For reasons known only to herself, my mother kept and filed my primary school report cards. Under “Crafts,” my P6 teacher had written, “When it comes to making things, Douglas is best described as “handless.” They didn’t do much for self-confidence or self-concept in our school. On reflection, I suppose the judgment was harsh, but probably accurate.

At the end of term, we took home what we had made. My mother wasted no time in consigning the fruits of my labours to the deepest drawer. In case some of my more talented cousins paid a visit. My raffia table mats were usually half the size of everyone else’s. They rapidly fell apart, like unspooling audio cassettes. Needlework brought the additional hazard of injury, my hands usually looking as if I had been playing catch with a porcupine. On seeing my leather wallet, the teacher sighed, observing, “And to think a cow died for this.”

Given my start, it’s unsurprising that I have zero DIY skills. It was a double whammy. Even though he was a talented engineer, I inherited none of the basic DIY skills from my father. Our rare joint ventures usually ended in disaster. On one occasion, we unwisely decided to paper a high stairwell. Aware of our limitations, we used pre-pasted wallpaper. Each roll was soaked in a water-filled trough, before being applied to the wall. We started at the top and all went swimmingly, until my father trod on the edge of the trough, sending a tsunami all the way down the stairs. Laurel and Hardy had nothing on us. Until then, I was unaware my mother was capable of such language.

Things haven’t got much better since. My wife claims my strength in DIY lies in my self-awareness that I’m useless. I’m also the author of my own misfortunes. I’m just too impetuous and in too much of a hurry to get going. I spend too little time in preparation. I don’t have the correct tools, or they’re blunt, or the battery has run down. The paint brush is solid with the horrid green colour last used on the shed. I’m not the worst however. I have a friend who uses his slipper as a measuring tool. I suppose he still uses feet and inches.

There’s also an element of male vanity. We’re men, we can do it ourselves, proving the doubters wrong. It’s not as if there is a shortage of advice out there, especially on YouTube and Tik Tok. The presenters are invariably enthusiastic and oblivious to the limitations of others. Their enthusiasm can be wearing. “Let’s get going, taking down that wall and laying the new floor.”

Men’s Sheds are another invaluable source of advice. They also lend tools, thereby avoiding having to buy an expensive but rarely used tool. I read somewhere an electric drill is used for only 13 minutes in its lifetime. Can that possibly be true?

Of course, there’s a deadly serious aspect to DIY, especially if the uninitiated meddle with gas or electricity. How many prospective picture hangers use a wiring detector before hammering in the nail and blacking out the neighbourhood? Similarly, how many use a stud detector to locate framing studs and pipes? I’ve tried the tapping-the-wall approach, but as my teacher told me I have a “tin ear,” it all sounds the same to me. A relatively cheap device can avoid the embarrassment of that newly hung picture falling off, taking a substantial part of your recently painted wall with it.

Recent research suggests around 80% of DIYers make minor or serious mistakes when carrying out projects. Most found DIY improvements to be more expensive and challenging than anticipated. It’s all a question of balance. It’s cheaper to get a tradesman to do the whole job, rather than putting right your botch. A friend, putting up a mirror, gave the last screw one final tighten – just enough to break the glass. As an encore, he dropped his hammer, shattering the toilet bowl. Proving, that the old saying, if you want something done properly, do it yourself, is far from true.