No amount of Latin verbs can substitute for a practical education in the basics of boiler repair

I blame Reginald Prentice. At some time, somewhere, somehow during my education shouldn’t I have learned an alternative to “knowing a man who can”?

Share

Can there be a more depressing eight words in the English language than “sorry mate, I’ve got to condemn your boiler”? Ok, perhaps it’s not quite up there with the “three Ds”: death, divorce and debt – although the third of these is an inevitable consequence of hearing them. So, just imagine that you’ve heard these words from the emergency callout boiler man and then, just imagine that, with no hot water, you’ve gone around to your Ma’s for a shower and that said shower refuses to turn on and then stubbornly declines to turn off again once you eventually force it on, no matter how much WD40 you spray about. Then just say you have to call out and pay for an emergency plumber at her house, and then dash back to your own home to be there, and pay for, the emergency boiler man. Well, welcome to my weekend. WHO CAN I BLAME?

Let’s start with Margaret Thatcher and Reginald Prentice, education secretaries immediately before I started senior school. Then Fred Mulley, Shirley Williams, Mark Carlisle and Sir Keith Joseph, who successively held the job while I was learning Latin verbs, the value of Pi and whether King Lear was a man “more sinned against than sinning”.

Sure, the last of these may have had a tiny, contributory factor towards a 25-year career in journalism and my ability to get paid to write this column in order to pass the money on to emergency repair men simultaneously all over London but, at some time, somewhere, somehow, shouldn’t I have learned an alternative to “knowing a man who can”? Okay, perhaps not how to install an entire boiler, but maybe just enough to know what a washer does, or drill holes in a wall so that I could put up the mirror in the girls’ bedroom rather than staring at it forlornly in its box, knowing full well that I will eventually “call someone”. Be brave, you say. Ha! Where does that get you? Cutting through the outdoor lighting’s electric cable in the mistaken belief it was a bamboo root, or killing half the newly-brown lawn in a misguided attempt to fill in a few bare patches, that’s where. End result? Even more cash to the men (and women) who can.

That’s not to mention yet another blow to what little masculine pride I have left after an entire adult life of not being able to do anything remotely practical. All this, because I did Latin, not woodwork or metalwork, three decades ago? Well, how did I know back then you would need an engineering degree to put together an Ikea flatpack? Caput inter nubila!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick