HANDYMAN BLUES by BILLY BRAGG Story by Vin Maskell & Paul Bateman

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HANDYMAN BLUES by BILLY BRAGG Story by Vin Maskell & Paul Bateman

Vin Maskell
Melbourne, December 2, 2017

I am standing on the tiled roof of our home. The westerly wind is getting ready to blow a gale. There is rain on the way. (Or, as the media and Bureau Of Meteorology, have been saying, a ‘rain event’.)

I am on the edge of the roof, holding onto one branch while sawing another. But the horse has already bolted, so to speak. On the ground is a heavy roof tile, nudged and pushed by a branch that had had the wind behind it. A few minutes earlier, inside the house, Julie and I had heard a scrape and a thud while standing in the family room.

And now I’m up in the weather, grasping a saw (it may as well have been a straw) and looking at a hole in the roof.  I’m thinking rain, I’m thinking possums, I’m thinking Handyman, wherefore art thou?

Not up here, that’s for sure. This is not my forte. But there’s a rain event on the way. Gotta do something. I climb down, collect the (surprisingly unbroken) tile, climb up again. Try to fit it back into place. Harder than it looks. The tiles are bulky and awkward, I’m crouched on a 45 degree angle, and the wind is blowing.

I need another pair of hands. I need a shot of confidence. I need a roof tiler.

I do what I can. Cover the hole. But the tiles are not interlocking, not neat and precise.  Why is life like this? Why is life itself not neat and precise? My domestic inadequacy triggers a minor existential crisis. That sense of uselessness, of incompetency. It leaves me restless, a storm of its own kind.

The rain arrives and the roof survives but I am no better for it. The next day I’m surly, a little haunted by the view of life from the roof.  I get out of the house for a few hours. (What did Jackson Browne sing all those years ago: Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.) I go to the library. I know I should start reading a long, long novel but no books appeal to me. Hundreds of books and none say Take me, I’m yours.

So, as I’ve done before in times like these, I write a letter. Pen on paper. In the library.  Dear Paul, it begins, I am standing on the tiled roof of our home. The westerly wind is getting ready to blow a gale. There is rain on the way…

A few days later Paul replies with a poem,its ending slightly skewing my story. To give me hope, I think. He gives me a song too, and so much more.

Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.

By |2018-01-07T17:43:30+00:00January 8th, 2018|Acoustic, Blues, Folk|8 Comments


  1. Louise January 8, 2018 at 7:57 am - Reply

    Perfect feelings of inadequacy. Human traits are just that – human.

    • Stereo Stories Admin January 8, 2018 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      What did Mark Gillespie sing, in another context – ‘We’re only human…’

  2. Paul Bateman January 8, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Melbourne writer and true man of letters Vin Maskell gives me far more credit than I deserve for this little gem of his.

    What he lacks in carpentry and home renovation skills, Vin more than makes up for as a writer – with words of grace and precision.

    I ‘skewed’ the truth of his experience in the last lines of my little ‘poem’ by way of encouragement.

    The Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote: “Whatever is given / Can always be reimagined, however four square /… it happens to be.”

    Vin found himself on the roof, despondent and discouraged. I know that feeling.

    Go easy, Vin! We’re all perched on a rickety roof. At least enjoy the view: the vast world above; the wind and rain; the mystery of it all.

    Paul Bateman

  3. Pete January 8, 2018 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    I’m no good with tiles or poetry.

    • Stereo Stories Admin January 8, 2018 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      True, bro, but you can sing and play guitar. And arrange songs. And make fly-wire doors from scratch. And you make me laugh.

  4. Luke Davies January 9, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Another great little story Vin. Never heard the song till now, i do like it.
    Cheers Luke.

  5. Rick Kane January 11, 2018 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Great story Vin (and epilogue Paul). I know the song well as it speaks to me. I got over my lack a long time ago with the pithy explanation that i have no handyman skills and even less interest. Don’t beat yerself up, know yer strengths and shrug off yer shortcomings. Cheers

  6. Danica March 3, 2018 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Love this story!

    Your post has been added to “Your Song — A Community Collaboration page”. Thank you. I know others will enjoy it as much as I did.

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