As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m currently partway through renovating a new house. (The house being new to me, rather than a house that is actually new.)
Now, I consider myself a fairly practical kind of person across quite a wide range of subjects. Not an expert, but … capable. Comes from being a bit of an autodidact, I think. If I happen across something I find interesting, or useful, I go about acquiring knowledge on it. And the more that information is widely and freely available, the easier it is to obtain.
Sometimes, however, information is nothing without hands-on application. So, it’s not enough for me simply to watch a How-To clip on YouTube, I want to get out there and also acquire the real-world skill.
Having helped complete a self-build project with my ex a few years ago, I had no qualms about taking on a property I knew needed Work.
Indeed, I bought the house fully intending to do quite a bit of what was needed myself, including expanding the shower room into a bath-and-shower room, chopping the staircase about, and moving the kitchen from its existing location into the open-plan living area to provide another bedroom/study. As well, of course, as moving most of the lighting and power outlets around. Why is it they’re never in the right place?
Like I said, I’m fairly practical, and it’s nothing I haven’t done before.
But then I managed to crack a rib. On reflection, I believe I may have crumpled a couple this time, and in rather awkward places. Yes, I’ve reached the hurts-to-cough/laugh/sneeze/breath-deeply stage, and when I went to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival last weekend I had to warn friends I hadn’t seen for ages not to hug me too hard!
|With Jeff Deaver in the bar at the Old Swan, Harrogate. Photo: Ali Karim|
So, I admit to a bit of a downer earlier in the week, as the realisation sank in that there really are some jobs I know I ought to be able to do, but the truth is at the moment physically I just can’t. Heaving large pieces of solid-wood kitchen worktop about, for instance, is simply not a good idea unless I want to prolong my recovery time.
Finally, I took the sensible course and decided to draft in some expert help instead. Enter various tradesmen to quote for the bits I’m intending to farm out. I spoke with them on the phone beforehand, explaining that I was unable to finish what I’d started because of the creaky bone situation. And yet all four of the ones who’ve called round over the past week have walked into the house and, almost as an opening gambit, said with an incredulous air, “Have you really done all this yourself?”
Charlie Fox would have kicked their arses into the middle of next week.
Aware that I did actually want to extract a reasonable quotation from them, rather than entrails, I refrained from a similar course of action. I produced a slightly baffled look, as if the question was a rarity rather than the dull norm, and agreed that ye-es, indeed I had.
I did not maim any of them.
(Not even a little bit …
… however tempted I might have been.)
Nor did any of them leave minus quantities of blood or teeth.
(Heroic, isn’t it, what self-restraint I have?)
Now, most of the jobs I’ve done are not exactly brain surgery. They require a bit of logical thought and practical application. Occasionally, there is a certain amount of brute force and dead ignorance involved, but the former qualities often take precedence over the latter. As Archimedes pointed out: “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
Or something like that.
So why the astonishment? And, it has to be said, the tiniest hint of scepticism?
Sometimes, I struggle to remember we are more than halfway through the second decade of the twenty-first century. We have our second woman Prime Minister in Theresa May.
America has a female serious contender for the White House.
And then there’s Naomi Climber.
Never heard of her? Well, in October 2015 she became the first female president of the UK’s Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). Traditionally male preserves are becoming more open to gender equality all the time.
But not DIY or house construction. I seem to recall that during the self-build, visitors assumed my ex was the one doing the technical stuff, and I was making him cups of tea between choosing paint colours and sweeping up. Still, it could have been worse ...
I could have been the one on the ladder.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am as against positive discrimination as I am against negative discrimination. I believe firmly in people achieving appointment by being truly the best person for the job, not because they fulfil a gender quota. Interestingly, when blind auditions were introduced for orchestras, the chances of a female applicant obtaining a position rose by 50%.
I never would have imagined that classical music would be a field where misogyny was rife, just as I would never have imagined before I began writing crime thrillers that there would be any kind of objection by male readers to women writing in that genre.
Or amazement on the faces of tradesmen that I know how to hold a screwdriver.
(Thrust sharply upwards just under the left side of the diaphragm. Or straight through the neck from one side to the other.)
Ah, not quite what you had in mind, huh …?
What about you, folks? What bias of any kind have you encountered in the workplace, and what reasons were given for perpetuating it?
This week’s Word of the Week is eucatastrophe, meaning the sudden resolution of events in a story to provide a happy ending. It is said to have been coined by JRR Tolkien, who added the Greek eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, to signify a reversal of fortune which ensures the protagonist does not meet the apparently inevitable sticky end.