The Clean Hand Gang

Mumbly's Note: This note was slipped to me in the local DIY store. I didn't see the man who gave it to me, I was too busy wasting my life arguing about rawl-plugs. By the time I looked up, I could only see a tall figure strolling purposefully out of my life, past the sand, cement and paving slabs, past the mediterranean decking kits. Out of a life he'd changed forever. Thank you, whoever you are.

Welcome to the Brotherhood of Leisure. We are professional men, bankers, doctors, dentists, accountants, engineers and bookmakers. We take pride in our work and we know our limits. We feel strongly that our leisure time is for LEISURE and would dearly love for the world to agree with this seemingly harmless concept. However, evil forces are at work and we, few though we are, dare to resist them. Of course, all right-thinking people would find the prospect of joiners carrying out hysterectomies, or painters and decorators piloting our aeroplanes or interior designers giving odds on the 4.40 at Kempton truly horrifying and repulsive. Strangely the thought of a banker putting up his own shelves or an accountant laying a patio, to us equally distressing, is met by the general populous with equanimity, even approval. Indeed, many men are coerced into these unnatural acts against their will. Brothers, we know you are out there, we feel your pain and this is for you. Never more need you swear at a bruised thumb or be tormented by a sloping shelf. Follow our three steps to happiness and your days of being asked if you're going "to leave it like that," will be over.

Step One. Embrace your incompetence. Your complete uselessness is your closest ally, your undeserting friend. No longer will your inability to do those 'little' things around the house be a source of shame and humiliation, an endless amusement to your relatives and friends. Remember, if you can only do a job badly, do it really badly! It's amazing how difficult a truly bad paint-job, in several gaudy colours is to cover up. Especially if you take care to walk it into the carpets in every room in the house. You won't be asked again.

Step Two. Scotch all rumours that DIY is money saving. Whenever visiting the DIY store always buy the most expensive thing in enormous quantities. When returning to the family home explain that there was huge saving if you bought four tonnes of pea gravel and anyway what did we use the spare bedroom for? Wherever possible try to make your DIY projects the cause of costly legal action. Large holes in party walls is the oldest trick in the book. How did you know that you shouldn't use a sledge hammer to drive in a picture nail? How were you to know that next door's cat would fall asleep in the cement mixer (actions brought by animal protection charities are particularly effective)? You're an amateur. Haven't you been saying all along that this is a job for the professionals?

Step Three. OK. The warnings have gone unheeded. Time for desperate measures. Get violent. We know this is against your sense of honour and justice, but it's the only way. Few live-in partners will have the heart to nag you to finish a DIY task that you've seriously injured yourself attempting. Step ladder falls (recommended from the lower steps only), the minor sacrifice of the top of a finger, or perhaps a toe, usually puts a halt to any further discussion. Still fewer significant others will insist that their beloved does anymore DIY after he or she's 'accidentally' drilled through their loved one's hand while putting up a shelf or inadvertently stapled their ear to an interestingly shaped piece of decorative hardboard.

Step Four. The Rest of Your Life! Your house may be a parti-coloured smoking ruin. You'll see your neighbours in court, the light of your life is a stigmata-ed martyr, but you've made it. You have made your point. You have regained control of your life. Never more will anybody say to you "It's only a little job." or "Think of the money we'll save." Brush the petrified pooch off the varnished-stained sofa and sit down. Relax, you're a man of leisure.