1) Botch it yourself.
I went round to see him on Saturday, in the flat which he and his wife moved into last year. There's a funny smell, he said, we think it might be the cat. I went outside and the side passage was about a foot deep in slimy water, had been for months, by the look, by the pong. The outlet pipe for their washing machine had broken.
He's awfully clever, our son, being a barrister, but I don't think he realised there was an outlet pipe. I don't think he was even aware his flat had an outside wall. I think he thought the Tufnell Park giant was out there somewhere, its mouth gaping open, ready to swallow everyone's waste and gunge.
I'll ring a plumber, he said. Don't be daft. On a bank holiday, that'll cost you an arm and three legs. I'll go to Goodwoods then, he said, get a new pipe. That's his local hardware store. Daft again. They'll be queuing all the way down to Kentish Town, and speaking in a language you won't understand. You could be there till next Easter.
I found the bit of broken pipe, stuck it with Sellotape, plus Elastoplast, then unwound a wire coat hanger and twisted it over the pipe to keep it in place. There, that should last. Could last six years, six months, six minutes; we'll see. Next.
2) Buy the simplest.
His garden is overgrown, so he's saving to buy a really good lawnmower. Daft again. My lawn-mower cost pounds 29 15 years ago and, yes, it looks it: a basic, cheapo Flymo - no box, no nothing. In the season, I cut our grass once a week, which takes seven minutes. I leave the grass lying, which saves the effort of getting rid off it. Or eating it. The lawn-mower doesn't give a very smart finish, but it's never gone wrong. I did try to oil it once, but couldn't find where to put in the oil.
We have neighbours with lawn-mowers costing thousands that sound like Concorde taking off. They give a dead posh finish, but are very complicated and need to be professionally serviced with parts that cost a fortune. Who needs them?
3) If something's loose, something sounds funny, something smells strange, do something, anything, just do something.
This may not be how other Botch Jobbers operate. At my son's age, I did tend to ignore things, hope they'd go away or right themselves, but after 35 years trying to keep our house from falling down, I know from experience that dodgy signs should be investigated.
My sister was staying in our house once while we were away and after three months she said the fridge door had come off, just like that. Yes, she had noticed it sticking, had seen these enormous icicles, but didn't want to bother us or touch anything. Defrosting it's called, a concept totally new to her. Do it - before it does you.
4) Weeds make brilliant ground cover.
It proves you have good soil, I always say, if the weeds are going well. The trick is to restrict them to the background, to trim up to them, then leave them to their own devices. We call our main weedy area the Jungle for the Tortoise. Sort of makes us sound caring and environmentally aware.
5) Only have pets that can be totally ignored.
They have a cat, and are thinking of a dog. Potty. Both are a hellish responsibility, need water, food, veterinary fees. It's now 20 years since we last fed or watered our tortoise, bless her. We don't even put her to sleep for the winter. Yet this weekend, she appeared again, alive and well and awfully cheap.
6) Buy the cheapest plants.
You don't know what's going to grow well - not even God knows that. It's all a gamble. So shove them in, hope for the best. My wife, who does bugger all else in the garden, stands there saying, "Why must we have those lurid, working-class flowers - can't we have all white?" My favourite wine vintage is pounds 3.99, an excellent year, so my favourite flowers are pounds 1.95 the box, such a pretty price.
7) It'll see me out.
This is a very useful phrase. I say it all the time, as all over-fifties do, when they don't want to spend money on boring repairs or pointless improvements - the sort which will mean mess and upheaval. It's also a handy rule for the thirtysomethings. The chances are they'll move, so most things they do will be ripped apart, hated, or never noticed.
That wire coat hanger, I said to my son, will make a talking point for the next owners. Look at this, they'll say, there must have a right Botch Jobber living here...Reuse content