In Tuesday’s post about 18 Inspiring Stories of Real People Doing Inspiring Things, I mentioned John-Paul Flintoff, a journalist who started making his own clothes. As if making his own clothes wasn’t enough, rather than getting a professional rat-catcher in to sort out the little creatures scrabbling around in his cellar, he decides to do that himself too. And his words got me thinking: how many times have I had fun doing something for myself rather than paying someone to do it?
The biggest thing was the catering at my wedding. There were about 90 guests. The most I’d cooked for before was a dinner party for six. Like John-Paul and his rats, one reason I chose to do my own catering was to save money. But there were other benefits, the main one being control. I didn’t like the attitude of some of the caterers we interviewed, before deciding to go it alone. I had the feeling that things were counted out to the last chicken drumstick. Should a guest have a particular penchant for chicken drumsticks and decide to eat three, a couple of people would be left drumstick-less. I didn’t want my wedding to be remembered as the one where they ran out of drumsticks. The fact there was one vegetarian at my wedding added 50p per head to the price of the food with several of the caterers. Just to provide vegetarian quiche as an option. Considering a vegetarian quiche is less than a fiver at Tesco, I didn’t see why I needed to pay an extra £45.
Doing the catering for your own wedding is, as I discovered, stressful. But it was also a lot of fun. I cheated for some things, ordering in from Waitrose. Friends helped. My friend Elaine poached and dressed three whole salmon. And as for those vegetarian quiches: I was up making those myself at 4 a.m. on the morning of the wedding!
Honestly, even with the 4 a.m. start, it was good fun. Though I’m not sure I’ll be up for doing my own catering if I ever make it to wedding no. 2!
From doing things myself – well, having a go at any rate – I’ve learnt loads of new skills. I designed my own website when I set up a business rather than hiring in a professional. I’ve learnt to put up wallpaper. I can lay laminate flooring. I’ve constructed bookshelves (though admittedly they were a bit wonky!) and I’ve plumbed in a kitchen sink and no, it didn’t leak. I’ve tiled bathrooms. Dug gardens. Designed publicity materials. Created a book cover. Made a bridesmaid’s dress. And moved house twice without the aid of removal men.
I wish I’d kept a record of how much all this DIY had saved me over the years. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about the money. In the words of John-Paul Flintoff, it’s about “the powerful feeling of responsibility and capability that I’d never have felt if I got in the experts.” And it’s also a lot of fun!