My late father never believed in paying someone to do a job that he could do himself. Sometimes, it was the case that we could not have afforded to have paid someone to do things, tradesmen were not cheap. Sometimes, he was just determined to do things himself.
One summer, he bought two Renault Dauphine cars, one for £30 and one for £25, and made one running vehicle with parts from the two. Another summer, he changed the clutch on our Bedford van whilst parked in a field at a campsite (he was assisted by two good humoured men from Birmingham who contrived to make the experience almost entertaining).
The first television he bought was in the 1980s, up until that time our televisions had been hybrid models with components from various defunct sets. He certainly did not believe in paying for television aerials, contrivances with coaxial cable and wire coat hangers brought us far more channels than enjoyed by our neighbours.
Last year, a former neighbour told me that the principle of not paying for things he could do himself extended to him believing that other people should not pay someone else for jobs that he himself would do for them for nothing.
Derek told me of my father standing in the kitchen of their house looking at a broken down washing machine and saying, “I won’t promise you, but I’ll do what I can.” Derek remembered my father getting the machine to work and then doing similar repairs for the family next door. Not once did my father ever tell of having fixed the machines.
Frustrated at a garage here in Dublin, I heard his voice saying to me, “do it yourself.”
“That’s alright, Dad. You could do things. I’m rubbish at anything practical, you know that.”
The issue arose when I went to try to register my ageing Peugeot. The Vehicle Identification Number on the bulkhead had become corroded and the NCTS station would not accept the number as it appeared on the windscreen or doorpost.
“You need to go to a Peugeot main dealer and get a letter from them confirming the car details.”
I phoned last Friday and they said they would call back. Of course, they didn’t.
I called at the garage on Saturday, and the service department was closed, so they took my number and said someone would call.
On Monday, a man called and I explained I needed a simple note.
On Monday afternoon, I phoned. He would need to speak to his manager.
On Tuesday, I phoned. There would be a fee for the note and he would need to speak to his manager to confirm the details. He would call me.
No call came.
The clock is ticking on the time in which I must register the car.
I went to a shop and bought metal scouring pads. I rubbed down the area on the bulkhead where the number was engraved. I covered the letters with white paint and then wiped the surface clear. The only paint that remained was in the indentations. The number is not very clear, but it is legible.
Dad would have asked why I hadn’t done that in the first place.