Defend yourself against the DIY crusaders

The advantages to being married to someone who can build a treehouse are outweighed by sheer fear
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The Independent Online

Like every other long-suffering wife on the planet, I have the deepest sympathy for Mrs Christopher Pendery, whose husband sawed through the roof supports of their house in Leicester while attempting to convert the attic into a spare bedroom. On Tuesday a magistrate sentenced the 27-year-old DIY man from hell to 160 hours' community service, which seems a small price to pay for damn near annihilating his entire family under several tons of tiles, RSJs and whatever else you need to keep a roof over your head.

Like every other long-suffering wife on the planet, I have the deepest sympathy for Mrs Christopher Pendery, whose husband sawed through the roof supports of their house in Leicester while attempting to convert the attic into a spare bedroom. On Tuesday a magistrate sentenced the 27-year-old DIY man from hell to 160 hours' community service, which seems a small price to pay for damn near annihilating his entire family under several tons of tiles, RSJs and whatever else you need to keep a roof over your head.

What I don't quite understand is Mrs Pendery's complicity in the arrangement, unless, of course, it was intended to be a surprise. "Hello love, you'll never guess what I did this morning when you went to Sainsbury's..." No, that's impossible. Not even Pavel - our indefatigable Polish handyman beside whose awesome achievements five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude smacks of over-catering - could have knocked up a loft conversion in half a day. She must have known about the plan and gone along with it.

Now here's the point at which Mrs Pendery and I differ as long-suffering wives. Even if Mr P had been as clued up about structural engineering as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, I wouldn't have let him do it because I know from bitter experience that marriage and DIY don't mix.

When the subject of the extra bedroom came up I'd have said: "That's a wonderful idea, Christopher, my love, and how clever of you to think of it, but honestly darling if it means both of us working overtime and weekends for the next 10 years to pay for a proper builder then I think that's what we should do."

My husband is not a DIY man, he's a DDIY man which stands of Don't Do It Yourself and for this I am grateful. While there are undoubted advantages in being married to someone who can build a treehouse, assemble a flat-pack and turn the attic into a spare bedroom, in the long run they are outweighed by the fear in which the partners of DIY fanatics permanently live.

What sort of fear? Well, for instance the fear that they may return home one evening after work and find that their perfectly acceptable living room has been taken apart and is in the process of being reassembled as an ersatz audience chamber from the Doges' Palace complete with arches, pillars and secret doors concealed in bookcases. I do not jest. My first husband was a DIY crusader locked in a constant battle against the builder who, he claimed, knew absolutely nothing about anything.

Maybe so, but at least they're in and out in a reasonable time and you have the house back to yourself. Our living room still has arches, pillars and secret doors, not perhaps in their first flush, but still operative - the real problem was that it took three years to complete during which time the children and I were holed up in the kitchen like rats, breathing in plaster dust and trying to make ourselves heard above the hammering.

The scary thing is that women apparently are getting more obsessed and better at DIY than men. A recent shopping survey revealed that nearly 80 per cent of B&Q customers are women, which puts the competition run by a woman's magazine not long ago to find the Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year into a slightly different perspective. Readers were invited to submit their nominations and within hours the magazine was inundated with e-mails and faxes from women offering truly spectacular examples of sexist behaviour.

The one I particularly remember, though I'm not sure that it won, was from a Mrs Carmichael from Lancashire, mother of four who nominated her husband for a number of incidents, the following in particular. One afternoon, she recalled, as she was mixing concrete in the garden to replace the crazy paving on the patio, her husband had yelled to her from the living room where he was watching television. Could she get her arse indoors immediately, he shouted, and change the TV channel so that he could watch the football. Why couldn't he change it himself, she yelled back. Because, replied the beastly couch potato, he'd just ordered a takeaway vindaloo and his hands were sticky.

Naturally my heart went out to Mrs Carmichael when I first read this, but now that I know about women muscling in on the traditionally male preserve of DIY I'm not so sure. I'm perfectly happy for women to beat men hands down intellectually as brain surgeons, QCs, rocket scientists and boxing promoters, but for heaven's sake let them mix the concrete.

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