DIARY | 08/04/2020

Getting practical. Folding carrier bags, washing the office window, taking pics of the moon.

I’m not a practical person.

I never thought DIY referred to myself. It’s just never occurred to me that anyone would want to do those things let alone me. And B&Q is taboo where I come from – come to think about it the condition could be genetic. Don’t ever remember dad putting up a shelf or nipping down to the shed to turn a table leg on his lathe or firing up the Black and Decker and doing whatever it is one does with those things. Personally I’ve never felt an overwhelming desire to bore a hole or sand a plank. Like father, like son.

In fact the last practical thing I ever did was at middle school when the whole class was required to cover their exercise books in Fablon. Do they still make Fablon, and if so why? Previously we pre-pubescents were forced to wrap our exercise books in a folded and sellotaped sheet of random wallpaper – never a problem in my house as mum always had an endless supply of leftover wallpaper, so if one covering ripped or got things spilled on it I could easily sort a new one. But Fablon was the new thing back then. Fablon wasn’t cheap either. Fablon was a faff. And the worst thing about Fablon was that it was permanent.

Needless to say I made a complete pigs ear of my exercise book. And that’s not a fanciful exaggeration. My book looked like an actual pigs ear.

Ever since that particular maker shaming instance I resigned myself to the fact that I was born for better things. A life of contemplation was surely my lot. I wasn’t the sort who got his hands dirty with menial labour.

Until today that is. And not just the one time. I have been practical a whole twice.

The first idea came to me in the middle of the night. I woke up around 3am – I imagine many of us aren’t sleeping well right now – with the pink moon shining mightily through the bedroom window. Naturally I reached for my phone – no point having an aesthetic epiphany if you can’t post it on several channels of social media – and half a dozen several shots. They looked nice. I rolled over, put a podcast on – oddly something about Jeffrey Epstein – and tried to sleep.

Pink moon

In the morning I inspected the pics. They were nice, but I noticed they were spoiled by traces of grime and grease on the outside of the window pane. The windows in the bedroom and the office are hinged at the top and open fairly wide but there’s not enough room in the gap to slip your arm down and so are impossible to clean from inside. And almost as impossible because of their position from the outside.

This hasn’t really bothered me before. But it bugged me this morning. I’m taking a lot of pictures from the office window recently – I don’t get out much, so the view is all I have – and I want the pictures to be the best I can make them. The camera on my phone is very fancy (I haven’t a clue what most of the settings mean, far too technical) and it’s a shame to spoil the pictures owing to a random fleck of pigeon poop.

I thought long and hard about this particular practical problem.

And came up with rather a clever solution. All I would need was an old sock, a pool cue, and an elastic band.

As luck would have it all three objects were lying about the house just waiting for some inventive genius to spot their potential. 

Window cleaning tool.

I’m not quite sure what my neighbours thought when they saw me jabbing a pool cue with a sock drenched in warm soapy water out of the office window at 8.15 this morning but I’m happy to say the result is modestly impressive. Not perfect, but barring a few spots and the odd streak it’s a professional job. I gave myself a well earned pat on the back. No more slightly smudged pics from me.

My second triumph of practicality wasn’t quite as innovative but I think it will have a more long term impact on my personal well-being.

Clancy mentioned in the car this morning – we were out quite legitimately, visiting the GP surgery – that she’d seen a video recently that showed how to neatly fold a plastic carrier bag for tidier storage. She has never been entirely convinced that my extensive collection of carrier bags accumulated from many visits to the local shops was necessary or sightly. She said she’d show me how later. And that carrier bags would be required to be stored as instructed in said video.

For the sake of peace and harmony in the household – after all, we are in this isolationship for the foreseeable future and compromises have to be made – I decided to surprise her with the carrier bags neatly folded and stored in a small plastic tub while she was out in the back yard trying to nail the garden seat back together – another regular cause of minor friction between us. I sincerely wish her luck in her hammering endeavors.

And so, carriers before…


And carriers after…


Have to agree they do look much better. Though for how long I’ll remember to fold them after each shopping journey is anyone’s guess. Still, I made an effort. And patted myself on the back once more.

Practically a perfect day so far.


  1. I am equally cack-handed when it comes to DIY (an attempt to change a tap-washer confirmed me once and for all to leave it to the professionals). I am half-heartedly (make that quarter-heartedly) attempting to use the curfew to spring-clean but the pile of books to be read is just too tempting. However, back on topic, I have learned a thing about cleaning windows which I am happy to share. At the tail-end of the 1980s I was living and working in Ripon and sharing a house in a terrace in the shadow of the cathedral. One day, our windows having been gradually turning from translucent to opaque, I decided out of consideration for more house-proud neighbours that I ought to clean them. Up to the hardware store for some ‘Windolene’, a bucket and a packet of cleaning cloths and I set to and after an hour or so was reasonably pleased with the result of the first window. At this point an old dear from a couple of doors down walked along and stopped to inspect. “You’ll have smears, love”, she judged. She then advised me that the way to avoid post-cleaning streaks was to wipe the windows down with newspaper. In fact, she told me, all I needed was newspaper. Dampen a sheet of newspaper to wash it and then use a dry sheet to wipe it dry. In those days newspapers were still printed with ink that left your fingers black so I was slightly sceptical but thought out of respect to the lady I would give it a try. It worked an absolute treat; the windows really did look sparkling and smudge free and the only ink that needed washing off was from my hands. She didn’t recommend any particular title of newspaper as being more effective than any other but I suspect the one I used on that first occasion was the Ripon Gazette. More recently it has usually been the Metro. How easy it would be for you to attach a wadge of newspaper to the end of your pool cue, I don’t know, but next time you are embarrassed by the state of your windows I would recommend giving it a try.

    1. Actually the newspaper trick works on specs too. Though I’m not sure I’d try it on my very expensive coated lenses these days. I’ll give it a go with the pool cue and see what happens. I suspect there’ll not be enough surface are of newspaper in contact with window pane to do much but worth a go. Nice story btw.

Comments are closed.