Normally I make a practice of leaving any significant home improvements to the experts. I know this is an expensive course of action - particularly when the decorator, plumber, roofer or joiner gives the inevitable, heart- stopping call, "Have you got a minute, Mr Weasel?", and proceeds to point out various unforeseen features of entropic decay which will increase his original estimate by approximately 10-fold - but it has the signal advantage of keeping Mrs W and self out of the divorce court.
The single exception to this strict non-DIY policy concerns household electrics, which I perceive as being more of an intellectual conundrum, an exercise in three-dimensional logic, rather than a hard-learned craft.
Admittedly, my forays in this field have not been uniformly successful. Once, I managed to mangle things up so much that it was impossible to turn the bedroom lights off. (You wouldn't believe the fuss Mrs W kicked up after only a few days of constant illumination). But, in general, I regard myself as a good man to go into the fuse-box with.
Unfortunately, I came spectacularly unstuck when I had to connect a new fridge, sometime last year. Not the most demanding of jobs, you might think, particularly since the device arrived with plug already attached. But, one thing led to another, and after five or six hours of continuous tinkering, I found a couple of mysterious wires in the fuse box which appeared to have no real function. In order to tidy things up a bit, I rolled these two strands together and forgot about them. The result, when I turned the power on again, was jarring to several senses at once: massive blue flash, tremendous bang and a sulphurous pong. Staring at the mangled bits of ceramic fuse plug, the man in the local electrical parts shop muttered, "Lumme, never seen anything like that before."
After this, I decided to have a rest from dabbling with wiring. But when a telephone extension recently started to emit a tidal roaring, and that bunch of corporate slit-purses, British Telecom, said there was a minimum call-out charge of pounds 45, I felt obliged to come out of retirement. Like an old gunslinger strapping on his .45 for a final shoot-out, I reached for my trusty screwdriver. Despite the jeers of certain parties, my tangle with telephony was a resounding success. The extension now works perfectly - still mostly nonsense coming out of it, of course, but there's little that can be done about it.
Like pensioned-off politicians, ageing pop stars find it hard to resist unloading their golden memories in book form. This even applies to those prominent practitioners of punk, the Sex Pistols, who might have been expected to eschew the bourgeois genre of autobiography. John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon recently published his memoir, No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, while the 1987 reminiscences of his colleague Glen Matlock, I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, have just been re-issued.
Experts in this arcane field have noted myriad discrepancies between the two accounts, rather like the varying recollections of rival generals. But, doubtless, even Mr Rotten would agree with Glen Matlock's view that: "Till the Pistols came along, Virgin Records was a few shops and a label full of talentless hippies selling a decreasing number of records on the strength of their wishy-washy 'alternative' ideals." The group, he adds, "laid the foundation for the massive expansion of [this] Moonie-ish empire during the Eighties."
Mr Matlock notes that the question of who was the main beneficiary of the group's infamous success has "a simple two-word answer: Richard Branson". Still true. The new publisher which undertook the re-issue of his Proustian musings - aimed at cashing in on the Pistol's ignoble resurrection - is Virgin Books.
Did you hear about the London pub which changed its name from the Prince of Wales to the Princess of Wales? Fed up with the Chas & Di soap opera, it has once more undergone a change of nomenclature to "The Wild Swans at Coole", the title of a poem by WB Yeats. Still not right, I'm afraid. Willie Yeats only visited a pub once in his entire life. Lured into a Dublin boozer by a bibulous crony, he took one glance at the plebian hedonists at the bar and dashed for the door without taking a sip.
If it doesn't sound too much of a contradiction, have you noticed the recent expansion in "limited editions"? As far as I know, the term originated in the art world and applied to lithographic prints by the likes of Hockney and Hodgkin. Marketers and advertisers, who often have an art-school background (considering how unfamiliar most consumers are with the milieu, an astonishing number of adverts are set in commercial art galleries), recognised its wider potential. The concept was initially applied in the record business - for picture discs, holographic covers and similar tacky ephemera - and the motor industry, which found that a fancy paint job and a couple of shoddy accessories transformed the most humdrum assembly line tin can into a sought-after rarity.
Now, limited editions - and variants on the theme - are everywhere. In the last year or two, manufacturers as diverse as Camel cigarettes and Scott's porridge oats have issued limited edition packs. In a similar vein, Kellogg's enhanced its Coco Pops and Frosties with "Euro 96 Special Edition" packs, while DL Jardine, an American producer of barbecue sauce and salsa dips, has taken the idea to its ultimate conclusion by labelling every one of its product lines as a "Special Edition". Waitrose has put an unlikely spin on the concept with the "Guest Yoghurt", which sounds as if it should be appearing on the Des O'Connor Show.
Anyway, back to limited editions, Virgin Cola (It's That Man Again) is currently flogging its distasteful effervescence via bottles purporting to bear a close resemblance to the shape of Pamela Anderson (they don't - I've checked), which are claimed to be "a limited edition, rare as a Dodo's doo-doo". Nestle's orange-flavoured Kit-Kat is similarly flagged "Limited Edition", though the company seems to be using the term a trifle laxly for there appears to be no shortage of this confection in the shops.
The same criticism might be applied to Walker's "Limited Edition Pack" of "Salt and Lineker" crisps, since our local Tesco is overflowing with these singular savouries. Incidentally, I wonder if Walker's is in danger of falling foul of the Trades Description Act. The list of ingredients shows no trace of "Lineker" - which I take to be a peculiarly bland and innocuous seasoning - in either powdered or freeze-dried form.
But no acned adolescent, thrilled at the idea of chomping junk food with a spurious link to a sporting hero, is half as sad as the grey-beards I saw the other day. They were tootling round south London, without a trace of embarrassment, in a Volkswagen "Rolling Stone" limited edition. No wonder Mick Jagger announced at a press conference that he preferred MercedesReuse content