’s it. The sun. What did you do? Barbeque? An impromptu day at the seaside? A trip to the park with ice cream and cold drinks? Well whoopie for you. I wrestled a bunk bed for four hours.

We had promised E that if he was a good boy – and I mean, a really good boy – we would get the extension kit out and turn his humdrum bed into a thing of magic and intrigue: a bunk bed. This talismanic promise had transformed a lippy, incalcitrant four year old into a paragon of manners and niceness. Confirming what I had always suspected: get a big enough bribe and you can get your kids to do absolutely bloody anything. There is a point, granted, at which this strategy falls apart – or at least, becomes eye-wateringly expensive, as E demonstrated some time ago. I told him that if he did this (I have no recollection what this was, but no doubt it was an utterly outrageous request such as tidying up his toys or not dislocating his brother’s arm) then he would get a treat. “A big treat?” he enquired. “Yes,” I replied, thinking of a £5 game I had languishing at the back of the cupboard. “What, like a house?” he asked. I was not sure if I was more disturbed that the treat scale has suddenly escalated into the start of a property portfolio, or that he was already thinking of moving out.

There is another down-side to this strategy: at some point, we had to fulfil our promise. Which is why, on the sunniest bank holiday known to man, there I was, allen key in hand, surrounded by heavy white planks of wood  in a variety of shapes and sizes. I eyed them suspiciously as I wrestled with an inordinately long and unwieldy cardboard box like some crazed Cardboard Dundee in a ridiculously small and square room, as I spotted that there were six planks that all looked the same. But I’d been caught out with crazy assumptions like that before. There would be crucial differences. Differences so small that it would take a forensic scientist to spot them, but differences all the same. One hole in a slightly different position. A chamfered end. One set of holes that are countersunk (oh yes, get me with the DIY lingo). All minute differences that go unnoticed until you are on the penultimate stage, at which point you realise that you are going to have to dismantle the whole bloody thing and start again. But not before you stab yourself repeatedly in the eye with your screwdriver, though. And the evil flat pack overlord would never agree to label the pieces. Oh no. He is far too malicious for that. This is the being that has been known to remove one crucial screw from the fixing pack, just for kicks. Lets sort out the rank amateurs from the vaguely competent right here and now, don’t label a thing and leave it all to sodding guesswork.

I poured a huge bag of fixings into E’s sick bowl which seemed somehow appropriate, and stacked the pieces in size order, as a classic displacement  activity to put off the inevitable. But eventually, when I had rearranged the planks according to number of holes, I could put it off no longer.  I opened the instructions and immediately felt a bit queasy, which was inconvenient, unless I wanted to puke all over an impressive selection of screws, bolts and things that probably do have names, but not in this brain. A complex drawing of three different planks intersecting with a handful of nuts, bolts and ‘niblets’ as I named them, on the end of a swarm of arrows that pointed to a peppering of holes in a fourth plank, swam before my eyes. DIYer’s panic started to rise in my stomach: that feeling you get when you are past the point of return (i.e. you’ve ripped the packaging so there is no way you can return the item, claiming you purchased it in error and please could you swap it for an extra thick mattress as that is almost as good as a bunk bed when you are four) but have no idea how to proceed. I turn the page, thinking that perhaps that was going to be the most complicated stage and it would all become clear on page two. It got worse. I quickly flicked back and sighed.

In this state of overwhelm, I started to consider M, who at that precise moment in time was downstairs cooking lunch. He really got the fucking good end of the deal here. I, however seem to have ended up holding the shittiest end of the shittiest stick on shit day. Otherwise known as a bank holiday.

There was nothing else for it, I had to make a start. Triple-counting holes and double checking instructions, I began. In the small, almost airless room, I was starting to build up quite a sweat. Then E wandered in and uttered those immortal words that froze the sweat on my brow and curdled the contents of my stomach: “Can I help, mummy?”

So now, I was wielding six foot planks around an airless, tiny room whilst trying not to decapitate my son, who kept stealing the bloody screwdriver at critical moments and dropping niblets under the bed. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was creating electrostatic confetti from a sheet of polystyrene when my back was turned, no doubt granules of which would still be turning up three years hence.  I was continually blinking sweat out of my eyes and occasionally allowing myself a brief glimpse out of the window at the blue sky beyond, just to reinforce what I was really missing.

“Can I hammer that in, mummy?” I pondered just how busy A&E may be on a bank holiday Monday, as E banged a dowel into oblivion with glee. Can I resign as a parent, please?  I’d agree to a sabbatical. Hell, I’d sign up five minutes of solitary confinement in the toilet right now.

I wipe a trickle of sweat from my hot, red face.

“Lunch is ready!” shouted M from downstairs. E jumped up with a ‘yippee’ and disappeared out of the door like a rat down a drainpipe, or a four year old in pursuit of meatballs, leaving me on my knees, bent over a plank of wood, half way through screwing in a niblet whilst keeping another plank upright with judicious use of my head, and lining up a dowel  as I balance a six foot plank on my thigh and simultaneously support another under my arm. DIY is definitely for octopuses. Or  the clinically insane. And definitely NOT for a sunny bank holiday. Now, where does this shitty stick go?

Well, whadda you know. This is my 99th post on Mothering Frights. I am nothing if not persistent. Expect fireworks, dancing ladies and copious amounts of champagne next week. Please note: a fervent imagination will be required.

To help pass the time until next week, why not hop on over to www.jodienewman.co.uk or Amazon to buy Womb with a View, my book about the experience of being pregnant and becoming a mum for the first time. Apparently, it’s a great test for those creaky post-birth pelvic floors. £6.99 for the paperback from my site, or £3.99 for the Kindle version from Amazon. There, you will also find reviews. They’re not bad, considering no chocolate button bribes were used.

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