A lament for Barry Bucknell : LEADING ARTICLE

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The Independent Online
During the Eighties, the massive DIY store became synonymous with the fashionable virtues of thrift, hard work and aspiration. Every second ad on the television featured chaps in white coats dancing round a warehouse, or corduroy-clad hearties sla pping sealant on window frames. B&Q and Do It All left more of a mark on the material fabric of British life than Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. From pebble-dash to coloured stone cladding, the exterior signs of DIY culture are everywhere.

But is the long DIY boom finally coming to an end? This is the interpretation that some are placing on yesterday's announcement that Sainsbury's is to purchase the Texas Homecare chain. The industry, worth £6bn a year, is suffering from low growth and a glut of supply. This is, of course, bad news for those who work in it, but what should the rest of us feel?

For many people, DIY was always a gigantic fraud - a triumph of hope over experience. For them the tide has receded, leaving chests full of redundant gadgets, tubes of hardening liquids and things whose labels have fallen off. From work-room to cupboard,cupboard to shed and shed to dump, expensive worktables and power tools have travelled their lonely and rusty journey.

Those with more stickability have not always fared much better. After repossession or proximity to a new motorway, the factor most likely to reduce the asking price of a property is that it was once owned by a DIY dabbler. Dabblers will often use their houses to store chemicals so hazardous that they are banned from factories under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Other signs of a dabbler's premises are piebald doors caused by bad stripping, half-sanded floorboards and bath sealant seemingly applied by Mister Whippy. Although many dabblers eventually repent, it is often too late.

Women who knew that they were being caught in one of those "lose-lose" male bargains (you wash, iron and look after the kids - I'll put up some flimsy shelves and listen to the Test match) won't miss DIY, either. Family life could benefit.

But the people who must be gladdest to see the decline of the heirs to Barry Bucknell are the cowboy builders. The DIY explosion was partly a rebellion against being at the mercy of the "fifty-quid- a-call-out" brigade. It was about empowerment. Those who were actually competent at it struck a blow for freedom. But, like all freedoms, DIY requires effort - and the trouble is that so many of the rest of us cannot even get past the instructions.

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