If I Had a Hammer
If you could learn a trade — say carpentry, electrical work, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, flooring, drywall — you name it — what skill(s) would you love to have in your back pocket?
Well now, there’s an offer that’s hard to refuse. Pick a trade, any trade, pop in your back pocket and off you go.
I do have a hammer, as it happens, and what’s more, I can use it: a skill learned at my father’s knee, you might say – or more accurately in his workshop, where I whiled away many a weekend sawing timber off cuts into the shape of boats and banging in nails for funnels, while he got on with building things that were actually useful. (Hammering out justice and freedom is more problematic, in my view: banging arrogant, self-centred idiots over the head with a weighty tool might get the job done, but as a long term modus operandi, it has obvious limitations.)
Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the most useful skills to have are resourcefulness and initiative. Do you have any idea what you can achieve with lateral thinking, a bent coat hanger, fuse wire, super glue and maybe the odd garbage tie? And once the family pools its resources… Well, the sky’s the limit, really. One of my daughters is a whizz with a paint roller, my son-in-law is a techno-guru, another daughter can make silk purses out of sows’ ears and my sister has an art cupboard – a treasure trove of stuff that can become other stuff if you use your imagination.
But the main reason I might have to turn down this attractive trade offer is that I’m Bad – a Wicked Old Woman, if you will, although I think that’s a bit excessive. The truth is, I constantly leave undone those things which I ought to have done, and do those things which I ought not to have done – go to bed too late, get up too late, postpone the washing until the clothes run out and the dusting until the books grow whiskers – so the chances of my using my sparkling new skill are approximately zero, zilch and none.
And what’s more, I’d probably forget to take it out of my back pocket before I put my jeans through the wash.