I am about to reveal to you my best and most top secret tip for those attempting DIY. It is something I have learnt from bitter experience over the years. It shouldn’t be bandied around too much, I don’t want everyone catching on, OK?… Ready?

Make workmen a cup of tea.

It never fails. Ever

I will give you a prime example. I recently moved house. I am still shaking from the physical and emotional effort. On the day before my removal team arrived, heading up my to do list was ‘Un-plumb the washing machine’. It was at the top of quite a long list of essential jobs that needed doing.

As I was selling the house to someone known to me I had also booked a professional oven clean for the same day. If I hadn’t been selling to someone I knew and moving round the corner I may not have bothered spending the cash on such a frivolous expense but not wanting to be considered a scuss ball by the whole of my village I decided it was money well spent.

I apologised up front to the lovely chap who turned up, and proceeded to take my oven apart, because I was going to be in his way as I had quite a lot of kitchen based jobs to accomplish. To be honest we struck up an almost immediate rapport when he opened my cooker and exclaimed that it was no where near the worst he had seen. I brewed up and we had several fun minutes supping char whilst he regaled me (possibly quite unprofessionally) with amusing anecdotes of the worst ovens he had encountered in his cooker cleaning history. He should maybe write a blog…

Anyhow I needed to crack on and started un-attaching my washing machine from my house. Once I had emptied all the Tupperware, drinks bottles and plastic pint glasses left over from a time when I hosted parties (surely everyone has such a cupboard..) I got the process underway. I successfully unplugged the machine, unscrewed the waste pipe and was feeling really rather proud of myself. I then tried to shift the washing machine which was firmly stuck under the counter. Embarrassment crept in as I realised I had not detached the water inlet hose… So back into the Tupperware cupboard I went.

And here I hit a snag. The hose was so firmly screwed on that I couldn’t budge it. I went to the garage to fetch pliers and WD40. I found pliers but must have used up the last of my lubricant spray un-plumbing some other white good at some other point. The pliers weren’t really much use for two reasons. One, they wouldn’t fit round the circumference of the pipe screw fitting and, two, the dishwasher inlet hose (which for some inexplicable reason has a kind of box on it, it’s a German machine, need I say more) was hampering access. So I tried manually again. I then had a mild crisis of confidence believing I may be ‘going the wrong way’ and merely aggravating the situation. By this point I was grunting somewhat.

My lovely oven cleaner stopping paying homage to my cooker and enquired after my welfare. I explained my predicament. He produced WD40 and larger pliers (they may have even been a monkey wrench). I squirted and then made more tea. In any event I was, by now, seeing black spots in front of my eyes possibly because I am old and my body doesn’t take too kindly to lying prone, half in a cupboard, trying to unscrew something very tight at a funny angle. I don’t think the futile pulling of the machine earlier had helped either.

Another few minutes passed in companionable chat. This time about music making- my children’s music stand having just fallen over and disgorged its contents onto the lounge floor just as the kettle boiled. Freaking us both out slightly. You can meet clarinet players in the most unlikely of circumstances.

During the washing up process following the brew I discovered that it is not a good idea to empty a bowl of water down a sink when one’s washing machine outlet hose is detached. I flooded the Tupperware cupboard. Workman told me that he thought you could buy bungs for such situations but that required a level of forethought I was simply not capable of- appliance wise. I went to look for gaff tape, of which we had none, but I found that parcel tape worked quite well. Pro tem. Anyway that small problem solved on I went.

I tried again. No joy. Friendly oven cleaner said he would try for me. He was also grunting after a few minutes of fruitless pressure. He asked me if I knew any tame plumbers who could nip out to help me. Err no. We discussed my earlier concerns about turning in the correct direction. Unusually for a manual labourer he wasn’t sure either. I offered my scientific rule of thumb, righty tighty, loosey leftie. He looked dubious. I went to check on you tube (what on earth did humankind do before you tube?). Whilst I was listening to a really very competent looking plumber explain that his quick rule of thumb concerning tightening and untightening nuts was …righty tighty, loosely lefty, the oven man exclaimed in some delight. The nut had moved! But would not move any further.

We we had another cup of tea. Thinking about it he didn’t ask to use my facilities which makes him not only the nicest workman I have come across for a some time but also the owner of a cast iron bladder.

Upon reflection he thought that maybe the whole copper pipe that the nut was firmly attached too may have moved under the power of his monkey wrench. I was somewhat peturbed by this.

Another tack was needed. The tea had kick started my brain and I decided to try again to get the machine out thinking I could detach the hose at the washing machine end. Leaving my buyers with a useful, if welded on forever, inlet hose. Friendly workman looked impressed at this piece of logic. I mentally polished my halo.

I struggled. Yet again oven man took pity on me and between us we woman and man handled the beast out from under my counter. After I had recovered from the shock of the truly awful sight that lay under and behind that machine I attempted to detach the hose… and couldn’t shift this one either.

By this point my weakened from three childbirths bladder gave out and I went to use my facilities. Whilst I was gone a shout akin to a war cry emanated from the kitchen. Lovely oven man had detached the hose. I thanked him profusely. I could have hugged him. I only thought that in my head as obviously I had only just met the man and although we had bonded over my appliance trauma I thought it a little early to suggest physical intimacy.

And then we had a celebratory cuppa and I even broke out the biscuits.

On his way out two hours later, after he had left my oven so clean I could see my face in it, he asked if he could come to my new house to clean that oven if it needed it.

Absolutely. And I will make sure I save any little plumbing jobs for when he is there.

Footnote. This goes out with sincere and heartfelt thanks to Matthew from Cooker Buddy without whom my washing machine would still be firmly welded to my house, in perpetuity…