I giggle as I mark the piece of wood on the bench in front of me. My pencil is satisfyingly sharp and I dig it into the pale slab.
I am amused because Bob’s voice in my head coincides with the voice of the instructor. His is exasperated. ‘For fuck’s sake, Dooley, do it properly.’
Hers more measured. ‘Do you think you might use a ruler and a T square? Like I showed you.’
I turn my giggle into an unconvincing cough. I look up and smile at her. ‘I’m a born bodger,’ I say. She laughs. ‘It might be ok,’ she says.
She is an excellent tutor. Ever patient - and a delightful mix of perfectionism and tolerance. Measure, mark, measure again, check – and finally cut/screw. After that, the main thing is that your project stays in place.
It is the second day of my DIY weekend course, which I am enjoying, despite a slight hangover. It is a thoughtful present from my children, who know my aversion to constantly bleating for help.
An added bonus is the cafe in the building, where yesterday, I stuffed my face with some bloody delicious jerk chicken and rice and peas. (The fact that I’d forgotten that in this scenario peas are actually beans did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of the dish).
I am ready to drill and I take time to select all the right settings on my power tool. As I approach the wall, the instructor comes over. ‘Dust mask?’ she says. Reluctantly I drag it onto my face, making a mental note to nip to the loo and check my lipstick.
I take the recommended stance, feet apart, body slightly braced. I tense my core and squeeze my pelvic floor muscles hard. (Why not?).
I eye the wall as if it were an adversary. Its plasterboard exterior regards me coolly. But I know that beneath its bland gaze lurks concrete, viciously unyielding. I have chosen the correct drillbit for the purpose. All will be well, I tell myself.
I place the tip of the power tool against my mark. I hold my breath and squeeze the trigger, flinching as it growls awake. I breathe out slowly, increasing the pressure slightly, feeling the eventual give of the wall.
Fifteen minutes later, I have drilled six holes into my marks. I have not re-measured. I have not checked. The Bob voice has become crosser and more exasperated – and just before I drill the last hole, Bob-in- my-head downs his own tools and leaves the workshop, scowling.
I think fleetingly that he’s handsome even when he’s cross. ‘I can’t watch this anymore,’ he says over his shoulder. ‘I’m going for a beer.’ I make a face at him, which nobody can see, because of my dust mask.
I pick up my shelf, with its unmeasured unchecked brackets. Heart pounding, I hold it against the wall, praying to some kind of Bobgod that the holes in the brackets will match up to the holes I have drilled in the wall. It looks ok, I think.
I breathe. I alter the settings on the power tool and insert the correct screwdriver bit. I pick up the screws one by one. It’s getting very hot in here, I think. I say as much to the instructor and she obligingly opens a door to the outside. ‘Don’t get flustered. You’re doing fine,’ she says kindly.
But it’s stressful. The powertool kicks and spits, and getting all six screws in place seems a near impossible task.
Amazingly, it works. The shelf is up and apparently solid. The instructor lays a spirit level across it and we see the bubble balance delicately in the centre. ‘Well done,’ she says. I glow – and make an imaginary V sign to Bob-in-my-head. I marvel at the sense of empowerment brought about by wielding a power tool.
While I am in the loo, reapplying my lipstick, I allow myself a few Bob moments, triggered, inevitably, by all the sights and sounds and smells of a busy joinery workshop.
I quite fancy a bit of a cry, but I realise that this would not, at the moment, be an appropriate or helpful activity. And so instead, I sit with the other participants and we have lunch and we chat and they ask me about my boat.
My course was at The Makershed, St Paul’s Learning Centre in Bristol.