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Getting wood

I had seen the one true way, the light, a vision. Building things, a.k.a DIY a.k.a middle-aged suburbia. Unfortunately for the rain forests of Brazil, chopping down trees and making them into furniture is very addictive. This is a lesson best learned when living on an island bereft of furniture but equipped with its own jungle, full of trees.

Like a junky moving to temazapan, my latest fix was always going to be a disappointment. London life makes it evident when you have hacked down a tree and dragged it home. People look at you strangely. The London branch of the tree police has a much smaller patch than counterpart branches in Brazil. You are more likely to be caught if you hack down a London tree, and more likely to damage someone when it falls. You are much less likely to be arrested for destroying London trees if you buy planks of wood from a local timber merchant. Not quite as satisfying as getting wood yourself, but less risky.

It is strangely satisfying to build something for your home. It gives the illusion of doing something permanent, making your mark on the world. Which is absolute nonsense if you think about it for more than 15 seconds, or if you ever do any DIY in the home. You don’t even get an autograph from the last person whose DIY you are destroying to shoehorn your own in.

But a steady diet of video games and DIY had kept me from the demon drink for 32 days. Which you might misguidedly think would be good for one’s health. Absolutely not. Without a Black and Decker Workmate, I was reduced to island methods of securing bits of wood while I sawed them into pieces. These techniques involve balancing bits of wood to be sawed on other bits of wood, your least favourite knee and the occasional unlucky thumb. Unlike metal tools on tropical islands, British tools aren’t necessarily blunt. A combination of sharp saws, precarious balancing and limited skill almost lost my thumb and forefinger.

Blood spurting left and right after an over-enthusiastic stroke, I discovered I had no medical aids, such as a bandaid. Nevertheless, with masking tape holding my fingers together I continued to make progress fitting a wooden floor. Until I stuck a Stanley knife through the masking tape and into my knuckle. The next days gavce me a very swollen knuckle, and made the other staple of not drinking – video games – quite painful.

Drinking is far better for your health. I restarted on a heady diet of K cider a few days later, and realised that wood glue was very useful for sticking fingers back together, and finished the flooring. But the booze had an amazing effect – I could think again, and had great ideas (of which gluing fingers toegether was just one example). Like a newly turned religious zealot, I denounced my previous pastime of DIY, and saw it for the sham that it was. It wasn’t going to make me immortal or permanently etched onto the universe. But booze however….

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