Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Losers club Or DIY hell - take your pick

Once upon a time, nearly every Friday evening, 31 and V used to come home from a hard days work, get changed, maybe have a drink and then head out with friends for drinks, dinner, a movie, dancing. They would come home past midnight, possibly with friends in tow, and watch re-runs of re-runs of old movies, singing along while sipping cognac. They would then sleep till past noon on Saturday in preparation for another night out. Those wonderful wonderful times. They were called 'our twenties'.

I’m in the mood for reminiscing about the good old days. Humour me.

You know things have changed when you spend Friday evenings at B&Q. Ever since we moved to our own place (8 weeks ago this past Friday) we have been spending an inordinate amount of time in B&Q. For the uninitiated B&Q is one of the UK’s ‘largest home improvement and garden retail centre’s’. In other words it’s the warehouse from hell for people who have nothing better to do that strip their houses and re-do them time and time and again.

This country is very caught up with DIY. To the uninformed that is ‘Do It Yourself’. I should have been worried when I saw the many TV programmes that constantly show the ‘new’ trends in home design and then force you to go and redecorate your existance. There are whole channels dedicated to makeover shows – ones where noisy, boisterous and usually overbearing presenters/ designers go into people’s houses and re-do rooms in their ‘distinctive’ (often hideous) style. There is many a programme where the house owners have begun some project of self improvement such as stripping out their bathroom and then never got back to putting it together again. And then when their children are in danger of slipping through the gaping hole in the floor they resort to calling home shows and begging for help. The designer and handymen come and film the whole re-design and at the end of such shows the owner has no choice but to smile beatifically and be groveling, breathless and thankful, all simultaneously, that their children can now walk along the bathroom floor without landing directly at the kitchen table (or rather on it) without the need for stairs. I recall one particularly popular show that finished its run on BBC after 8 continuous highly rated seasons. In this show neighbours/ friends exchanged keys and then worked with designers to redesign just one room in each other houses. When I say worked with, I mean that in the loosest sense, as usually the designer had their own unchangeable plans that they barked at the friends. At the end the rooms is revealed to the owner of said room. I have to admit that in many cases the rooms turned out well - completely incongruous with the rest of the house, but well in isolation. In other cases they were unmitigated disasters, with sand beaches on floors not being the desired living room effect they were hoping to come home to. What was that designer ON?! Or like once when a ceiling suspended show rack for a prized plate collection fell to the floor shattering a lifetime’s collection into a million shards. Or like when someone expressly mentioned that they hated black and the designer completely ignored that and created a black and gold bedroom. Sexy, you say? Needless to say one of them burst into tears and vowed to strip out the room because “I HATE IT”. I bet you some friendships have been ruined over that re-decoration craziness.

I digress. So anyway, one Friday evening a few weeks ago, I was in bl*st*d B&Q (thanks to this)traipsing the aisles looking for light fittings to replace the UFO’s that previously lived in the ceiling. 540 choices of lighting and endless sad-o’s like me, with trolleys and stacks of DIY equipment. After about 15 minutes of utter wonderment at the sheer range of choice and the ugliness to choose from it was determined that help was needed in tracking down simple spotlights. Along with other confused parties wandering the lighting aisles, a ‘customer service assistant’ was chased and pinned to a wall. Needless to say I got some answers about wattage and other sundry lighting jargon. I left with 26 spotlights and many more bulbs. And god said, “Let there be light.”

Another Friday evening was spent searching for a simple, straight line towel rack. ‘Ultimate’ and ‘towel rack’ are not words you would think would go together. B&Q begs to differ as there were 12 different choices, each uglier than the other, and the one on special offer was marked ‘Ultimate towel rack’. I kid you not. I chose the least of the ugly brothers, bought two and beat a hasty retreat. I wonder if there are frequent buyer miles in these places?

Another Friday evening was spent deciding on paint colour. But that’s a story for another post. Wait for it.

I am not a student of the School of DIY – so I was merely buying materials for a jack of all trades to affix for me. I’m still lazy and mainly incapable of doing any home improvement things - a legacy of having affordable labour to do these things in India. I’m great at shopping for the materials but someone else will have to do the work. I wonder if there is a frequent buyer miles programme at B&Q?

I want my Friday evenings back please.


  1. Anonymous8:17 AM

    hahaha...i have to go look for bathroom stuff...need to "re-do" our bathroom...not by choice. and already bc and i cannot agree on anything...the only frequent flyer points i can think of...is here you charge the junk to your credit card and that gives you miles/points/cash back etc...40in2006

  2. The down-side of being a propertied person. I'll stick to my 2bhk, thank you very much.

  3. Why don't you put up some pics of your home? :D

  4. 40in2006: Have fun. V and I rarely agree on anything....

    AQC: I do sleep better, more secure in that we own something for all our troubles. And once my house is all done it'll look beautiful....

    John: Sorry, that won't happen any time soon. Not only are my picture taking skills poor, but I think words are a better description. Oh, and the blog is meant to be somewhat anon. So no pics!!

  5. Anonymous3:49 PM

    Not at the cost of your Friday evenings .. but doing up your house must be so much fun. The brighter side - you don't have to live with the cheapest furniture (which does not even match properly) from Argos that the landlord put in to meet the requirement of a funrished flat :( !!

  6. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Whoever said that doing up ones house is fun, never bought a house.....trust me, sweetie, its not. Yes, it was fun to spend weekends on end at furniture stores doing major damage to your card ....but once that furniture starts getting delivered then hell begins. sofas that dont fit into your lift and cant/wont be carried up the stairs, mirrors delivered without the mirrors, flatpacked office table that is missing half its screws, sideboards that are placed upside down (dont know whether i should blame the delivery guys or the husband who did not notice until i came home!)...I could go on for ever.

  7. There are some advantages in handing the responsibility over to an interior designer (not the hideously expensive ones though. We gave the guy some inputs and he did a rather nice job for us.

  8. Pea: Been there, done that - lived with mismatched hideous rental furniture. It's all fun but exhasuting at the same time. I want it to be over.

    Anon: It is fun even though I usually rant about it. Some of the bits are irritating - like B&Q and flatpacked nonsense - but the basics of choosing a style/ look for the place and then browsing through magazines and shops till you find just that perfect piece are fine. It is all emotionally and menatlly and physically draining though and I could sleep for weeks on end.....

    IAkka: I agree completely. If only I could tell you what even basics like curtains cost?! There is no way an interior designer would have fit the bill once the flat was bought - the flat itself is now a huge asset/ debt and just us doing it up ourselves is costing the earth. I wish I lived in India....

  9. Anonymous11:56 PM

    I've tagged you.

  10. Welcome to house ownership. He he. Its not all bad-your house will always be an ongoing 'project', the day the 'project' is done, you will probably be moving somewhere else-but at least its a project worth undertaking!