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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to
The Real Construction Deluxe Workshop - Wow!
The 'Deluxe Workshop' is the most wanted toy this
Yuletide, according to Argos's poll of Christmas 2010's top 10
toys! Loads of UK's kids must want to be builders, chippies,
plumbers and the like when they grow up to make this toy No1 in the
retailer's poll. We like it. It means loads of budding DUIT staff
from the kids who get one - and loads more people who need their
services because they got the Zhu Zhu Pink Pizazz Playset instead -
it only reached No.7 in Argos's poll.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to
£236-worth of exterior Christmas decorations!
Over 50% of UK homes will be festively decorated with flashing
Santas and stuff this Christmas, with an average spend of £236 per
home! And did you know that if this average household were to have
'em on six hours a day from November to January, it would be like
adding an extra three weeks-worth of juice to their leccy bills!
That's what the survey from Go Compare reckons anyway. If only I
knew of a handy electricity price comparison site - I'd whizz there
at the speed of (a Christmas) light!
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to
The receipt for those exterior decorations!
We're off to get a refund because some claim a fifth of house fires
are caused by an electrical fault! Another quarter are caused by
the wrong use of electrical equipment! And such incidents
increase hugely at Christmas - 300% in 2007! So says insurance
company More Than anyway. Its Funster-in-Chief, Keith Maxwell,
says: "More Than urges people to be cautious as the nightmare
scenario of a Christmas in flames can occur." Nightmare
scenario of a Christmas in flames! Do children cry when you
look at them Keith?
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to
An Electric Gizmo! I was just reading a blog
from a 'typical' DIY-er on Yell.com. His toolbox is full of gadgets
he's only used once. If only he'd a tool with loads of different
attachments, he could do nearly any job with the one
gadget. Capital idea! Whose idea was it? Why, Dremel's of
course, or so it said in the 'impartial' blog! Dremel? Aren't they
manufacturers of electric multitools with loads of different
attachments that make it perfect for just about any job! Ah shucks,
thanks for the 'impartial' tip. I wish my gizmo was a
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to
A lift to the dump to throw away my gift gizmo.
Dremel included. Well that's what 31% of us do with gifts of
gadgets & gizmos each year according to the British Video
Association. And the average cost of each unwanted gizmo? £88.75p.
That makes £1.1 billion of gizmos chucked. Forget the
Boxing Days sales; I'm off to the local dump. Who said Christmas
was just a spendfest dreamt up by consumer society to get us to buy
things we don't want?
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to
The fantastic news that burglaries are down
10%! Wow, that's amazing! And it was all down to
Hertfordshire's 'Operation Guardian' campaign. With what special
methods did campaign chief Detective Chief Inspector Trevor
Rodenhurst achieve this spectacular success? By advising people to
"make sure all our windows and doors are locked." That's
genius Chief and justifies a 100% increase in our council tax
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to
A top-notch home security system to keep us safe in our
beds! Seems that Hertfordshire copper has got it wrong. In
a recession crime goes up - by a whopping 19% according to the
Scottish Crime and Justice Survey. Hang on, we don't live
in Scotland! Ah, but we don't live in Herts either. What to do? If
we weren't filled with the charitable virtues of Christmas, I might
treat the Public Relations industry with a bit more cinnamon. I
mean cynicism - that wouldn't be Christmassywissy. Unlike this
warming flagon of fortified mulled wine wot I've been drinkin. Hic!
On the eight day of Christmas my true love gave to
A Black & Decker Auto Levelling Laser.
There are two good reasons I won't be taking this gadget
to the dump. 1. It's a laser and lasers are dead cool. 2. I'm far
too drunk to walk, let alone drive. At all.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to
An invitation to do a DIY job - with her! Whose
idea was this massive domestic bomb waiting to explode? Some expert
relationship counsellor? No, it's Andrew Leech's, director of the
National Home Improvement Council. Andrew, are you mad?
Andy thinks the woman in a live-together relationship feels obliged
to save money by doing some DIY themselves. Andrew, do you live
with a woman? Your mother doesn't count. He says it was a survey by
Bosch Power Tools that led him to this opinion when he read how
78% of women have used 'power tools' to do 'DIY' themselves.
Too save money you mucky man. Best dump this 'gift' and
promise to fix that leaky tap on your own in return for a cup of
tea while fixing it...
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to
A pair of socks. What on earth am I meant to do
with these? Hang them on the mantlepiece on Christmas Eve or put
them on my feet (cheapskate)?
