Good Looks vs Good at DIY

Film-star looks or a dab hand at DIY? There’s no contest, says Sam Taylor
What makes a man sexy? Vast cash reserves? Smouldering good looks? The knack of nonchalantly strumming a guitar while smoking a Gauloises? Or the ability to perform DIY?

Should any of our male readers be in any doubt that it is the latter, then successfully put up a curtain pole and prepare for adulation reserved only for those who have brought about world peace.

Hastings-Oct03-00-590Tea party saved by Steve (right)

My father’s generation thought nothing of ‘turning their hand’ to jobs around the house. He kept a list (a list!) of tasks to get through over the weekend. These could range from tinkering with the engine of the car, usually on a Sunday morning alongside all the other fathers in the street with their bonnets up – the 1960s equivalent of male bonding – to wallpapering an entire room.

Then, spending quality time with your father meant standing around handing him various tools and keeping quiet while he ‘concentrated’. This weekend, faced with a broken loo, how I wished I’d paid attention, absorbed, by osmosis, some of those skills. The loo (its cistern to be precise), had been out of action for nine weeks and so has Paul the plumber. His van had blown up. He needed to get a ‘specialist’ part. He had the part, but it was trapped inside the blown-up van. Which was in London. In short, he wasn’t going to fix it in time for my tea party with VG Lee, Marvellous Mary and Oliver Waldren – who had once lived in Rock House for over 50 years and who was expecting inside plumbing.


History, they say, is full of unlikely heroes and among them is Steve Barfield. Ex-literary editor of The Lady. A man who cannot drive a car. A man who wrote his post-doctoral thesis on Beckett and Psychoanalysis (interesting but hardly helpful). Who, it is generally agreed, is cuddly, fond of pastry and averse to shops that contain ‘fashion’. But he is also a man whose father was once chairman of the Federation of Master Builders and who had, unlike me, paid attention during those years as an unpaid skivvy. And so he fixed the loo. So high did this push Steve up the attractive-ometer that he could have knocked George Clooney off the front pages if the paparazzi hadn’t been pointing their lenses in the wrong direction. And yes, he is currently available. 

Next week: Felling things