Monday, 11 June 2007


We have a visitor today; San and her two kids, En and Zee. San is lovely, and so is her family. They're all so normal, and well-adjusted, and level headed. Things work around them. Things are in order and proportion around them. They have their life-work balance sorted out. I bet their doorhandles work.

When San arrives, she tries to shut the outside door that leads from the front garden into the lobby. 'Nope'. I say. 'It doesn't work. The bloke who lived here previously - the one who took out the Victorian fireplace so he could put in a cupboard and then smashed up the original wooden panneling so he could nail a baton to the wall and put up a chipboard table for his computer - yes, that's him - he put the front doorhandle on the wrong way round. It turns counter intuitively. You'd expect to open the right-hand door by turning the handle clockwise, wouldn't you? Well Mr Bumface put it on so that you have to turn it anticlockwise. People come to the front door, turn the handle, and think it's locked, so leave. We had a great time trying to persuade BT we were actually in. And then, over the years, as people have wrenched it this way and that, trying to get in, the whole thing gradually wore away, and fell off. So now the handle's just decorative.'

Well, this got me thinking. After the doorhandle incident in the office the other day, I decided to do a small guide to doorhandles.

Doorhandle to the schoolroom. It works! Nothing wrong! Apart from the fact that someone has tied string and sellotape all over it and from it hangs a plastic bat.

Doorhandle to bathroom. In 2002 Dig replaced one that did not turn properly with another one that does not turn properly.

Doorhandle on French windows. Comes off. Dig said he would mend that in 1992. Now the French windows are rotting and may collapse. This gives Dig the perfect excuse not to do anything at all.

Doorhandle to the kitchen. Fell off in 1994. Actually, this one has a story attached to it. First, let me say for once this had nothing to do with me, was not my fault, and did not involve me in making a fool of myself in public.

In 1997 the boiler broke down. Da couldn't come. We called in Mr Plug. The boiler is quite high up on the kitchen walls, so Mr Plug got up on the worksurface to poke inside it. Within seconds there was a loud bang and Mr Plug threw himself backwards, from the worksurface height, to the floor. Here was an electrocuted man. And the first thing an electrocuted man does is run for the door. Unfortunately, I hadn't quite nailed down all of the floor tiles. These were hand painted floor tiles, mind, that I'd carefully painted, varnished, and fixed into place with copper pins. But I hadn't quite finished. So as Mr Plug ran for the door, the floor tiles slid away under his feet. To correct himself, he reached out a hand for the kitchen doorhandle. Of course it came off. If only he'd waited, I could have told him that it fell off in 1994. Mr Plug shouted, a bit hysterically, actually, 'Get out! The house is falling down!' then ran to his van. He sat in his van quite a long time before he drove off. He wouldn't come back until we had an electrician to check over the wiring, which we did, cost £100. Sparky found nothing wrong. Mr Plug simply forgot to turn the boiler off. You see, his own fault.

Doorhandle to upstairs landing. Not there. Strangely, it seems to have fallen off leaving a gigantic hole. Dig blames the fact that this is a fire door and uses this as an excuse to do nothing here as well.

Doorhandle to bedroom 1. No doorhandle. Injudicious shutting of the door means that we can lock ourselves in by accident. I sometimes carry a door handle in my pocket in case I lock myself in here and need to get out.

Doorhandle to bedroom 2. We discovered only weeks ago that Squirrel's non-appearance at lunchtime did not mean she was sulking in her room. It meant she was locked in by accident. The door handle works on the outside, but not the inside. Don't ask me why.

Doorhandle to bedroom 3. Works perfectly! It even has a little crystal jewel droplet hanging from it, so it looks pretty too!

Now San is always very polite and lovely about the house, how tall the ceilings are and how wide the staircase is. But San, this is just the scale of the Victorian building. We have to look at the detail. And none of it works. It's not normal; it's dysfunctional. When I haven't got Squirrel taking off the doorhandles to hide them, I'll find they don't work, or they come off. And these doorhandles are a metaphor for life, quite frankly. It looks great on the outside, and then when you try and use it, it simply comes apart in your hands.


HelenHaricot said...

hmm, we have a malfunctioning victorian doorhandled house as well. my MIL got trapped in the playroom when the handle came off in her hands. SB's handle doesn't necessarily work from either side - ao i sellotaped across the pokey out bit [words escape me] and we try not to shut it. the bathroom handles have come off both sides, so you have to wedge your finger in keyhole and wiggle to open...

grit said...

i know what we need now ... a doorhandle support group.

Sara said...

When I was young and living in digs,someone unscrewed the door handle to my room.Consequently when I tried to get out of my room the door handle came off in my hand.After shouting help out of my window with no result- I had to climb out of the upstairs window in my pants like spider girl without her disguise.I am now scarred for life.

grit said...

i sympathise with this sara. if a doorhandle support group does not exist, i think we should start one.