Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Bucking the trend of the roles often determined by gender

Saturday morning. Bliss. There’s the reassuring buzz of a power tool, frightening the cats and making a high-pitched squall as it eats wood the way a bawdy 17th century king eats chicken legs.

She is the one wielding the power tools...

In the cellar, there’s a blizzard of sawdust as planks are being sewn as a two-centuries-old-house learns all about right angles.

What is it with late 19th century builders? I guess spirit levels were beyond their wildest dreams. They built things to last, that’s for sure, though it appears all the builders around here worked for Won Key, and Sons.

In another room, scatter cushions are being selected. Feather-filled numbers in a blue floral pattern will be placed strategically on a sofa, or a bed. Probably. A chicken is being gently roasted.

And the joy of this scene of seemingly domestic bliss is that She Who Must Be Obeyed is the one wielding the power tools and this creative eejit is selecting the scatter cushions and manning the stove. Bliss.

Theresa May got into trouble when she said there were boy jobs and girl jobs in the house. Taking the bins out was a boy job, according to the former Tory leader, whose determination to set gender politics back by 50 years was one of the more remarkable incidents of an unremarkable Premiership. Though, in our house, that’s true. There are boy jobs and girl jobs, and the girl does the boy job while the boy does the girl jobs.

It’s not always been that way, of course. Though the ‘of course’ confers a degree of competence that perhaps oughtn’t be conferred. Time was when I couldn’t have been happier at the task of laying a new floor. And rather than the slide-in, slide-out nonsense of easy-job laminate, I’d tackle a full-floor, multi-room, herringbone floor, in oak tiles. As you do. Because who doesn’t like annoying the neighbours – when we had some – with the late-evening buzz of an expensive saw?

These days, however, we’ve swapped roles. She Who Is Always Right has commandeered the cellar and has an impressive collection of bloke stuff. He Who Doesn’t Want To Snap A Finger Nail has become something of an expert in soft furnishings. And mini elephants, made from leather. I know: Whaaaaat?

But I digress.

The idea of completely giving stuff up is one that appeals. For a decade, I crouched over a camera and took photographs of food. Michelin-starred chefs would invite me into their kitchens and I’d bounce light from a reflector or fiddle with a shutter to capture the perfect moment. I loved it. While most people were sitting at home watching TV, or doing their kids’ homework, I’d be in the guts of a kitchen, enjoying the thrilling buzz and coruscating adrenaline as service kicked in.

And then, with zero fanfare, I stopped.

My camera was left in a cupboard, someone else started taking the photographs, and I moved onto new stuff, that felt more exciting.

It’s hard to make the case that choosing blue foral pattern cushions is more exciting than the buzz of a fast-revolving circular saw, though there’s something deliciously exciting about working as a team. She is better than He, these days, at levelling floors. He has neither the appetite nor patience for it, she has the determination and dexterity to do a marvellous job.

We’re not the only ones to embrace modernity and some form of equality of the sexes. During a much-enjoyed trip to Australia, one of the more notable qualities of the daily round was equality. Women were digging the roads, dressed in high-vis, as they took on the once-masculine jobs that, in the UK at least, remain the preserve of blokes. Equal to their colleagues, regardless of gender, they got the job done with a minimum of fuss.

There are clear demarcation lines when assessing occupational roles by gender. Men comprise more than 98 per cent of the work force as electricians, vehicle mechanics, carpenters, electrical fitters, metal workers, maintenance fitters and plumbers. Women, in contrast, comprise more than 90 per cent of the work force as school secretaries, teaching assistants, personal assistants, childminders, medical secretaries and nursery nurses.

At our gaff, we buck the trend. She’s the honorary bloke. And I’m the guy with the scatter cushions.

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