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Have-a-go Heroes of Lockdown DIY

For many DIY stands for Don’t Involve Yourself. Just get a man who can. Yet the lockdown forced by the current Coronavirus crisis has given people a seemingly inordinate amount of time to fill in a meaningful way. There are only so many boxsets you can watch, right? Or walks you can take your dog on, without citing canine incontinence?

DIY can apply to anything, of course, and thousands of column inches have been written about everything from lockdown fashion to knitting from writing a song to self-tattooing. But DIY is commonly agreed to relate to home improvement and if proof were needed that pulling out a paint brush, banging in a nail or building a water fountain has become something of a national obsession. Look to the latest trading figures from some of the sectors’ retail giants, as well as the huge queues at council dumps and recycling centres.

In an April MyJobQuote survey of 2,000 Brits, it appears, we’re most keen on making our own coffee tables, followed by upholstering, painting, doors, cabinets, desks and flooring.

Derring-do DIY has clearly become a thing to occupy hands and minds – to start or complete that job that has been procrastinated over for many a month. In short making the most of your home when a world outside is denied.

Often the worst offenders of “I’ll do it tomorrow” are those who make a living out of being ‘handy’ – the builders, bricklayers, joiners and decorators and other assorted trades people. Happy to work long weeks on jobs that earn them the coin of the realm, when it comes to putting their own house or garage or garden in order, they delay until they can do so no longer.

Seemingly Everyone has Taken up Lockdown DIY

Take Rob Hague of Birkenhead for example. Now, Rob is a man of many skills, converting disused churches into spanking posh pads or building fitness studios or erecting extensions or turning shipping crates into cafes, but when it comes to his own habitual abode, he has been known to labour.

Not so since lockdown. As a former painter and decorator, he knows the right people to be able to get his hands on all that’s required to give his home a proper make over. He said: “It’s a job that I’ve needed to do for ages, but I never seem to have the time, despite my partner, Anne-Louise, almost begging me to do it. We live in a fairly new build and it has needed a bit of TLC and a lot of licks of paint. “I’ve done the little jobs and I’ve painted the whole house from top to bottom – just in time it seems now that the day job is starting again. I’ve even built an outside bar to enjoy all the sunny weather with social-distancing friends, now that we can.”

Upcycle and Recycle

Another builder who has used his tools on his own property during lockdown is Antony Parkes who with his wife, Helen, has bought and lived in many ‘projects’. Builders rise early, of course, and Antony has stuck to that regimen to tackle his enormous back garden in Hoylake, Wirral.

He has re-turfed large swathes of lawn and renovated a raised canopied bar that came with the house, while salvaging an old discarded pizza oven, left to rot behind the shed. But the crowning glory of his lockdown DIY journey is the enormous area created for a seated fire pit, rising out of the ground like an amphitheatre from a bygone era.

“We have a habit of recycling and upcycling things we find lying around or off the internet, because not only does it save money you can make it fit your style. It’s amazing what we have found when digging round this garden and I like to use what I can especially when no builders’ yards have been open.

“I unearthed a huge amount of York stone and decided to make a seated circle around a big fire pit that we as a family can enjoy in the evening. I even intend to rig up a big screen so we can watch films outdoors.”

While it’s been a busman’s holiday for some, for others DIY has proved to be a way to pay one’s ‘keep’. Cai Rive has been using his skills to contribute to the home that he has found himself locked down in. Cai, who is a 25-year-old drummer in St Helens-base band, Scarlet, is currently staying with his girlfriend’s family in a large old house in Liverpool and to pay his way, he has used tools on hand and bought others online, to bring something extra to where he is living.

Although he has no formal trades training, he makes up for it with a huge reservoir of ingenuity and an awful lot of pluck. Using an old chest bed, Cai and girlfriend Christie have made a back garden bar complete with shelving units and lights that everyone in the house can enjoy in the fine weather.
“Over the years I’ve picked up a lot of know how from my grandad and my dad and it’s just something I can do, and I actually enjoy doing. I get a sense of satisfaction from seeing something I have created from scratch.

“I’ve had a lot of time to get on with band work including another DIY project – shooting and editing the video to our latest song, Friends, really difficult to do in the current situation, so chipping in with DIY jobs has been a really great way to pay back Christie’s family for allowing me to stay and get on with my own projects.”

Pilates to Projects

Pauline Dickinson, once of Wigan and now of Wirral is another who is happy to have a go too, despite rebuilding her Pilates business which crumbled under lockdown. Love Pilates is again up and running thanks to the technology of Zoom, which means she now has the time to fix up her home.

She makes the salient point of it being good for mindful wellbeing: “DIY projects have been a great way to distract myself as I’ve worried about my business. It’s kept me busy and been great for my mental health. We lead such hectic lives normally, so this has provided the opportunity for self-improvement and home improvement.

“I’ve built a raised planter using old railway sleepers, landscaped the front garden, laid paving stones and even found time to paint my garden studio for when lockdown is eased and I can welcome people back, she said. “It’s made me feel really good about myself and if I can do it, then anyone can!”

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