The University of Life

As some of you will be aware, my family and I moved house recently.  The details of the move are unimportant for now, so suffice to say that we have moved into an old Victorian terrace.  The house is great.  It’s easily big enough to house us comfortably, is just opposite a nice park, and has no water streaming or wind blowing where it shouldn’t.  That’s pretty much all you can ask for, I reckon.

That isn’t, of course, to say that it comes issue free.  For a start, whilst there is no water streaming anywhere that it shouldn’t, there is a good amount creeping up from below so getting the damp sorted is high on the list of priorities at the moment.  The roof, whilst it keeps out most of the elements, seems to have been installed as part of a primary school outing.  I imagine that Billy still got his Roofer’s badge even though he forgot to do the flashing;  he’s only seven after all.  Thank God that it wasn’t a real roofing company.  They would have been in proper trouble.

We are also looking at putting a new roof on my workshop because I’ve taken up making things for the Ministry gift shop.  (Class 3T need not apply).


Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that I have come into contact with a lot of craftspeople over the past few weeks.  Now obviously, as a man who tends towards the useless, this is a little bit awkward.  It means an uncomfortable number of very practical looking men pointing at things, telling me what they are going to do to them and letting me know how much is going to cost.   During this,  I stand there trying to look as if I know what they are talking about and like I could do it myself if only I hadn’t left my tools at the old house.  They know the truth, I know that they know the truth, and deep down, they know that I know that they know the truth.  Fortunately, on such occasions, I’m able to man up and let my wife deal with them most of the time.

What’s more upsetting though, is that through all the pointing and baffling explanations, it’s pretty clear that they are happier in what they do than I have ever been.  Judging by the waiting time on most of their jobs, they are busy, from the hourly rate that they charge, they are well paid, and from their general demeanor, they are pretty satisfied with their lot.  In fact, despite my years of university and academic training, they are better off than me in almost every way.

It turns out that many of the kids that I was encouraged to scorn at school because their favorite subject was woodwork and they didn’t know where to put an apostrophe for plural possession have been enjoying a much more fulfilling life than I have.  I say many of the kids because one definitely got a job packing underwear and went on to kill himself and another was in constant trouble with the law and eventually drank himself to death (so two small victories for me!), but those with a real talent for things that were just not valued by the education system, who stuck with it and honed their skills rather than wasting time getting a degree in pointless studies, most definitely made the better choice.

Back in my student days, I laughed when people told me that they had attended the University of Life.  Now, I’m putting in an application.  

Thank God that it accepts mature students.


Grantham Montgomery.


Minister Of Stuff.

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