I am profoundly ashamed to admit that I have reached the age of 36 and 3/4's without having the faintest idea about DIY. Now, 2 years,8 months and 14 days into single parenthood, I have seen the light, literally; shining on the dashboard of my dishwasher which has stood silent and slightly festering for the best part of 3 weeks.
Now although I went to an excellent school, which taught Girls to believe they could do anything they set their minds to, they were slightly lacking in the practical skills department. Now whilst I can write a cracking iambic pentameter and regale you with the 100 Years War; I left school utterly devoid of the ability to cook, sew, put up shelves or wire a plug.
I had to go head to head with these fairly major deficits ,when I reached University. Now I look back fondly and indulgently, at my teenage self, trying to make a white sauce with John Stuart Mill propped up next to the hob, by grating cheese into hot water.
By the time I set up home, I was doing so with an eminently practical husband at my side and thus never had to worry about Raul plugs and earth wires, especially as he found my total incompetence and consequent gratitude at the completion of any DIY, oddly endearing. Or so I thought.
I managed to cover up my secret shame quite comprehensively as I never had to deal with anything more complex than a name tape, or perhaps tyre pressure until 2006 .
However all this had to change and over recent months I have had to deal with enough Household disasters to fill a Good Housekeeping Manuel. Thank God for Google is all I can say!
So when a dear single girlfriend who is now an old hand at all that is domestically challenging, came for dinner with her son and tried to load the (broken) dishwasher, the proverbial floodgates of my ineptitude opened. To give her credit, despite her incredulity she poured a large glass of pinot grigio and putting on her specs instructed me like a 21st century Fairy Godmother, to bring her various objects to complete my transformation to a Complete Woman.
Of course I had no tools in the house, with the exception of a diminutive cross head screwdriver from a Christmas cracker. She gently enquired if a neighbour might have what we needed, so I pulled on my trusty UGGS and trotted across the roads to my (also) single female neighbour and banged tentatively on the door.
Now I should mention at this point, that in the last 18 months our street has experienced the Marital equivalent of Armageddon. I now have four single parent female neighbours and two single parent male ones. Despite the obvious turmoil and steady flow of removal vans this has incurred, what remains is a truly wartime spirit of damaged souls who pull together when it all becomes too challenging. The single ex wives now dog -walk together like a indomitable tribe of Amazonian Cath Kidstons; all Hunter wellies and attitude!
I digress; I knocked on her door and of course (it is Saturday night after all) she was in, thoroughly cocooned in a duvet, clutching a box of Maltesers. I obediently trotted of my list of requisites; a (bigger) cross head screwdriver, duct tape, socket joiners, wire strippers, a 13 amp fuse and plyers. There was an illicit excitement in the air, a bit like trespassing into the male domain , as we rummaged through her Ex husband's tool box.
Clutching my haul I scampered home to find my friend on her hands and knees pulling the dishwasher out from under the kitchen counter. Then with our wine glasses beside us we set to work stripping the wires and dropping the unfeasibly tiny screws from the plug.
The children (mostly male) passed through laughing making derisively sexist comments about how we would never do it but we soldiered on regardless. My eldest son watched us gloomily, waiting for us to electrocute ourselves and soon became bored by our dogged perseverance.
It was strangely calming and companionable sitting beneath the towering height of the laundry pile amidst the tumbleweeds of dog hair and fluff from the tumble drier.
Patiently and painstakingly, she guided me through the steps of wiring a plug with the instructions from Google on a post it, on the fridge door:Yellow/green-Earth, Blue- Neutral, Brown -Live.
I called my daughter over to watch, instructing her that EVERY woman should know how to fix her household appliances, much in the same tone with which my Aunt told me how to walk in heels and how to butter your bread in Good Company. My daughter watched critically, her face inscrutable, before announcing decisively that; when she was an Adult, she would pay someone to fix things!
At last, after a some fiddly screwing and a great deal of VERY blue language, the wiring was finished and like a Mother Bird watching her fledgling take flight, my friend directed me to the socket. My heart was in my mouth. I wasn't sure I could cope with the disappointment and the wave of inadequacy that would overwhelm me if it didn't work? But as the connection was made and the Dishwasher light came on, I leaped about the kitchen like a Lottery Winner shrieking with delight. We hugged and congratulated each other on our very female EUREKA moment. My friend wryly observed that her evening dates were rarely this ecstatic! We stood in somber wonder at our achievement listening to the heavy clunk and whir of the mechanics and the atmosphere was heady. Later as we sat in our post-electrical glow sharing a cigarette, we decided that sexual satisfaction didn't have much on this, particularly as both of us had survived significantly long periods of conjugal drought, and yet neither of us could live for even a week without our dishwashers!
As Rites of Passage go this was a pretty good one. All it had taken was a Phillips screwdriver and a length of electrical cable to complete my education. I appreciate such an event may seem insignificant to those with an O level in Home Ec, but for the girl who glued her Needlework GCSE pajamas together; tried to boil potatoes in a kettle and put shelves up with blu tac (yes,really!); this Household Ugly Duckling had finally become a Domestic Swan.