SMOKE: Handyman: Not
Originally published: 30 August 2004
I write to you today from my little world of agony, brought upon by going against my karmic flow and attempting a job best left for a handyman.
My index finger has stained my keyboard with dirty blood after I sustained deep cuts to it, my thighs are locked into a bent position as to straighten them is the sweetest taboo, and my back - naturally - is a seething ocean of turmoil and pain, only more so than usual.
Oh - and my lungs are chock-a-block full of sawdust.
That's my Monday. Yours?
After reading comments to my Home Alone story on Friday, I decided to take the advice of a reader and do something to score some points before my wife, mistress, lover and muse returned home from some frivolous gallivanting in the north of the country.
Not that I need to score points - we don't operate on that level. But it's nice to bag some for a rainy day - they can only come in handy.
For about eight months now we've had a cabling problem in the study - when Tashi got her laptop we purchased two lengths of network cable. Both were 20 metres in length and the idea was that one would lead from the study to the bedroom so that she could sit in bed and play Internet, and the other would lead through to the lounge so she could be connected while watching telly.
Forty metres of cabling is a lot of cabling and for eight months it has sat bunched up all over the floor. Tashi has simply dragged it along with her wherever she's gone, with the dog bounding along happily behind.
The idea had been to take it up through a hole in the roof and drop it down into the bedroom and lounge through holes in those roofs. But when we got the cables I went up to the attic and the task was too huge to cope with - so I left it.
On Sunday - inspired by wild fantasies of outrageous sex with my returning wife - I decided the time had come to tackle the beast.
I've never been a handyman at the best of times - woodwork was the very first subject I dropped in high school because of my failure to even bang a nail in straight, much less cut a perfect dovetail joint or turn a tree into a grandfather clock.
The only thing I'm really good for is changing lightbulbs, but as for the rest - I'm useless. I really couldn't be less interested either.
Fortunately there was an existing hole in the study, through which the aerial linking the second TV to the lounge telly goes. I pushed up one end of the network cable and left it hanging out of the hole.
Then I organised an extension cable to carry up into the attic and took my table lamp from the study up into the attic with me, plugging it into the extension for some illumination. And what I saw horrified me.
The house is semi-detached, which means our attic starts at the highest point of the roof in the middle, and slopes down to the right.
This means that I can only stand upright if I stand right at the middle point of the two houses, and the problem is that the holes in the roof were at the opposite end - where the roof is at its lowest point.
Considering the enormity of my back problems (having a disc removed and your spine stitched together with two massive screws is not conducive to flexibility - the whole contraption is as bendy as a coin) I almost didn't even get started - one look told me that it would be hell getting into the corner.
But I'd started and besides - I was driven by the promise of sex. It's a powerful motivating factor in the actions of any young man.
I had to leopard crawl my way over the beams, because I couldn't walk on the actual ceiling - I would fall right through, on top of an unsuspecting dog who was moaning anxiously throughout the procedure. She does that, does the dog - she moans. It's appalling, man.
The beams are all of rough, splintery wood, and on one of them was a screw that someone had tried to hammer flat, without completed the job. I tore my index finger open when grabbing the beam, and that settled it - I was going to finish this bastard if it killed me.
There's something very endearing about the image of emerging victorious from your battle - bloodstained, thirsty, exhausted and sweating like a stuck pig, but a man who has conquered his foe.
Even if it is only network cabling.
Once I got to the cable sticking through the hole I pulled it through, then had to retreat through the cobwebs and beams doubled over like a beggar in a sack (first image that came to mind - sorry - blame Wilfred Owen) and exit the roof and down the ladder again.
The dog was so anxious by this point I caught her in the study trying to dial 10111, but of course she has no opposable thumbs and thus couldn't hold the receiver up to her silky ear. I gave her a Beeno and told her to shut it, which - to her eternal credit - she did.
Then I went to the tools cupboard and hauled out my heavy-duty T.I.P. Werkzeuge, a teutonic monstrosity that can drill through the engine block of a 747 if required to.
I went into the lounge and the dog scarpered in horror (memories of that unpleasant day at the Rondebosch vet), but then I discovered a new problem - the hole I had to drill was right in the corner behind the gasmaster (or whatever those indoor fireplace things are called), and very hard to get to.
The drill has a very short power cable and a two-prong plug and the drill cable didn't reach the floor. This meant that the extension cable had to hang midway between the floor and ceiling, but of course - no two-prong plug is going to stay in with an arrangement like that.
On a related theme, and to digress for one moment: if I ever - and I mean ever - discover who the satanist is who invented two-prong plugs, I will take him so far down into the depths of hell we'll end up on the other side, smack-bang in the lap of Jesus.
So I had to perch the extension on top of the blind rail, which caused the rail to fall down and for my open lounge to be exposed to the neighbours. Oh, the horror.
I got the rail up in double-quick time, managed to perch the extension precariously on top and then I fired up that big German bastard and ripped my lovely wooden ceiling a new one.
I had to stand with my back to the gasmaster and had no way of escaping the waterfall of sawdust that rained down upon my face and into my lungs, but I fought on bravely and eventually felt clear air on the other side.
I had to wikkel the bit hither and thither to widen the hole, but it all came out quite neatly in the end.
I knew I had the monster defeated - all that remained was to get back into the ceiling to pull the cable through the new hole.
I made the arduous return journey and had to do the job lying full length in a pile of dust which clung to the sweat that was pouring off me. But I pulled that cable through despite some minor protestations and made my weary way back to the ladder.
Which wasn't there any more. That bloody dog had "borrowed" it to chase a cat that had gone up a tree and I had to yell at her to bring it back, which she did guiltily, tail between legs.
Maybe that all sounds quite easy to you, but to a man that has to take pot luck when they don't tell you which colour is live and which is neutral - it was a significant breakthrough.
Network cabling - it's a tough racket.
It was high fives and Beenos all round upon completion of the job, but after my shower the pain of unused muscles set in and now I'm sitting in agony.
But hey - at least my filthy wife gets home today. Say no more.
All Smoked Out,