The DIY Aspie, approach with caution




A simple job, you know? Take out one cupboard, replace with one dishwasher. How hard can it be? Especially with two strapping teenage sons to help (sigh).

Firstly, IT Teen has an opinion on everything. Rather like the perennial meddler in office management, he'll be completely absent until you start to do something useful. Then, fleet as a fox, he's there, watching what you're doing and offering advice on how you could do it a whole lot better.

Similarly, Custard the cat who thinks he's a dog likes to supervise any kind of DIY. You can do anything else without him, bake, dance, perform acrobatic striptease, but once he hears the sound of a hammer or power tool, he's there.

This was how, on Tuesday night, I came to be supporting a half-broken worksurface and concertina-ing cupboard, with the dishwasher teetering on two corners, while Custard zipped past, trying to get under the whole thing and make sure we were doing it right.

It's a bit like a can of worms, DIY. You set off doing one thing, it breaks/explodes/changes mass and you're suddenly doing a different job altogether. I had emptied the unnecessary cupboard myself, without supervision or advice and had actually wanted to do the rest on my own too. Except I can't move the dishwasher by myself as I'd need at least three hands to make sure the worksurface didn't break (and I think you can guess how that turned out).

The worksurface unscrewed from the cupboard - check. Custard relegated to the living room, again - check. Tess banished from trying to get in the cupbaord with me - check. IT made to put down the flippin' phone and hold up the worksurface while I move the cupboard - check.

Except, the cupboard wouldn't move.

'I know!' IT exclaims, suddenly full of enthusiasm, 'We'll do it the Jeremy Clarkson way!' Before I could decide if he meant hammer it to death, set fire to it or explode it into space, he launched himself at the cupboard and booted it from under the worksurface. Yes, this is one of the Jeremy Clarkson ways.

At this point, with a sad creak, the cupboard started to fold like a soggy box and the worksurface leeeeeeaned. IT just caught it in time before it snapped. Then it snapped anyway, leaving him with hands full of compressed chunks of wood and the sink flailing about in a light breeze.

'We'll have to rip the whole lot out!' he said, frothing at the mouth and with a wild eye. If there's anything he adores more than the iphone, it's ripping stuff out.

'No, we won't,' I said, firmly. 'We'll push the dishwasher under the worksurface and hold it in place until we get a new one.'

'We can't do that!' he gesticulated wildly, still holding the chunks of dead surface. 'It'll all fall apart!'

'It will if we don't support it!' I started to push at the dishwasher.

As it was too late to go anywhere for any supplies, worksurface included, for once IT had to give in. We took a hold of the dishwasher and PUSHED.

It all went well until one corner of it found an inexplicable obstacle in the floor. You know the type. The kind of obstacle that is absolutely invisible and doesn't exist at all in the material world, only in DIY circumstances. There was nothing to be seen, but that corner would not budge.

We looked at each other, wary and defeated. We'd have to do what we always avoided in any DIY situation. We needed to ask RT Teen for help.

Now, let me get this straight, as I don't want you thinking badly of him. RT is a kind person and doesn't offer opinionated advice or obsess over his iphone when he could be helping. RT will assist you, to the best of his ability. It's just, well, you know, things tend to happen when he helps. Never on-purpose things, always by-accidents.

I yelled for him to come, as at this point we were still holding the recalcitrant dishwasher at an angle from the floor, with the leery worksurface rocking about on top of it. Every moment spent waiting meant more compressed chunks snapping off and dropping to the floor.

Eventually, we penetrated the haze that lives, like a small solar system, around RT's head and he appeared at the door, complaining that he was in the middle of talking to Toby (his American friend) on Skype. After some rather harsh words, he came forward to help.

This was the point where Custard made his reappearance, full of triumph, running like Caesar across the battlefields, knowing no enemy could withstand him. Right under the edge of the dishwasher, then a quick, sideways turn and onto the remaining worksurface.

Never one to be put off by shouting, Custard looked around madly fort he source of the voices, a la Pigs in Space from the Muppet Show.


Pretending not to know he was in the wrong place, he skittered across the surface and tried to jump on the dishwasher. IT let go of the dishwasher as RT grabbed it and Custard was banished again (RT had let him out when he came - a by-accident, you see).

The idea was that IT would hold up the worksurface, I would tame the cupboard side which had tried to collapse and RT would push the dishwasher in, hopefully avoiding the invisible obstacle once everything else was out of the way.

After shoving and using muscles he didn't have, RT proclaimed the dishwasher to be stuck and blamed IT for not holding the worksurface high enough. Not having a hand free to smack him, I growled for him to swap with IT and we tried again.

For the love of Mike, the same again! A great 'normous teenager, hefting an empty dishwasher and getting nowhere, while I broke my back holding the leaning cupboard and half the worksurface out of the way.

More growling and we swapped again, by this time not looking unlike a scene from the Muppet Show ourselves. I took the dishwasher, moved it on one side then the other, came up against the invisible obstacle again (kitchen goblins) and simply walked the machine over whatever it was. Like magic, it slid into place.

Both teens expressed astonishment that their shorter-than-average mother could have done this, then RT escaped back to Skype and IT took out his iphone to check the prices of worksurfaces. He has decided we should get a really nice one, marble or similar and that £999 per metre is fine for the quality. When he becomes the next Jeremy Clarkson, he can buy one for himself.

With Custard dancing back through to the kitchen yet again, I was pleased we had got over the worst of it. Zoning out IT and his online window-shopping, Custard and I got down to plumbing in the dishwasher, making sure we didn't have a flood from the outflow, tidying up the sorry ends of the worksurface and then leaving IT to clean up the floor.

Somewhere along the line, we saved most of the worksurface and the dishwasher was so tightly wedged that the cupboard stopped collapsing. I did find out later tha I'd also moved the washing machine, which had shuffled up against the wall like a maiden aunt away from a mouse, but it was a small problem.

I was just glad that we didn't have a pile of rubble where our cupboards are meant to be. I'm also glad that IT seems to have forgotten we need new marble worksurfaces.

It will be some time before I tackle the next stage of this job and I think I should have someone in to do it. With Custard to help them, they should be okay and I may hold off my tradesman phobia long enough to have a new kitchen put in.

You never know, stranger things have definitely happened.

PS I found a dead goblin under the cooker a day later. It had crawled there sometime after we squashed it with the dishwasher. I let Custard have it.

Amanda

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