Irrelevant Complexity 1) – Odd Jobs


‘Relevant complexity’ is my theory of everything: satisfaction and joy arise from the pursuit of complex, worthwhile and comparatively challenging pursuits.

Art history, particle physics, the raising of children, the preparation and enjoyment of good food etc etc – all relevantly complex.

You need to learn, improve, occasionally triumph – and sometimes feel you actually know almost nothing – to achieve the satisfaction of mastering relevant complexity with a good degree of skill.

Then there are hobbies. Same effect Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’ – as one become adept or expert but some risks: becoming a bore or solitary obsessive. I have achieved ‘flow’ by hoovering well, even cleaning a fridge. But these are not monuments to my life’s work or relevantly complex pursuits I’d want defining who I am.

What’s in? An eclectic and erratic list: cooking, relevant; gardening, chore. Writing, relevant; drawing embarrassment. Cleaning the fish tank, chore (and only tolerable if I’m left to do it properly) odd jobs, drilling and hanging things source of great irritation and angst. Why?

Because it’s hard to get odd jobs right. Our walls are rubbish, you only ever do a thing once – so you make maximum mistakes, never get the chance to practice what you’ve learned. And the smallest thing can take disproportionate time for a disappointing effect; which then stares down at you in reproach for years. Aaargh. Irrelevant complexity.

My latest botched odd job stares down at me here:

Curtain derailed
DIY failed
Drooping drapes
In awkward shapes
Lots of screws
And hacksaw blades
Variety of fixings
Wobbling and fiddling
Scarcely blocking the sky
Humble pie.

But every cloud has a silver lining. After three separate wasted days on and off up ladders, with hacksaws, at the DIY shop, I definitively gave up in a huff on our lounge curtains.

Then a miracle intervened. My beloved took to the ladders, took up the drill and made it all hang together. Perhaps she found it satisfying enough that she might become Oddjob now… Fingers crossed.

Botch Job


Garden fencing
Ageing woodwork
Down comes the fence post
On a cold winter’s day
Sent out to repair it
With red hands
And blue notes
Patched up
Lashed up
Botched-up repairs

Cats promenading
Balancing on my fence post
Off comes the trellis
From my botched-up repairs

First day of sunshine
Sent to have another go
Drill bits
Rawl plugs
New screws and old
Ugly repair job
Patched up
Lashed up
Botched-up repairs

Were he still alive, my Dad’s Dad would have been proud of this one. A notorious botcher, he fashioned the ideal (for him) lifestyle accompaniment from an orange box, plywood, screws and nails.

A footstool-cum-occasional-table, its four sides held his betting slips, racing tips, pools coupons and newspaper as well as being a handy place to rest a cuppa. Splinters and gaudy fruit trademarks were the real drawbacks. But he was happy with it.

I can’t really say the same for my botch job – 8 different screw types, restraining stays which neither match nor fit and none of which are quite true. The old man’s genes have reached through time. But he’d have a good chuckle at a proper botch job.

Ham Fisted


Man handling
Pipe fitting
Wire stripping
Fuse popping
Floor slopping
Finger trapping
Pushing and shoving
Dishwasher in
Knackered out

Why is it most ‘manly’ installation tasks come round so infrequently that you make all the mistakes in the book? Having wrestled and heaved the new dishwasher into service, I look back on several now obvious errors of approach. If this one busts I’m laughing – I now know exactly what’s what behind the sink. But it’ll probably be another 10 years before I get to do it again, by which time I’ll have forgotten. A sense of relief but not much ‘flow’ – except all over the kitchen floor.