Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

What Do The Flying Dutchman And A Hammer Drill Have in Common?

If there is one thing Himself and I have in common, it is our attitude toward those age-old, gender specific arts of cooking and DIY. Deep seated, nay abyss-like, feelings of helplessness, failure and the overwhelming belief that we are somehow less of a man/woman for being unable to provide for our family in these time honoured ways, lead to well developed practices of procrastination and avoidance; me in the kitchen and Himself in any setting involving say, a ladder and a drill.

For example, when the end of the long working day arrives, rather than affectionately considering the heart warming meal I will prepare for my hard working husband and ravenous teenagers, I savagely mutter something like, 'I suppose I'd better think about dinner' and then storm off to fold washing or vacuum or, heaven forbid, do some school work: in short, anything other than cooking. When faced with a DIY task such as....oh I dunno....say putting up some venetian blinds in the BA's room, Himself manages to find something else that needs sanding on the boat or a pressing work related computer task...or, if I am really lucky, a close encounter with the lawn mower: anything which does not involve hand operated power tools.

We both feel similarly that our best, most well meaning efforts are doomed to failure. The other night, when we were asked to 'bring something' to a Sailing Club dinner, to accompany a roast, my paralysing insecurity saw me look up a recipe for Cauliflower Gratin on the web. As I prepared to follow the instructions something in my gut told me that cooking the cauliflower for 10 minutes before baking it was a bad idea, and yet, the recipe came from the web and therefore MUST be more reliable than me. The ridiculously large quantity of cheese called for seemed, in my extremely humble opinion, destined to curdle the white sauce and yet, I unwaveringly followed the instructions to the letter, determined to bring delicious, feel good food to the dinner party as a tribute to the other guests.

Predictably, my yearning for Earth Motherhood was once more dashed upon the soggy rocks of the inedible ship wreck of a gratin. Himself saved the day with a swiftly concocted and artistically arranged salad. I went to the dinner with a countenance like thunder and the reinforced belief that I am not much of a woman. I mean, women have been preparing meals for their loved ones since the dawn of time. How hard can it be??????????

But this post is not about me. Really. I am merely trying to communicate the depth of feeling accompanying Himself's aversion to DIY. We have had the venetian blinds for the BA's room for months now and we had promised ourselves that we would get them up whilst she was away this week. Well, of course THAT didn't happen but Himself did take the bracket down to the local hardware store and get appropriate screws and rawl plugs for the job. And then decided to mow the lawn.

Today, with a little encouragement, we made a start. Within 10 minutes I made the mistake of asking why he had purchased plasterboard screws when we were drilling into brick. I was just wondering! The 'dummy spit' was spectacular. He was off the ladder and out the door shouting that I could 'get a little man in' to do it if I wasn't happy with his work in seconds. And this was before he had even switched on the drill! Some judicious soothing and the assurance that I knew how he felt (see above story) calmed him sufficiently to get back onto the ladder. He lined up the drill and applied power.

Now we have had problems with this wall before. The double brick is phenomenally hard and drilling holes has proved trying in the past. I held my breath. The drill screamed, the dust flew, the bit advanced rapidly through the plaster and hit brick. The pitch increased, Himself applied more power. The bit spun wildly, and ineffectively, for 2 minutes before the air filled with a blue fog of expletives, the like of which had not been heard since last week. The drill hit the floor and Himself hit the road, heading for his garden shed and a calming cigar. I decided to take the drill and the bit down to the hardware store for advice.

At this point let me take you back in time.

When I was 12, my 7th grade teacher played us 'The Ride of the Valkyries', I think it was to inspire our creative writing but whatever the motivation it had a huge impact on me. I loved it! I came home singing 'dah duh dudah daaaaaa da' and excitedly explained to my classically leaning father the wonder of this dramatic piece. He smiled at me indulgently,
"That's not The Ride of the Valkyries," he explained gently, "that's 'The Flying Dutchman'.
This stopped me in my tracks. After all, my father knew everything but my teacher had showed us the cover of the album and told us the story and.. and.. and...

