All entries for April 2005

April 19, 2005

Flatpack Fun

Do I really look that incapable? I know I sometimes maybe laugh a bit stupidly or trip over a non-existent step, but do I really give out that vibe that says do not trust this woman with a hammer? Ever? (Jenner definition: 'Incapable' = unable even to know which way up a screwdriver goes.)

For example, my family and I had a fun evening out to Ikea last week. We did the grand tour, sat in the grubby bucket seats, and marvelled at the sheer amount of plywood in one place, and then we came home with the requisite amounts of tupperware, wicker storage baskets, and also some bookshelves for our hall, and a set of drawers for my room. My drawers. For me.

The first thing my mother said, when we got through the door, was: "If you speak nicely to your brother, I'm sure he'd put them up for you in the next day or so." There are two things wrong with this statement. One, the fact that this involves being nice to my grumpy teenage brother, and two, why would he need to assemble my drawers? To reiterate: my drawers. For me.

So, I said "Oh, I'll do them tomorrow," and was greeted with a sideways look and a timid… "well, are you sure…?" When challenged to explain exactly what she meant, all she could come up with was "well, surely it would be nice to make sure it was a proper job – you know.. so they're done well…" And on being told that it was flatpack furniture, not an artisan working in a hamlet in the south of France with a solitary rough hewn chisel, she still said doubtfully, "but darling, I just, you know, want you to have furniture that…"


"Looks nice, you know."

I didn't know. And told her so. And woke up the next morning with a burning resolve to show the world that I too could read diagrams and fit pieces of precut plywood together. I mean, if a girl's not got that, what has she left to her? I'm as spatially aware as the next person. I built all the Lego spaceships and things in my day – and that was before Lego got all creative and started including bits of huge pre-formed plastic boats and spacecraft that you didn't have to build yourself. Hell, I even dabbled in Technics for a bit (but got bored because they didn't have it in such pretty colours). It hurt that even my mother didn't trust me to build my own furniture (my drawers. For me) and I realised that I needed to salvage what was left of my reputation in a glorious burst of flatpack action.

I didn't start until 1pm. I couldn't find the toolbox. In my defence, it was buried underneath the huge pile of homeless books in our hall (hence the need for bookshelves) and once I had located its big shinyness it only took me a couple of minutes to identify the tools I needed for my mission.

I'm not sure how long the next bit took. It's all a bit of a blur. All I remember is I switched on the TV, and somehow got all the way from Neighbours to the end of the Channel 5 Afternoon Movie (sponsored by people who make dentures – I'm thinking I'm not really their target audience) by way of Doctors, Angela Lansbury, and a brief burst of scary hyper children's dayglo gabble (with lots of people dressed up as bigger muppet people that if I was 5 would have really scared me) before I had a freestanding object with slidey slidey drawers.

And guess what. It stood up. There were a couple of extra screws which worried me for a bit. But I pushed it around a bit and it didn't fall over. Nor did bits fall out of it or go clunk in that horrible oh-bugger-I've-just-dislodged-something-crucial-to-this-whole-contraption way. It did not even wobble. And the drawers went slidey slidey swish. It was a thing of beauty.

So I expected the praise. I expected the sighs of wonder. I even thought there might be tears. But when I told my mother I'd done it – oh so casually – she walked calmly upstairs, and surveyed it, head on one side, with no visible emotion.

"I didn't have any help," I said, just in case my brother was going to pinch the credit.

"I can see that," she said, "it's just a teensy bit squint."

Reader, I defended my drawers to the last. But I still maintain, if they're crooked, that is surely the fault of the person who cut the shapes out in the first place. Whatever. Anyway, my drawers are still standing, and holding stuff, and going slidey slidey swish, and I love them all the more because you can race marbles from one side of the top of them to the other. I have expanded their purpose in life, and surely that is a skill all of its own?

(And for the record, it's the ridged metal pointy bit you use. The black bit is the handle)

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