Equality between the sexes has become a keynote of our times… but how many of us have the time-honoured skills to keep up with our other half?
Women claim to be the queens of cleaning and mending, and men the masters of motor maintenance, but faced with a role reversal, how many of us would fall at the first hurdle?
If you find yourself fitting rather uncomfortably into that old, stereotypical category, never fear because help is at your fingertips in the form of two indispensable little books.
Sarah Williams’ Darn It! and Aubrey Smith’s Screw It! offer the chance not only to save face but to impress and positively dazzle with their lively and informative ‘idiot’s guides’ to traditional female skills that every man should know and traditional male skills that every woman should know.
Williams is well aware how much men hate having to ask for help so in Darn It! she takes all those reticent (or is that pig-headed?) males by the metaphorical hand and leads them gently through the alien world of knitting, sewing, cleaning (all rooms and all surfaces), ironing, basic cooking, rudimentary first aid and even the mysterious, female art of wrapping presents.
So steel yourself, boys, learn to be patient and apply some of that determination and resilience which the average man claims to have in abundance and before long you could be threading a needle (a feat in itself), sewing on a button and even removing a stain without the need for a female accomplice.
From baking bread and birthday cakes and making jam to ironing a shirt and treating a sting, Darn It! features all the essential female skills that a man should learn to make his life that little bit easier.
Divided into sections on looking after clothing, successfully maintaining the kitchen, everyday housekeeping, gardening and crafts, all those classic feminine skills from across the ages are covered.
Learn how to make an omelette, whip up a white sauce, clean your hard-won silverware, repair the hem on your trousers and even treat your man flu.
Each task is painstakingly explained and accompanied by clever and quirky illustrated instructions which leave no chopping board, toilet seat or tablecloth unturned in the pursuit of self-reliance and true equality.
No man should leave home – or better still spend the day at home – without having this essential book tucked firmly, neatly and safely under his belt!
And the girls can’t have it all their own way… if they want to keep their reputation as masters of multi-tasking, they’ll have to learn a few boys’ chores like fixing a leaking tap, putting up a shelf and changing a flat tyre.
So take a few lessons from Aubrey Smith’s Screw It! and learn how to survive without a man to attend to all those odd jobs around the house that have hitherto been out of female bounds.
Think how useful it would be to know how to jump-start your car, check it for oil and change an air filter without having to ask, or wait for, the man of the house to add it to his must-do list.
And you never know when it might be useful to show off your talents at building a campfire, making a compost bin, planting a tree and even taking over the glory of lighting up that charcoal barbecue on summer nights.
Impress your friends and family by learning how to shelve an alcove, replace a pane of glass, seal round a bath and tile the kitchen.
Screw It! features all the traditionally male skills that a woman should learn to make her life easier and less reliant on him outdoors. With sections focusing on car and bike maintenance, the home and the garden and the great outdoors, you’ll never again need to nag the man in your life…
And it doesn’t get any better than that… for both of the sexes!
(Michael O’Mara, hardback, both £9.99)