A Word In Your Ear with Jon Rhodes - May 12, 2011

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I’M not very good at operating in a man’s world. Sure, I can drink beer and talk football as much as the next alpha male.

I tell a nice line in tap room tales gathered over the last 20 or so years in my careers as member of the Honourable Fourth Estate and onetime publican.

Where I fall down, though, is I don’t have a trade.

All right, I can write a few stories and chat to anyone, but can I really walk into a builders’ merchants and get away with talking like I know what I’m doing?

I am delighted to report I now can!

Regular readers will know my now legendary attempts at home improvements. Legendary because they never turn out quite as I’d planned. Bodge the Builder, that’s me.

Undeterred, myself and the Put Upon Wife have decided to undergo a bit of a transformation of the ground floor of the happy Rhodes Homestead.

Thankfully, my father has chipped in and been up for the last two days helping, and he’s opened my eyes to a whole different world out there.

Rather than head to my local DIY superstore for all my materials, he has directed me towards builders’ merchants.

These are places which hold great fear for me and for two reasons.

I don’t own a white van, and I‘m afraid of difficult questions such as “tungsten-tipped or dry wall screws mate?”

Give me a council agenda, a village fete or a robbery to report on any day of the week.

So imagine my horror when my plasterer said I could keep the cost of the job down by getting my own materials.

Great until it dawned on me I would have to go inside a builders’ merchants and order the stuff.

Off I went to a warehouse with more heavy machinery and tools than you could shake a four-by-two at (you see, I am learning).

These great sheds of design and honest toil are no place for a cocky wordsmith like me, but I gave it a go.

“All right,” I said to the builder/assistant, “lookin’ for plasterboard.”

“What size,” this guy (built like a brick outhouse) answered back.

“Six by three,” I replied, gaining in confidence.

“Depth?” he asked without looking up.

As quick as a flash I replied: “12 mill . . . mate.”

It was the use of the world “mill” and the bolted on “mate” which swung it for me.

Before you could say “done deal” I was negotiating discount, free delivery, a bag of wall restraints and then I had a brief chat about the virtues of compact florescent lighting over standard halogens. I had truly blagged it.

I could tell Rhodes Senior, a true man’s man, was chuffed when I told him.

Impressing your dad still has a buzz, even when you’re almost 40.