Shadorma: DIY store

We stride in
With firm, manly steps,
But our weekend jeans, plaid shirts
Betray us at once.

Chippies, sparks,
Plumbers – men with vans –
Go elsewhere:
We’re trade, mate.
Their hard-won, high-priced mystique
Has to be maintained.

The old guys,
Life’s fixer-uppers,
Aren’t here now.
Their day is Thursday:
Pensioners’ discount. Plus, they
Know what they’re doing

And we don’t.
We may kid others;
Not ourselves.
Yet we strive
To look cool, impassive, as
With our mouse-soft hands

We caress
(Gingerly) nail-guns
Power drills
Planed timber
Chisels, hammers, screws – pilgrims
Touching the saint’s bones

While we pray
Fervently: Dear God
Let it work,
Just this once:
Neat, straight, solid, first time. Please.
For her sake, not mine.

At the till
Stare ahead, daring
That pale youth
To ask us
What we hope to do with stuff
We struggle to hold.

Back at home
Look at it, wonder
Where the hell
To begin.
Recall our calm, strong fathers
And wish they were here.


I have a lifelong loathing of DIY, and I suspect many of my generation secretly feel the same. We grew up in the 1970s, when the craze for home improvements really kicked off, and houses became assault courses, crammed with ever-shifting but seemingly permanent stepladders, dust-sheets, sharp objects and wet paint. Our fathers, as the pioneers, took the idea of doing-it-yourself literally, and kept all the difficult, dangerous (and therefore most interesting) jobs for themselves. The result is a cohort of 40-somethings who know how to do things in theory, but come to grief when confronted with the reality of drilling holes, sawing wood or, God forbid, putting up wallpaper.
I had the idea for this piece after a rare visit to my local DIY store last Saturday morning, which left me clutching a two-metre length of 12mm softwood, a soldering iron, a tube of solder and two new drill-bits – and hoping I looked more confident than I felt. (It all worked out OK in the end, but some of the language was, to put it delicately, robustly uninhibited.) And to those who can not merely do, but actually enjoy these things, I can say only that I stand in awe. N.

9 thoughts on “Shadorma: DIY store

  1. 🙂 You have mastered this form so well! This is great again, you made me smile. My mother was the DIY person in the house, both my father and me had no clue of timber, hardware and glue ! xx

    • Thank you, Ina – I’m really having fun with shadorma. To my shame, I have broken a long line of very ‘handy’ men: my father’s father was an engineer and had a fully equipped workshop at the bottom of the garden, complete with a lathe and other amazing stuff. He could make anything in wood, metal, plastic, you name it. At the other end of the scale, my mother’s family are all jewellers, so can do really delicate work with gold, silver and watch mechanisms. My dad was a classic 70s DIYer and always enjoyed woodwork, which he was very good at. Sad to say, I haven’t inherited any of it from any of them. In our house, my wife does all the decorating, while anything involving power tools, wood, nails or screws is my job. And I absolutely hate it 🙂 But if anyone ever wants anything written, they all come to me, so I guess I have some craft after all! N.x

  2. In my heyday, I was able to handle power tools, to wire lights, fix runny toilets, and even once managed an extension ladder to paint the exterior of my home.(cars going by beeped in salute, unused, at that time, to see a woman painting a house.) Now that I’m seventy, I leave it to the professionals. In fact, coming upon your poem this morning is quite auspicious, as I sip my second cup of coffee and supervise–from my recliner-rocker–the plumber, carpenter, and electrician who are putting things right in my recently acquired home where the DYI work of the previous owner is all coming to naught.
    Don’t know about shadormas…I’ve come to a place in my work where I usually let the form of a poem emerge as I write…but this is a delight to read, and I ‘m glad, especially today, to have discovered it.

    • Hello Cynthia – thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I know how much you’ve encouraged and influenced others, and I greatly admire your work. I wrote free verse for a long time before I really caught on to the metrical forms; I guess as an English writer, the sonnet has a special appeal for me, but I must say I’m thoroughly enjoying this shadorma, which Ina introduced me to a few days ago. Hope all goes well with your various tradesmen! Nick.

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