I’ve been back to the hardware store again. I always enter with trepidation in case the shopkeeper asks me a technical question.
Sometimes, I overhear customers at the counter conversing about impossibly practical matters, often involving numbers (“You get a number seven screw and drive four of these into your five by two”).
Just to make friends, I once interjected and said: “I usually use a three for that.” And they both turned round and said: “There is no three.”
It’s 23 miles to the hardware store and usually, as on this occasion, I take the opportunity to use the village gym. In the steam room there, one woman told me about her partner building their house and, when I excused myself and went to the sauna, a bloke there said he’d built his own house tae. Smarties.
In both cases, I wanted to say “Shut up!,” but just politely listened. I was going to say, “Well, I built an Airfix kit once”, but it was a lie as I never finished it. That was when I was a bairn. I hated Meccano and Lego tae.
Usually, the only technical item I am in the hardware store for is paint. I could paint for Scotland, me. Never seems done. And it’s all ootside at the moment: fences, railings, sheep, the shed.
However, while I usually only need paint, to look a bit more DIY I’ll probably also add bags of nails and screws, a scraper, sandpaper, and a hammer because it has a nice yellow colour that might match my curtains.
Oh, and wood preservative. I’m always preserving wood, particularly the stuff on my shed which is damp and crumbling, but I won’t give up on it. Even so, I still feel a fraud in the hardware store, particularly when I get home with all this useless stuff and find I’ve forgotten the paint, like returning from the supermarket and learning that you’ve bought all the sundries, the milks, breads and toiletries, but forgotten the evening meal, so that you have to have an egg on a stale oatcake for your tea.
I’m always talking to people in shops, whether they like it or not, but fearing to be exposed as a phoney in the DIY store, I generally restrict myself to asking the shopkeeper to join me in prayer that I am in funds as I hand over my card.
I’m sure that as soon as I close the door behind me, he says to his assistant: “He must have painted the entire village by now. And what can he be doing with all these screws? Perhaps he is building his own house. Or an aircraft hangar. Or a hospital.”
Of course, I buy such things because they might come in handy, which they never do because, after years of seeing them out of the corner of my eye every day, I can never find them when I need them. Life’s like that, isn’t?
Life: I’d like to take a yellow hammer and a bunch of three by fours to that. On second thoughts, best not. If it’s anything like my more domestic DIY, I’ll probably just break the planet, or decide in the end to paint the whole place. That’s as soon as I’ve finished painting the village.