On the 11th Day of Christmas my true love gave to
A two week Christmas holiday skiing so we could have the
house redecorated while we're away! That's a
fantastic idea! We get away from the in-laws, all that Yuletide
hassle and cornyness and when we come home our entire house will be
completely transformed! And all I have to do is let a trusted group
of full service professionals get on with the job! And they'll help
keep burglars away (if Scotland & Hertfordshire police forces
can work out if burglaries are going up or down).
On the 12th Day of Christmas my true love gave to
A partridge in a pear tree? If you wanted to go
all traditional, why not go for the five gold rings? That would
have paid for the home improvements, our Christmas holiday
and ensured we had a prosperous New Year. However much we
get, we always want more, don't we?
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
A wag once quipped that the British and Americans are two
peoples divided by a common language. Well in our house me and Mrs
Writer are two genders divided by a common bathroom. And I'm not
Women adore beautiful bathrooms. They're way up there on the
'must have' list. Most men think the bathroom is primarily
functional. A place to get clean quickly between work and pub - or
couch, depending on circumstance.
Gay guys who are usually exquisitely turned out are an
exception. Apologies for wasting your time if this applies to you.
Then there is the advertising industry's ideal man, the
metrosexual. This mythical beast spends huge chunks of time and
money on the grooming products gay men use, only they are
heterosexual. Hear that noise? It's the sound of the women of
Britain laughing. There are only two reasons men spend significant
time in the bathroom. The first is if a long session of steamy
hanky-panky is on offer. Hear that noise? That's the sound
of women laughing again, not because such goings on don't 'go on',
but because of the claim us chaps make about how long such 'goings
on' go on for! Apologies ladies.
The other time men linger (and may even dump some manly Radox in
the bath) is when we get sporting sprains from a spot of footie or
rugger. So what if these 'sporting injuries' mostly occur getting
off the couch for another tinny while Hansen drones on about the
"shocking defence" on Match of the Day. In our house injuries count
and that's that.
It wasn't always this way. Classical scholars have written much
about the importance of men bathing in Antiquity. It was an
essential social activity in ancient Greece and Rome. Men gathered
together at the public baths and discussed lofty matters, such as
whether the 'Sardinian Slasher' would trash local boy 'Terry the
Trident Terror' at Saturday's Gladiator's match.
This practise went on for several centuries until Rome fell to
the invading Hun. These northern blokes brought with them a great
leap forward in social institutions: The Pub.
Public bathing was instantly redundant and the largest empire
ever known became truly civilised. For example, the 'sponge on a
stick' men shared to clean up after doing Number 2s in the communal
khazi was chucked in the pedal bin of history. Let's face it;
anything had to be better than picking up the poo stick
after Darius Dyssentaryius had used it.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Middle Ages significantly
advanced ablutionary technology as soap was invented at this time.
Conversely, from the Renaissance to the 18th century was a smelly
period. One's business was done in a bucket and then chucked into
the street. People rarely bathed and vast quantities of perfume
were used to hide the stench - if you could afford it. The ordinary
chap just stank but soon got used to it by drinking alcohol with
his smelly mates at his local.
Then in the 19th century Mr Thomas Crapper invented the modern
flushing toilet and so the intrinsically hilarious word 'BALLCOCK'
was born. 2010 is the 100th anniversary of Mr Crapper's death. So
gentlemen, please stand (and ladies sit) for a moment's
commemoration of his gift to humankind. Oh yeah, his bog's pretty
With Crapper's invention the toilet moved indoors and with it
the most common cause of domestic dispute between men and
women: Why oh why won't women put the seat up when they've
finished? It's no coincidence that divorce rates climbed with
the spread of Crapper's loo in the 20th century.
Fortunately spousal cohabitation, if not the institution of
marriage, was saved by increasing affluence in the 20th century. A
second, separate toilet became common which was (and is) most often
used by men. The male may be frequently seen going to this loo,
often with literature held underarm. He may remain in there,
undisturbed and in peace, often for some considerable amount of
The claiming of domestic space, where each gender considers
different rooms to be primarily 'theirs', has been recognised by
speccy types with an 'ology' of some kind for yonks. Enter any
bathroom and who it 'belongs' to is obvious: the lady's. Clues
include countless bottles of this, that and the other, dozens of
scented candles and seven toothbrushes, each matching the lady's
emotional state, as advised by her very expensive alternative
The cost of these items would've paid for the HiFi's speaker's
the male wanted to install many times over, only both sexes
eventually agreed this would just be a silly waste of money. Didn't
Yup, for women the bathroom is to them what the car is for men
and vice versa. She thinks 'your' motor is a device just for going
from A to B. The most important thing about a car is the colour.
