It’s been a strange week for my front door. I’m trying to sell my house. Apart from the front door it’s great, but apparently the front door has been cursed by a disgruntled passing gypsy or something.
I mowed the lawn last weekend. I’d almost finished when the mower started making a weird clattering gasping noise and pouring smoke like the Piper Alpha rig. Yes, I really AM that old. With split-second recall that had been oddly absent for the previous half decade I realised I hadn’t actually put any oil in it for the past five years.
I switched it off before it blew itself up. I thought I’d let it cool down for a half hour, find some oil in the shed. Trailer then. Car boot. Other shed. By that time about half an hour was up anyway. All this stuff takes longer than you think it’s going to. I put the oil in and pulled the string to start it and magically, it did without any clattering or detonations other than the 2,000 ones per minute it’s supposed to do. Result. But I had the feeling something was wrong. I couldn’t work out what it was until I went out that evening and found my front door in bits. Before I bought this house someone had replaced the front door with a UPVC one, that actually fits the doorway and keeps the draught out. Except being made like most modern things from plastic, snot and the tears of Chinese child labourers that’s about all it does now after however long it is since 1989.
First the letterbox fell off. It’s aluminium. Aluminium corrodes in rainwater, so it’s an especially stupid choice for anything you’re going to leave outside, where letterboxes are supposed to live. That wasn’t the problem if you don’t look at the letterbox flap. The plastic studs holding it onto the door had sheared off. I apologise for the technical, manly use of the word ‘sheared.’
It’s a guy thing
The plastic had broken because plastic degrades in ultra-violet light, the kind you get from sun-beds and inconveniently for people living on the third rock out from it in this solar system, the sun. In other words, put this door where it was designed to go and in less than a quarter century it will fall to bits. Brilliant. Superb. If you make replacement door bits. But hardly anyone does. The company that made the rubbish bolted onto this door went bust years ago, or more likely the owner sold it to China and went to live in Spain where he could complain about England being full of foreigners in more comfort.
My very oldest friend lives in Thomas Hardy’s sister’s schoolhouse in rural Dorset. Well, she doesn’t because it’s full of dry rot but that was nothing to do with the front door. The school house was built around about 1870, I’d guess, when education was made compulsory in England and Wales. Long before Anthony Crossland decided that the way to keep Old Etonians out of government was to deny the concept of academic achievement in the state system. Yes, that one really worked. Long before the idea that everyone should pay for everyone to learn to read was denounced as pretty close to Communism. A lot of changes have happened since that front door was put on. But it’s all still there. The letterbox hasn’t fallen off. The lock hasn’t come off in anyone’s hand, which was the next thing to happen.
Two screws went all the way through the handle, then the plastic one side of the door, through the lock and into the plastic and then the handle the other side, top and bottom. This isn’t too technical, is it? Both screws are the same. 4mm across, 7cm long. Except one of them is now 5cm long, because the end has broken off. Because it’s aluminium.
Can you buy 4mm screws anywhere? No, of course you can’t. We got fives, mate. Dunno where you’ll get fours. So I have to buy a new lock. The whole thing. Backplate, faceplate, two handles, the lock and two screws, because someone wanted to cut their production costs and use rubbish inappropriate materials to maximise their profit in the first place. The glory of consumerism. Use crap. Pass the cost to someone else. Buy more, buy more, buy more. Except it’s almost always just crap you’re buying.
With what I had thought was going to be its dying breath the mower managed to spit a tiny piece of gravel off the lawn and through the front door window. It left a tiny hole not even the size of the nail on the finger of a small child. And the whole glass panel crazed and cracked like a road safety advert. I liked it. Everyone who saw it liked it, but it was obviously building up confidence to fall out on the path and potentially onto whoever was opening the door at the time, so I had to get a new window as well. The mower spat the gravel because the gravel was there, but the reason it flew through the air when and where it did was because the bit of the mower that was supposed to stop things like that happening had rusted through. Because it was made of crap metal. Because it was made in China. Because it was like everything else now, just called ‘quality,’ just called ‘added value.’
I am stopping doing this. Not writing this, although maybe this morning I should and go and fix the mower. Buying crap. That’s something I need to stop. I don’t want to support this cycle any more. So I’m not buying a new mower. I’m not even going to buy a second-hand mower. Instead I’m taking the power back, taking responsibility. I’m going to fix the old one, with fibreglass. No, I haven’t done it before. I can learn. Anyone can. We can all do this stuff, not if we start believing but when we stop believing we can’t and we should buy it, the same way we’ve been told for the past 30 years.
The door lock is going to be a longer problem.