Not alone

For the past two days I’ve been helping out a friendwho’d been overwhelmed by DIY, or rather, having to do it. It’s a big old house in the middle of pretty much nowhere and the first day of working on my own there I knew I wasn’t. Alone, that is. It wasn’t all the time. It wasn’t in one room more than another, because I had no reason to go to the two rooms I’d been in before where I knew for a fact that I wasn’t alone. Just a sudden realisation as I was having a sit-down, tea and a think ( a vital, un-mentioned part of DIY) that the house wasn’t empty.

Some people call it ghosts, some people call it tectonic plates shifting and making sounds we can’t register as sounds, some people call it electromagnetic variation and that can very seriously mess you up in terms of what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t really think it matters what you call it. Every culture since the Romans has known and acknowledged presences. There are ghosts in the Bible and not just the Holy one. In that house I’m not the only person who looks over their shoulder in two top-floor rooms, currently un-used.

It took hours to fix that ceiling light. It was an antique, salvaged from some market (and probably not a skip, as I thought when it looked as if it just wasn’t going to go right) and this like that don’t come with instructions. Let’s just say insulated connection blocks inside plastic covers, some very thin battening and a coat hanger, along with some creative uses of a pair of pliers and at one point some very uncreative and repetitive Anglo-Saxon.

And a beaming friend’s young son telling me how much better the landing was now, and personal thanks from his teenage brother, who even looked at me while his wide-screen video game while he was doing it. Surprised didn’t cover it.

So I hope tonight will be a little easier there. It’s still a cracking good tune.


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Because I never had much money when I first started riding motorcycles and driving cars; because once when I was a student I took a car to a garage and the brakes failed leaving (I mean none. At all. After it had just gone for its MoT. In Bath, at a garage renowned for the foxiness of the mechanics’ girlfriends if not the mechanics’ other manual skills); because another garage charged me a couple of hundred pounds i didn’t have to not fix something I fixed myself using a £10 part from a scrapyard, I always at least try to fix things that go wrong with my vehicles. IMG_0218

Sometimes of course, you just can’t. I never even tried to fiddle about with the really seriously annoying fault on the Mercedes I had, that would just shut all its systems down, apparently for good, if you left a window open when you locked it. Everything. Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Under the bonnet everything was covered in plastic shields to stop you even thinking about having a look, so I left that.

This year though, I’ve got an old Saab convertible I’m strangely fond of. It suits me. And like apparently a lot of Saabs of that time, the cutesy information display that tells you how laughably few miles you’re getting to the gallon if you use the accelerator the way the Garett turbo likes you to, never worked properly since I got it. Given that it’s an older car and this was an electrical thing to do with pixels, I assumed it was going to cost hundreds, wasn’t worth doing and was best left well alone.

So obviously sooner or later I had a go at fixing it.  Equally obviously, it didn’t work. You pry the display out of the walnut dashboard with an old British Army REME pocketknife (assuming your pockets are the same size as King Kong’s) which has a nice thin and wide flat blade, making it ideal for this and yes, that’s why it lives in the glove box officer, what about it? Then you pull the box out, go into the kitchen, switch off the radio because it’s too distracting and fit a new data cable.  Clean all the glue off the contacts with a wooden lolly stick and meths. Carefully tape the contacts on the cable onto the metal contacts they need to mate up with exactly.

Which does nothing. So order a new data cable joined to a new screen. Which leaves you with a big line of no pixels across the screen worse than before. So give up and watch the instruction video on YouTube.

And realise that someone, at some point, had a go at doing this before. And left two screws out of the reassembly. Which means that however new the parts, if they aren’t joining up then it’s not going to work properly. Which is where my box of parts came in.

This is a plastic box full of stuff so odd and useless even I’ve thought of chucking it. But where else would I have found two screws just exactly and completely the perfect fit for the job? Not in B&Q or Halfords, that’s for certain.

So given that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, nor when it’ll come in handy, the box stays. Along with the other five. I’ve got a double gallery lamp standard to fix, after all.


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