Whereas to her the bathroom is a temple and every pound lavished on
it increases the home's spiritual, physical and emotional
However, nearly every pound spent on extras to 'the man's' car
won't stop its depreciation plummeting through the laminate
flooring. This is not a good position to negotiate from when
arguing what he and she's money is going to be spent on. Game, set
and match to the lady. There may be an upside however....
Nearly every improvement to the bathroom will increase your
home's value. Maybe not by the colossal amounts some claim, but
maybe enough for a deposit on a fella's dream wheels. And if you
want to sell your house, you know which of the man and woman
looking for a new home will influence the final decision most:
the one who has a beautiful bathroom at the top of her 'must
have' DU.IT list.
'Tis time of autumn equinox when dark descends upon the
And brave hearts wither with every chill wind that blows.
For this is the month of Halloween when yesterday's happy home
becomes a mysterious place - of fear! And every knock and rumble
and bump that's heard fills living souls with fright, for ghosts
and ghouls and worse this night....
Stop! Stop! Stoooppp!
Sorry everybody, but we're as rational a bunch of chaps &
chappeses as you could shake a particle accelerator at and don't
hold with witches, zombies and all that supernatural malarkey. In
fact the only thing that gives us the willies around here are the
hideous little scamps at No43 'tricking' if we don't do
satisfactory 'treating' (in cash mostly - kids of today hey?).
There is just one more thing that gives us the heebie
jeebies and that's perfectly sensible people who don't do a bit of
checking and preparing for a stormy autumn and freezing winter.
A bit of prep will ensure you keep bathed in a
warm, rosy glow until spring and also, we humbly suggest, banish a
few less, ahem, corporeal demons than a dodgy thermostat,
such as knocks, bumps and other such
'scary' noises .
Still a little wobbly round your wibbly bits? Then let's look at
a couple of recorded cases of 'supernatural' activity and see
what's needed: an exorcist or a decent sparky, plumber or some
other professional trades' person such as those that just happen to
be employed here? (And no Mrs sales director, I will not tell the
nice people discreet exorcisms are available P.O.A.)
One highly investigated case of scary spooks happened to one
Annemarie Schneider in Germany. The psychic 'experts' reckoned our
old horror favourite, the poltergeist, was responsible.
Before I proceed it's worth noting that poltergeist is derived
from a German word and roughly translates as 'rumble spirit' - a
better description of some boilers and central heating systems
we've treated I couldn't give! A yearly service of your boiler
highly is recommended even if it seems to run sweetly. Put them
first on your list of pre winter checks and the only poltergeist in
your house should be Peeves in a Harry Potter book or a film on a
TV channel near you.
But back to Annemarie you frightened bunch. A lot of the
'strange phenomena' she reported was a "disruption of electricity
and telephone lines". Disruption of electricity and telephone
service? In the middle of a stormy autumn? In a house with
wiring & fuses modified by the RAF in 1945? Well I never!
We politely suggest a humble electrician and telephone engineer may
have helped in getting to the root of her problems.
Other supernatural 'indicators' are strange 'chill winds' and
uncomfortably 'cold rooms'. Bbbbrrrrrr! May I suggest draught
excluders? Grants for insulation are available if you haven't got
any and for upgrading what you've got if it's not quite up to
Better still, flog the haunted house story to the papers and put
the fee to good use on modern heat insulating windows! Either way,
a visitation from a central heating engineer should give spooks the
cold shoulder - and have your radiators properly balanced after six
months of non-use.
Strange smells are another sign often accompanying 'visitations'
from the 'other side'. They often accompany blocked drains too
(phew-wy!) caused by leaves and storm debris. So if you're into
having your Tarot cards read soon hope they say check your
guttering is clear of leaves and that drains are free of potential
Still I like to keep an open mind and so was keen to look at a
well documented case of spooky goings on that afflicted a London
family in the 70s. This one was investigated by a scientist called
Vladistav Bukreev, when another poltergeist was blamed for some
very unpleasant activity.
For starters these poor people had stones thrown through their
windows. A similar thing happened to a friend of mine. Those
Millwall fans could be a bit naughty back in the 1970s couldn't
This unpleasantness was followed by 'blood' and other 'liquid
substances' pouring from the walls and ceilings. A similar thing
happened to me once - when some tiles were missing from the roof
during stormy weather no less.
I'd also suggest having the water pipes checked. Leaking ones,
especially when there has been oxidisation (rust) somewhere in the
system can make an awful mess - looks just like watery blood don't
you know. And should the pipes freeze due to a particular cold
spirit - or cold snap - pipes can burst when they thaw leaving an
awfully watery mess, just as if a hoard of hooligan banshees had
torn up the place.
