Saturday, May 05, 2007

In praise of handymen

My father was a handyman. He could repair pretty well anything, and would also create all manner of useful and attractive items as well – photo frames, small boxes and containers, props for plays - although I don’t believe that he had any power tools to assist him. I remember too a beautiful lead he made for his dog from plaited leather, and some doll’s beds he contrived out of bits of scrap wood, which could be sold at a charity fete in the village. His skills were particularly valuable during the war when materials were scarce, and the government was exhorting us to “make do and mend”. And I am sure I owe it to my father that when I started to live on my own, I knew how to wire a plug, change a fuse, and tie a safe and secure parcel with brown paper and string that would not come undone.

Small surprise, I suppose, that I married just such another handyman, since girls are supposed to seek husbands like their fathers – though I don’t believe I knew of Michael’s DIY skills at the time of our marriage. Many of the objects seized upon joyfully by my sons during our clearing up operations were things he had designed and made himself. In the picture is an offset ring spanner he remade in a new shape, so that it would do the special job he wanted; and a key ring with a beautifully worked fob made out of string. He was a great lover of knots, something which our son Richard has inherited from him.

One of his best designs was a special lamp for our second son when he occupied the bottom bunk. You will see from the picture [pic] that it has a sturdy wooden frame, with wire mesh over the bulb to protect it from injury by romping boys. It fixed to the wall with a bracket, had a switch at the bottom, and connected to a power socket in the skirting board. And it’s painted a jolly yellow to match the wall paint. You can see it in its place in the photograph at the end of the post. Functional and fit for purpose. As were the shelves, the table and the workbench he has made over the years.

Of an entirely different nature was the beautiful toy otter he carved out of wood, a long, smooth, satisfying shape for a small child to grasp in his hand. Tragically, the otter was lost when our car caught fire on the motorway during our removal from Cheshire to Hertfordshire, as it had slipped down between the back seat squabs and was missed when our luggage was rescued from the burning car by my intrepid husband. The drawing he made before starting the carving remains among his papers however.

He also made a house name for my mother, a house number for me (out of an old ‘lazy Susan’ tray), and a mantelshelf for our first cottage home, with four supporting brackets on each of which he carved the initial of a son’s name, as they came along. This is now a bookshelf in Son No 3’s converted barn.

It was only to be expected that with this inheritance, one of our sons should should take on the mantle, and I have already written here about Richard’s inventive talent, which I enjoy just as much as I have enjoyed his father’s, and my father’s. God bless all handymen!


Helen said...

A lovely read (as usual), Judith. I am also a mother of sons and the photo of the three of them twangs the ol' heart strings.

One of my sons is busy creating in his shed just like my father did. And I'm sure my dad is peering over his shoulder as he works.

Lee said...

There is a lot of satisfaction in making things around the house but you need to know when to let the experts do the bits that matter.

For me, putty and paint is a great saviour.