We’re erecting mossie screens. My son-in-law and I.
A bit of familial bonding. “Com’n give us a hand with the mossie screens,” he said. “We’ll have a beer after.”
The mossie screens in question are nine metres from the ground. They involve a ladder, drill, screws, hammer, nails, saw, plane, lots of swearing that’s the colour of sunset over a volcano, and a son-in-law close to death.
This doesn’t mean he fell off the ladder, or took his head off with the saw. It means I might have to kill him, because he’s young and knows everything.
All I’ve read over the years has led me to believe that as we grow older we grow wiser; but no, my son-in-law is half my age and he knows everything, especially about mossie screens, ladders, drills, screws, hammers, nails and planes. And swearing.
What’s more he knows more about me than I do. “Let me do that. It’s a bit hard,” he said, snatching the saw from me.
“Best not go up there. It’s pretty high,” he said, blocking my path to the ladder.
“Best let me do the hammering. You might miss.”
“You shouldn’t swear like that. Not good for your blood pressure.”
But I don’t have blood pressure! At least, not until I popped round to help with the mossie screens.
And what’s more, I have every handyman tool known to handymen worldwide. I have gadgets for framing mossie screens and inserting the netting. I have enough nails and screws in my shed to throw the planet off its orbit; I have hand planes and electric planes and planes that plane round corners.
I don’t need to spend half my evening tapping the kinks out of old nails. I could be having a beer instead!
“Why don’t I just pop back home and pick up some proper nails?” I say.
“Why don’t I go home and get a plane that isn’t blunt?”
“Naaah! This one’s fine. She’ll be right.”
And it is. That’s the depressing part. It actually is possible to force a one-metre mossie screen into a 99-centimetre window frame with nothing more than the ego of a totalitarian leader, lots of four-letter words and enough testosterone to save the gorilla population of the whole of Africa.
And your father-in-law, of course.
I mean, what was I doing there, really? It couldn’t have been for moral support because I didn’t give any. I secretly hoped he’d take his thumb off with the saw, or crush a finger under the hammer.
I did hold the ladder occasionally, but only because I was bored.
And the worst part is â€“ it’s only going to get worse. You might imagine that, just as I started out as a callow youth who discovered along the way there was lots I didn’t know, my son-in-law started out as God and will discover, when he’s old, that he’s an idiot; but it doesn’t work like that. He’ll die (possibly sooner than he thinks) with the conviction he’s always been right and that his father-in-law needs a keeper.
All of which would be bearable if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s married to my daughter, who is almost perfect (except for her taste in men) and he’s the father of my granddaughter, who is the most perfect human being, though only two years old, in the history of the universe.
Attributes she inherited, of course, from my side of the family.