So as you're carving out pumpkins and watching your little ones
bring back hoards of sweets, spare a thought for your poor old
house (or new one for that matter). Treat it to a bit of
precautionary TLC this month and we'll sure it'll keep you safe
from unspeakable horrors like cold radiators, leaking pipes and the
kind of draughts that can make the most rational person think
someone's just walked over their grave.
If you're still scared after all these precautions, do what I
do: hide under the duvet and hope the horrid monsters go away! But
that's no way to talk about your children. Just don't turn to booze
for a bit of courage. One of the first poltergeists on record
visited George and Alice Walton, New Hampshire, in 1682. The place
of the manifestation? Their tavern. George and Alice were two of
North America's first publicans. Happy Halloween!
Just what is September for exactly? Yes, yes, we know
September 23rd is the autumn equinox in the Northern hemisphere and
vice versa in the Southern, as if these equinoxes were the captains
of two seasonal football teams, shaking hands in the middle of the
pitch where the antipodeans give us the bad weather (like it ever
drops below 25o deg down under) and they get the, well
even better weather. Smug gits.
Only it's not as simple as this is it? Most of the more 'hands
on' maintenance gurus will, with rising panic in their prose, tell
you to fit quadruple glazing, insulate anything that isn't
insulated and insulate those that already are just in case. And so
on until you've got more to do than is humanly possible in a month
So you do your best to protect your house from a climate usually
found on Mars this month. Only do this and it's as sure as sure can
be that tomorrow your efforts will herald the hottest September
since records began.
To make things worse, as you're applying hurricane proof masonry
paint to the outside walls, smug Simon next door will be on the
patio in his Bermudas, clutching a Pimms and unwinding the awning
when he says to you: "Unseasonably strong sun, what!" You nod and a
drop of sweat on your nose 'plops' into your tea. Septembers have
to be for something better than this.
As much as it pains me to admit it the Germans might just be on
to something with September. Each year they spend all of the month
wearing Lederhosen and drinking Westphalian Wheat & Bull's
Blood beer (abv 19% alc) and suchlike by the litre. This is called
Yes the Germans are sticklers for details but it's true and
there you go: they have their October festival in September.
"Deutsch humour - ist sehr gut, ja?" No Gunter, not very good. Just
stick to what you do best, like making beer and invading
We British have always had problems with September so don't feel
ashamed about it. Got so bad in 1752 our ancestors changed the
calendar of the whole British Empire, losing 12 whole days in the
process as September 2nd was immediately followed by September14th!
Boy were they pleased with themselves. For a year anyway, when one
bright spark realised this losing 12 days in September malarkey
would only work the once.
Let's focus on our home and see if that helps. On balance in
pure asset value terms the housing market still favours 'improve
not move'. 'Experts' also reckon traditional improvers of value -
extensions, bathrooms, kitchens and the like - are still good
value. However, with budgets tight, right now, the two most
cost effective home improvements are a really good clean and a lick
of paint. Think of it as 'autumn cleaning', followed by a
Unless your name is either Kim or Aggie and you're a dab hand
with a roller, get some pros in to do it. I mean if we were all top
notch cleaners there wouldn't be a market for Kims & Aggies in
the first place.
Put both the cleaning & decorating into a really
professional full service company, say, oh I don't know, DU.IT for
example (that's us - sound blatant plug alert) you'll get better
value than if you had each service performed individually.
All our team are a lovely bunch of chaps & chapesses as you
could hope to meet, all with NVQs in; 'Amusing Small Talk', 'How To
Entertain Your Client' and Home Improvements the Ninja Way -
They'll Never Know You're There (OK, the last bit is a lie). Even
so, why not move your holiday to September? Holiday prices tend to
go down with the new school term, your house will be looked after
while you're away and you'll come back to a home transformed!
Kids in school can make this tricky thanks to the 'Pupil Holiday
Tax - sorry, 'pupil absentee fine.' But talk to the school - some
must be reasonable. And does anyone really think that their little
Norman missing two weeks of school will mean his first day at work
will necessarily mean he says: "Do you want fries with that?" If
only little Norm had gone to school, one day he'd say: "Keep alert
everybody, this brain transplant procedure I invented in 4B one
fortnight can be pretty tricky." Yeah right.
So that's what September is for me: a lovely discounted holiday
while professionals clean & decorate my house, largely paid for
by what I saved on the holiday. But if you're still unsure, you can
always pretend to be American and celebrate 'Hispanic Heritage
Month.' I'm afraid that's it, I've got a plane to catch, sure in
the knowledge home will be that much sweeter when I return.
The views of the author are not necessarily those of DU.IT,
The British Beekeepers Association or even the W.I. In fact, we're
not even sure who he is, so if you've any ideas your suggestions
would be most welcome however absurd.
