Dad the builder - can he fix it?

Anyone who has a toddler will know of Bob the Builder. George Andrew, father of three-year-old James certainly does!

But George inherited his own father’s faulty “fix it” gene. How then, did he become the sort of Dad'll-fix-it to make his son proud?

Scoop is everywhere. Of all the machines in Bob the Builders' yard, he is the one you see most. You don’t see too many blue cranes or red dump trucks, but every roadworks or construction site has a little yellow digger. And the sight of such a machine fills my three year old son with delight. A pleasant weekend drive is often interrupted with cries of “Scoop! Scoop!”.

The whole Bob the Builder phenomenon has tapped into a fundamental characteristic of the young, male psyche, which is their fascination with hard, manual labour.

I know that I held this fascination when I was a child. When other children spent their holidays in boring places like Forster or Port Macquarie we spent ours in Williamstown, Victoria. There, among the railway sheds and ship yards, lived my grandparents. The Westgate Bridge had not been built so it was quite a separate world from Melbourne. My two grandfathers were like characters out of a storybook. I knew them as “Pop on the Trains” and “Pop on the Boats”.

“Pop on the Trains” was a boilermaker at the railway yards. When I stayed at his place I would wake at 5am every day so I could have breakfast with him. We would slurp on our cornflakes while my Nan made his sandwiches. After breakfast he would go outside, jump on his bike and ride off just as the first rays of morning sun were breaking through.

“Pop on the Boats” was a merchant seaman. He once took me into the shipyards to see the dry dock. Down below I saw the men working on the massive ship. They looked so purposeful and determined. I looked forward to the day when I could grow up and fix things.

My father was the finance director of a British manufacturer of power tools. I knew his job was important, but I didn’t quite understand it. I was growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney and was the only one among my friends whose Dad had an office job. The others would boast about how their Dads built houses or fixed cars and I did not know quite what to say.

At least my Dad had a company car, which meant that we always had the newest car in the street. This gave me some credibility – except when we had the P76. The P76 was the car that killed British Leyland in Australia. The one we had was a real lemon. The only thing that worked on it was the clock.

My poor Dad was always breaking down in it. My school overlooked a railway overpass and I remember one day standing with my schoolmates looking up at the bridge. There on top of it was my dad, with his sleeves rolled up, staring under the bonnet in the way that non-mechanically minded people do.

I was soon to find out that I too had inherited a faulty “fix it” gene. The next year all the boys had to take woodwork. The first project was the pencil box, which took me all year to complete. When the other kids around me were putting the final touches on their cupboards and chests of drawers I was still trying to chisel those fiddly little grooves to put the lid on. By the end of the year I had finished with non-parallel grooves and a lid that only slid half way across. It was obvious that I was destined for a white-collar existence.

Years went by and I came to terms with my limitations. I spent my bachelorhood living in a run down rental house with three other lik- minded slackers who did not care whether the skirting boards were chipped, whether the paint was peeling or that Niagra Falls gushed out of the guttering every time it rained. That was the landlord’s problem.

However, I later married and moved to a place of my own. There I was in a brand new house with a hundred and one jobs ahead of me. There were curtain rails to put up, furniture to assemble and gardens to landscape. How could a non-handy man like myself ever handle such daunting tasks?

Then I came to my senses. It was time to put aside my preconceived ideas of what I could and couldn’t do and get on with it. I managed. My darling bride revealed to me how much easier it is to assemble things if you read the instructions first. Soon our brand new house was a home.

I will never be as good as the showoffs on the lifestyle programs. I stare in disbelief at the TV as they casually rattle on about how easy it is to attach a timber deck to a house. But at least now I can hammer, screw and assemble to a standard where I can get by – and when I do I have my three year old son standing at my side.

It is with pride that he says: “Can Daddy fix it? – Yes He Can!”

George Andrew is a financial controller who is also father to James, three-and-a-half and Erin, 11 months. He is married to Sonia and enjoys writing about the joys (and the rest) of being a dad.