I’m quite notorious within my family and friends for being particularly bad at manual tasks, or most practical things in general.
And they’re right.
I hate doing DIY stuff, can hardly use a screwdriver, know most tools by name only and couldn’t pick a wrench to save my life. My first instinct is always to call someone and let them sort it out, I hate IKEA-like flat-packs and the rest. But I thought I could change a tyre, if I really needed to.
In comes last Friday. Let me set the scene for you: London is under a deluge of semi-biblical proportions, with gale-force winds, the M25 is aquaplanning heaven and it’s about seven in the evening. My son (not yet eight) has just finished training at Tottenham’s spanking new facility in Enfield, and it’s time to go home. He’s tired, and I am too – the place is a bloody nightmare to get to, and it’s taken us almost two hours with traffic. But at least we’re done, an in about fifty minutes we should be home.
Then, ten minutes in, a loud noise and the back of the car starts rattling, almost fishtailing. Horrible feeling. I flashback to a neighbour saying one of my rear tyres was looking dubious. Well, it suddenly looked a lot worse than that. I manage to pull onto the hard shoulder and stop near the metal barrier.
After explaining to my son we have a flat tyre and need to change it, I hand him the iPad to keep him entertained while I consider the following steps. A truck rattles by doing about 70, inches away, and the car shudders in the turbulence. Scary.
So I put it into reverse, try to get it as close as possible to the guard-rail. Too close, I can’t get out (my car is an import, left-hand drive). Nice. Eventually I manage to climb sideways, and it’s like you’re stepping onto a boat in the middle of a storm in the North Sea. It’s raining hard, and the trucks make it a lot worse by spraying so much water that an old friend of mine might actually attempt to surf it. Undaunted, I pop the bonnet and bravely consider changing the tyre. I’ve done it before (once, 20 years ago, on a balmy summer day in the middle of my yard). The spare mini-wheel is hard enough to get out of its cover, and the bolts almost stuck – plus I have no idea where the jack is, if I even have one. But after another few minutes I locate it, and manage to pull it out. Then I go to see where I can stick it – and realise the entire right side of my car is sinking in mud.
It’s one of those nice conundrums – I can’t lift it when it’s off the shoulder, but moving it back fully on tarmac means getting closer to the onrushing trucks, which are already skimming too near for comfort. I guess I could do it if my son leaves the car and goes standing in the middle of a field nearby, but it’s cold and wet and windy and he’s in his football kit. So I go back towards the bonnet, jack in my hands, thinking.
While I consider a monster 8-wheeler shoots by, launching a tsunami of water into my face and eyes, then the wind (and turbulence I guess) takes hold of the bonnet and slams it onto the top of my head as I lean lower.
Which is when I go back into the car and call the AA.
The net result of me trying to take matters into my own hands is just a wasted 15 minutes, and now I’m soaked and freezing. Plus my head hurts. But at least I finally have undisputable proof that I shouldn’t try any DIY activity at all, ever again. There are lots of people who are talented and can easily pull off stuff that I find unimaginable. And I have huge respect for them.
But I ain’t one.