So you fancy filling your bedroom with supercharged sexual
energy, gleaned from millennia of Chinese feng shui? Well of course
you do - it's what we promised at the end of our last blog! And
when it comes to a little fun in the bedroom you can't knock our
oriental feng shui-friendly friends. Most populous place on the
planet? China! Home of feng shui? China! You can't knock logic like
that on the decorating-to-nooky index.
Feng shui is intimately related to the Chinese philosophy of
Taoism. It's very clear on the subject of our bodies and physical
love - Tao thinks they rock! Especially if you're a chick. Blokes -
well let's try and be a little open minded as we proceed.
Taoism's all in favour of physical, bodily sex being a right
good thing. Amen to that. Unfortunately fellas, Tao says we should
try and keep up with the ladies up until that vital, final step,
whereas women folk are encouraged to go all the way and scream with
delight until the cows come to your newly-decorated home.
Apparently this is because it's denial of that final moment that
increases male chi energy, whereas it's female self indulgence that
increases chi energy for her! One asks: was Tao a chick? Bet that's
the first time you've asked that question before redecorating!
Last blog we mentioned red brings good chi (good luck), so paint
the front door red. Behind that red door clutter should be banished
- chi abhors clutter! Like the average fella hates holding
it all in while his partner just keeps on growing her sexual energy
- not that I'm bitter.
Now the chi's flowing (thanks red door!), better give it some
reason to tarry a while. Try an aquarium - most efficacious here as
there's nothing good 'chi' enjoys more than a frolic in the water
with some brightly coloured fish. No room or inclination for
aquariums? Try pictures with a water theme instead.
Moving quickly to the bedroom, feng shui advice can seem alien
to the western mind. First thing in the feng shui manual is get rid
of the TV. Clever of our Chinese friends to have invented the
goggle box over a millennia ago. Perhaps not so clever of them to
overlook the merits of a good DVD (say one involving a plumber with
an unfeasibly large wrench and a pretty young lady in need of his
services). Still, each to his own.
In any case, if you must have a TV in the bedroom, feng shui has
the answer: cover it in a plastic cloth! Now we've checked
and re-checked but feng shui is most emphatic. The cover for your
TV must be plastic. As we're at a complete loss about this second
anachronism... let's move on and say no more about it.
One more little thing: no mirrors on the walls at bed height.
Apparently they invite third parties into a relationship which can
cause trouble. In most cases.... Still, look on the bright side;
we've seen nothing banning mirrors on the ceiling which is good
because Frank, one of our craftsmen is an expert.... Anyway,
onward feng shui-stylee!
Light and colour are essential for sensuality. One item feng
shui highly advises is our old friend the dimmer switch (use one
over a 1000 years old with caution). However, most favoured of all
are candles. So while you can't watch Madonna doing her stuff with
Kevin Bacon in Body of Evidence on DVD, you can copy her
hot candle wax foreplay from the film right in your bedroom.
For the feng shui bedroom we want a balance between the super
sensual and, if Sting's 8-hour tantrics are on the menu,
invigorating rest (oxygen tent and paramedics optional). Strangely
plants are frowned upon in anything but large bedrooms, where they
should be placed by a window.
Colours are key for creating that mix of sexiness and
relaxation. They divide into 'ying' (cool colours) and 'yang' (warm
ones). For example, blue is calming and restful as are purple,
green, silver and black (go you Goths!). Alternatively white,
yellow and red are all considered 'yang' or warm colours, along
with lavender, gold and orange. Creating this balance might sound
difficult but there's a myriad of colours that are either ying
(cool) or yang (warm) from which to choose from.
Prints or paintings for the bedroom should represent what you'd
like to happen in your life. Fortunately the world of art provides
a plethora of images which, to the professional eye, would never be
considered, pornography. Alternatively, utter filth can often be
passed off as work that's 'really happening' in the art world,
although most of us couldn't tell the difference. Take an unmade
bed. Saatchi did for thousands. An unmade bed, I ask you!
Your bed should be easily accessible from both sides but
shouldn't be in a direct line with a door through which chi can
easily depart. Nor should it be scruffy, unkempt and worth
thousands on the art market like Ms Emin's. Finally, all doors in
the bedroom should be closed to keep all the chi in this room of
You don't have to go all 'Grasshopper' to have fun giving your
home a feng shui theme. This is especially true in the bedroom. Try
imagining a little feng shui makeover with your lover, a few colour
swatches and maybe a bottle of wine, then see what works!
can offer interior design services, including feng shui, for those
wishing to use them - just DU.IT
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