There are many scientific studies postulating the theory that men cannot multi-task. I am here to tell you today they are absolutely right. But you can keep your expensive research and large group studies, because they are not needed to illustrate this essential truth. All that is required is to ask a bloke to perform a simple task, and then continue to interrupt him until he explodes.
All that stood between me and something far more interesting was schlepping a few barrowloads of earth from one end of the garden to the other. I was ignorant of the logic behind such soil redistribution, but happily so – engaged in that manly, physical act of the rude mechanical.
However I had barely turned my spade in anger, before being informed my selection of soil was from the wrong pile. Since our garden currently has the landscaped aspect of a set from “attack of the giant killer voles“, this is an easy mistake to make. So moving onto a second pile of brownish, parched dry, rock hard ground – that looked EXACTLY THE SAME as the one I’d be shooed away from – I applied some pent up energy to the job.
Half way through the first barrow, no.1 daughter sidles up and wonders if progress can be made on the “Menace Sledge“. A quick review of the languished project signals some creative work required before further painting can commence. Verbal is dispatched to the barn to do her worst with a roll of masking tape and a copy of my last appraisal.*
Barely a further spade had been turned before no.2 child demands some bike based action. Grumpily downing tools, I release the ickle pink one – steady – from its’ hooked prison, furnish Random with gloves and helmet and wheel her out into the garden.
Believing now that nothing can divert me from my primary task, I attack the pile with gusto only to be told that in fact it is stones that we need, not soil. So – grumbling darkly – I upend the soil back from whence it came and begin to replace it with rocks strewn into our garden’s moonscape. On presenting these, I find they are the wrong type of stone.
Beginning to sizzle gently, I am not even allowed to correct my mistake because suddenly a sledgehammer, some nails, long bits of wood and an owl** were now gazumped onto the critical path. Now as a bloke, I can deal with multiple tasks, but only in serial form. Whereas this kind of multi-threaded scenario turns me into a cross between a headless chicken and one of the extras from the movie Scanners.
Finally I’m back where I belong on the barrow. For about two seconds before Verbal wants me to approve the paint template – which I hurriedly do -before declaring that she’s been promised a pound if she washes Carol’s car. Fine, just get on with it. Oh you can’t? No, because muggins here is suddenly 2nd Helper assigned to hosepipe duties.
Deep sweary sigh. Drop Spade. Find hosepipe. Find bucket. Fill Bucket. Send child to turn on hosepipe. Stomp around garden looking for spraying attachment. Receive admonishment regarding lack of correct soil/rock/hammer/owl. Begin to rotate on spot in manner of organic drill turned up to 11.
At which point smallest child demands some satisfaction on bike related problem. Deciding this is a job only I can do and so be freed from minutiae of family life, grab spanners and skulk in workshop cursing the non linear world I live in. Fix bike, feel the happy, blokey glow of finishing something before being drawn back outside by sound of swearing.
Verbal is one of only two people in the world who can make Carol swear publicly***. She’s a bright kid, but sometimes has the legendary stubbornness of a mule crossed with a camel. Convinced she cannot actually turn the hose off – having turned it on some ten minutes earlier – a cross garden debate ensues focusing on exactly which way anti clockwise is.
The last couplet went something like this: Wails” I don’t have a watch” Shouts: “Oh for FUCKS SAKE“. I decide to step in before social services to, only to find myself involved in another maelstrom of requests. I very nearly put both kids in the barrow, threw the bike on top, chucked in the hammer, nails and wood, filled the lot up with dead birds and wheel them outside to the cry of “FOR GOD’S SAKE I AM A BLOKE, ARE YOU TRYING TO DRIVE ME MENTAL?”
I remember watching those endless sitcoms where hen-pecked middle aged men would listen wearily to the incessant requests from their spouse, and answer only “Yes Dear“. I used to think this was spineless and stupid. Now I’m seeing it as some kind of coping strategy.
I did eventually – in case you’re even slightly interested – finish the task I’d started some hours before. At which point I locked myself in the barn and muttered my way through some pointless tasks. All of which I lined up behind a large mug of tea and in an order that could be quickly and simply worked through. At no point did I think “tell you what, I’ll put this bolt down and go and refelt the roof“.
I’m coming to the conclusion that men, like life, are simple. It’s the women that make things complicated. My next step is to try and explain this to them, for which I’ll need to understand them first. I’m 42 years old, and I’ve no idea where to start on that one.
* it got off lightly. I had it earmarked for chicken shitting duties.
** I made that up. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if such a request had been followed by “Oh come on, I’ve TOLD you why we need the owl loads of times”
*** Obviously I am the other one.