Wednesday 19 September 2012

Real Men

Real men don't push pens across paper, or scribble with mice on screens. (Yes I've had the tools out today.)

“How hard can it be?” was the popular cry from DIY have-a-go heroes of yesteryear when, armed only with a few rusty old tools, most men could make a passable job of putting up a shelf, relieving a sticky front door or adding a [admittedly potentially lethal] socket in the kitchen . All to be quietly put right when their better halves discreetly called in a professional once hubby was out at work. But at least they had a go and believed they could do it. 

Nowadays more often than not, said hubby isn’t out at work anymore so there can be no excuse (although he’s unlikely to be an actual hubby). Yet despite having available an arsenal of cheap and effective power tools it is less and less likely that those little household jobs will be carried out, er… in house. 

According to ‘research’ we are less inclined these days to pick up the screwdriver and even resort to getting a man in to tackle flat-pack furniture. Oh the shame. Gone, it seems, are the days when men could change a wheel, top up the oil and fit a fan belt. We mourn for the shed full of sharp tools handed down from father to son – for a start you’d have to work out who the father was in many cases. 

Boy Scouts used to routinely carry sheath knives and could be expected to do their best to whittle a woggle at the drop of a beret, but the fear of youth knife crime has put paid to that. In fact the fear of violence has even spread to a bid to ban glass from some pubs. What is bloody wrong with us? 

Could it be that the breakdown of a normal, family-based society and absolute paranoia about safety and fairness and self-esteem at all costs is at the root of all this? With predominantly female teachers in their early years (for fear of the paedophile tag that attaches to males involved with young children) it seems boys are destined to grow into their majority with neither a feel for nor a love of proper, manly tools. 

Coupled with our enormous brains, tools set us far apart from other animals; it’s what makes us supreme. But some would have us throw much of that away. A lack of hands-on manual education leaves many young men inept and unable to comprehend how things work. And knowing how things work is the ultimate province of boys and men – ask James May. 

Boys – academically inclined or otherwise – should learn the feel of a plane on wood, the beauty of turning a tree into a chair. They should be getting down and dirty and learning how machines work – and skinning their knuckles in the process. They should be looking forward to the smell of the metalwork shop and earning a few scars instead of ‘designing’ shit on a computer; yet another classroom simulation when the real thing is what they crave. 

Yes, yes, equality, blah, blah – the chicks can have a go too - but I’m guessing there will still be few female mechanics, plumbers, builders and so on. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for anybody being able to do anything, but don’t take the piss, eh, girls?) 

But, thankfully, help is at hand. If the Greens get their way nobody will be able to afford proper tradesmen any more – they’ll be too busy trying to pay their super-taxed fuel bills – so, sooner or later the lads will have to have a go at fettling on their own. 

If we can get manual skills back into education we’ll have a route for the non-academic, who have been sold false qualifications for years. We’ll also be able to make inroads into educating our own skilled workers, instead of importing them from Eastern Europe. And let’s call a spade a spade. It’s plumbers and carpenters and roofers and decorators we need on the ground, not inflated titles like ‘engineer’ or ‘designer’ or ‘project manager’. 

Let’s make manual work, work. Let's put the Y back into DIY.


  1. Ah, yes, fettling on their own. Good phrase... trouble is there is a complete absence of knowing how to fettle or even why we fettle. Fettling is another world, apparently...

    I know a young person who is incredibly bright intellectually and easily has all the right arguments, etc, but I have had to show him how to change a plug or how to turn the teat on a baby's bottle upside down to keep it clean when travelling. Oh, he has a father but no one appears to have shown him what to do, so for those without a father I expect its way harder to fettle.

    The problem of the non-fettling future was given a huge boost when technical colleges became new 'universities' and evening classes clashed with EastEnders, so were abandoned. But in time survival may be a bigger deal than another TV show and people will learn again to damn well fettle.