Dad lead me to the hallowed lounge room and the sacred record collection and reverently drew out an LP boasting an atmospheric drawing of the legendary ghost ship on the cover. He placed it on the turntable and as I listened, the familiar strains of 'dah duh dudah daaaaaa da' issued forth. How could this be????????

I don't know how we worked it out but the flip side of this album was 'The Ride of the Valkyries'. Someone at RCA or where ever had pasted the record labels on back to front (link in case you are a child of the CD age and do not remember that once upon a time you had to turn records over). For his entire adult life my father had been under the misapprehension that 'dah duh dudah daaaaaa da' signalled the approach of 'The Flying Dutchman', because of some quality control issues at Decca.

But what is the connection I hear you ask? What does this have to do with
Himself and his drill phobia? Well, when I got to the hardware store the technical advisor tested the drill and showed me that there were two settings, one for hammer drill (essential for drilling hard concrete and metal) and the other for more gentle, standard rotary drilling of wood and such. The drill had been set on 'rotary'. I asked to see which way the switch needed to go and there, before my very eyes, was The Flying Dutchman. The label indicating the setting was on back to front. For the last twenty years Himself has been trying to drill concrete with a screwdriver and put in screws with a hammer drill. No wonder he hates DIY.

We got one of the blinds up. The other one will have to wait until next weekend.

Image credits

Flying Dutchman

DIY Disasters



Blueberry said...

he he he! thank you i needed the laugh! :)

headbang8 said...

You and the Bestie are sensational handymen. Let the hub do dinner every night, and you can put up blinds. Ditch the gender-riole stereotypes!

Stacy said...

Oh dear, that would be frustrating. At least now he might be more inclined to DIY if his drill works correctly, right??

Sorry your cauliflower gratin didn't turn out. My mom taught me how to cook at a young age because her mother never taught her. My Dad got a bit tired of Tuna Helper all the time in the early years of their marriage. ;) Practice makes perfect, goes that old saying. The first time I tried to make a cheese sauce it was quite distastrous. Now I don't even really need a recipe to do it.

arizaphale said...

headbang: I wish it were that simple

stacy: it's the practice part that's the problem. He cooks so often i am completely out of practice.

headbang8 said...

When I read this, I thought of you!!!


Given this post, do you thing that the same thing goes for question marks???????

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Awwww! That's the pits! I'm glad you got it solved in the end though.

BTW, I try and mostly use "tried and true" recipes for anything that's going to be served outside of the immediate family. I leave the experimentation for those who live here, so they can flop in a discreet setting if necessary. And I consider myself a halfway decent cook. So I'm just saying - every first recipe has an element of surprise & even a good recipe can use tweaking. I don't think it's a reflection of you as a cook.

Andi said...

I so agree with headbang...why isn't it that simple?

I perform the manly task of GRILLING at our house (actually I do all of the cooking) but the husband does all of the other stuff- ironing, laundry, dishes...why can't you do what you are all best at doing?

Also, I must say (if I may), I am thankful that there is at least ONE thing with which you struggle. I have called you Superwoman a time or two and I am sure she does not have time to cook either!

Kevin C Jones said...

The old adage to 'read the instructions stupid' are becoming less truthful. I was using a 3-bladed slasher last weekend, and if I had inverted the blade as shown it would have harvested my legs.
Similarly my new Rice Cooker would have burned the Jasmine beyond edible, whilst I trusted "Chicken Tonight" to provide Flavour to, well,

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Kevin - It's a mystery to me how there can be so many great writers in the world, how work writing could be so hard to find and yet ALL of the instruction manuals seem to be incredibly, incredibly poorly written. I guess maybe they hire people who know a lot about how to use the thing instead of someone who can write?

little sis said...

Such a good story - how do you remember these things which happened when you were 12 and then manage to use them in a story like this? Genius!! Either that or you made the record bit up for effect.... :>) Even that would be impressive! I can relate to the part about himself hating DIY as you know. It is a VERY touchy subject in our house for an otherwise very laid back hubby! x

Susiej said...

I felt like a fly on the wall... that's the way it goes here! So glad you found the humor in all of this.. I get too frustrated.