Blog The Builder

Last weekend, I made this:

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Well, when I say ‘made’, I do of course mean ‘assembled from flat pack’, rather than ‘felled tree, measured and cut the pieces, then lovingly crafted together and painted’, but let’s not take anything away from my achievement – after all, I’m a solicitor, not a fucking lumberjack.

The bottom line is, within the space of just a few hours (ok, six), this was the end product, and I’m pretty chuffed with it, even if building the damn thing nearly killed me.

You see, whilst it looks good now, the assembly was not without its setbacks, and I cannot claim all of the credit for the finished product (much as I would like to). In fact, were it not for the assistance of a good friend of mine, I’d probably still be in our back garden now – dirty, dehydrated, covered in blood (not all of it my own), and on my knees, pleading to the Heavens like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.

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The playhouse arrived a few weeks ago, in seven huge boxes each weighing about the same as a small family car – and so we temporarily stored them (read: left them) in the entrance hall and the last remaining bit of space in our garage.

Well, we call it a garage, but the car has never once seen the inside of it, so it is essentially a storage facility for all the shit we have amassed over the years (but are too sentimental to dispose of). Just don’t tell Hastings Insurance, ok? They still think the car is safely tucked away under the house each evening when, in reality, even if I could squeeze our motor into the piss-poor excuse for a garage, I would then have to crawl through the boot to get out.

Anyway, we decided that leaving the boxes strewn across the entrance hall wouldn’t cause too much of a problem for just a few days (and, to be honest, I quite enjoyed the Kypton Factor-style assault course they created), but we hadn’t banked on the British weather being so terrible in June and July. As each weekend approached, the storm clouds would gather, and I had no chance of tackling the assembly.

Until last Sunday. Last Sunday was glorious.

So, donning my very best ‘I do this kind of shit all the time’ handyman clothes, I puffed out my chest and strutted into the back garden, with my toolbox in one hand and my crotch in the other. Then, rather than rush into the task in question, I stood there for a few moments, pensively surveying the area where the playhouse would stand, to give all the female neighbours a chance to swoon over my manliness. For all they knew, I was on the verge of some mammoth building project, which required meticulous planning and co-ordination, whereas I was actually trying to decide whether I should go for a quick wee before making a start.

Once I’d had my wee (I decided I might as well get one out of the way, so the assembly wouldn’t be interrupted later on), I began to lift the boxes through the house and into the back garden.

Not only were they massive, so it took my full ‘wing span’ to manhandle the bastards, they were seriously bloody heavy. What I needed in that situation, to ensure safe manual handling procedures, was to bend at the knees, then slowly lift the box, before delicately manoeuvring it through a clear passage to the back door and garden. What I actually had, was the crumbling spine of a man twice my age, an entrance hall littered with obstacles, and a totally deaf dog, who insisted on blocking whichever path I chose to take, no matter how much I shouted at him to get out of my way. I swear he knew I was there and was doing it deliberately.

Eventually, however, I managed to get all seven boxes outside, and I emptied them one at a time, placing the various parts around the garden ready for my inventory check. I have to admit, I was rather relieved when the penultimate box finally yielded some instructions, but the brief respite in my panic was short-lived, when it became clear that they weren’t the instructions for the playhouse we had ordered. The playhouse for which we now had 482 parts strewn around our garden, like someone had pushed a shed out of a passing aeroplane.

At this point, the rational part of my brain was suggesting it might be best to halt the assembly until the company had sent us the correct instructions – as any mistake would invariably render the playhouse useless – but the other part of my brain (the far smaller ‘manly’ section I possess up there), was screaming at me: “Stop being such a fucking girl, and work it out for yourself”.

Unfortunately, whilst the manly part of my brain is much smaller than the rest (it is only really responsible for watching football, drinking beer, farting and erections), it does often – rather arrogantly – overrule the majority. And so it was, that I found myself opening the toolbox and commencing the process of trying to work out which of the various instruments I might need (and what they may possibly be used for).

Whilst I managed to assemble the four sides of the house itself with relative ease (although, in fairness, it didn’t take a genius to work out that the parts I required had a door and some windows), it quickly became apparent that the company had omitted to place holes in the vast majority of the pieces, so there was no real guidance as to where the screws needed to go. Coupled with the fact there were no instructions for the remaining 478 pieces, I started to worry that I might be in over my head.

Having briefly contemplated whether the boys may be just as happy with their new playhouse if it was in fact on the ground, with no floor or roof, and having arrived at the conclusion that, in all likelihood, they would not, I had to swallow my pride and accept that I needed some help.

Besides, I was only four parts in and, thanks to my crappy screwdriver, I was already starting to get a blister on my thumb.

I sheepishly called for my wife, and accepted that she had been right when she suggested I could not build it on my own. I partially blamed this on the fact I had rubbish tools, and that the company hadn’t sent the correct instructions, but the fact of the matter was this: I’m not very manly. This is not news, to either myself or anyone who knows me (or anyone who read Blog #23 – ‘The Blog Princess’ – for that matter), but I constantly try to pretend I’m slightly less of a girl than I actually am, and the façade was slipping badly.

My wife, bless her, tried to reassure me that no man could have built it on his own, but I still felt I had failed her as a husband, and the boys as a father. She sent a message to her friends on Facebook asking if anyone had a husband spare, and within ten minutes a friend of mine (who we shall call Richard because, well, that’s his name) turned up, fully equipped with proper tools.

He quickly helped me work out how all the as-yet-unidentified pieces might fit together to form the base, which would raise the playhouse off the ground, and set about drilling holes into those pieces so that we could secure them together. Rather than simply stand and watch him, I busied myself picking out some nice drapes and cushions for the finished playhouse (that’s a joke, incidentally).

Between us, we managed to get the playhouse finished in just a few hours, but because it was quite heavy work, we both neglected how hot it really was, and neither of us put any sun cream on. As a result, it was only after we had finished that I realised I had been very stupid, as my arms and the back of my neck were bright red.

In addition, the blister on my thumb had burst at some point, and my friend had scraped his knuckle while we were screwing inside the playhouse (behave), causing him to smear blood stains up the wall like a miniature murder scene – which, with Isaac ‘playing’ in there, could very well happen at some point.

Since I felt bad about his injury, and was conscious that we had taken him away from his family for most of Sunday afternoon, I re-assured him that I was more than capable of adding the ladder, slide and a few other finishing touches once he had gone, and thanked him for all his help with an ice-cold beer.

I then fought through the pain of my blister in order to add the final pieces to the house, and it’s safe to say the boys are delighted with it – even if Isaac has already tried on a number of occasions to put his fist, foot, and Ollie’s face through one of the windows.

It’s a shame it’s not a bit bigger really (story of my life). I quite fancy sticking a beer fridge in one corner and a TV in the other, and moving out there for some peace and quiet.

After all, how many bachelor pads have a slide?

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