Having attended a 1970s all girls’ boarding school, apart from an aversion to the colour red (blazers, cardigans, belts and bobble hats!) and a vow to never eat a marrow again after the colossal marrow glut of 1976, I had the broad and balanced design technology curriculum of ‘Cooking’ and ‘Sewing’. Not even ‘Home Economics’ or ‘Food Technology’, it was definitely ‘Cooking’ and ‘Sewing’.
This meant that although I do have an in depth knowledge of the potato and it’s multiple uses, after spending a whole term boiling, mashing and chipping; and I’m a dab hand at lining up notches when sewing, the magical world of woodwork and metal work remains a mystery. The assumption being that we’d all have husbands who came with their own sheds and complete tool kits.
Forty years on, and with the prospect of buying a French house that may need some DIY to let the professionals focus on the big stuff, I felt that it was about time I ‘man up’ and have a go at, if not DIY, then BIY (Bodge it Yourself). As someone who regards B&Q as a forbidden toyshop, I enrolled, with a moral supporting friend, on a taster woodwork course at our local community craft workshop.
Amazingly after 3 hours I’d not only learned the importance of a sharp pencil, but also for the first time, I’d used a vice, saw and chisel and produced a serviceable, if not attractive, trivet… albeit one held together with the help of some wood glue and a tiny nail.
So, whilst I’m not quite at the Grand Designs fitting a handmade oak kitchen stage, just being taught how to use a saw properly (apparently the position of the body and the straightness of the arm are crucial for success) and not to fear the pointy end of the chisel has given me the confidence to at least have a go.
Hopefully, I’ll be able continue this in the New Year (it’s box making next!) and I’m already eyeing up the “Power Tools for Beginners”. Then I’ll only have to master basic plumbing, electrics and plastering and we should be good to go.
Footnote: I really should update my potato repertoire too; out with the boiled, mashed and chips, bring on the Dauphinoise, Boulangere and the Sauté.
La Reine de Prusse