Projects: Installation of bird feeders & put up spice rack
My wife Siofra was happier than me that I had a book to finish writing during lockdown. For it meant that I was able to socially distance from any major jobs that were needed around the house
I'd set out at the start of the coronavirus crisis with ambitious notions of reconstructing myself as a new man - a handyman.
I'd promised myself when it came to home improvements that instead of sitting on the fence I would paint it instead in my moments away from my keyboard.
But the brush off came after I realised that everyone else in Northern Ireland seemed to be having the same colourful idea during the great weather in the great outdoors and supplies of fence paint became like gold-dust.
The stories of friends going on cross-border shopping raids to get their precious pots took the gloss off the whole thing.
The next brainwave in the heatwave was to buy new garden furniture to enjoy the sunshine but only hours after I finally struggled to put the online delivery together from its huge boxes it started to rain.
And my ample posterior has rested in the wicker chairs no more than twice in the last couple of months.
More bum notes followed with the installation of bird feeders in the garden and a veritable aviary of feathered friends enlivened our isolation until the arrival of mice hungering for the scraps hastened the speedy removal of the seeds.
It was back to the drawing board and I reckoned a more possible lockdown project would be to add a new string to my bow with the ukulele gathering dust in the corner of the living room.
However, the fat fingers that made me abandon my George Formby aspirations before the pandemic hadn't slimmed down any during it.
And it was anything but music to the ears of my wife when I suggested I would purchase a drill to help her with tasks aroundthe house.
She'd received a word to the wise from the first Mrs Little who told her of my earliest foray into the world of Black & Decker at a time when she said Desmond Dekker would have made a better fist of the DIY.
My first - and last - task was to use the spanking new B&D to put up a spice rack in the kitchen.
I thought I knew the drill. But not a bit of it.
A friend who'd laughed at my ham-fisted attempts at woodwork in school and who had just tiled his own kitchen was invited round to see the fruits of my laboured labour.
As I proudly showed him what had been all my own work the spice rack crashed to the floor smashing bottles into smithereens.
Back in lockdown even my exercise regime hit the buffers. After Joe Wick-ing it every morning I walked round the garden a la Captain Tom Moore until I realised my daily dandering had left a circle of tramped down grass in its wake. Did I fix it myself? Did I hell. I got in a professional to sort it out.
Projects: Cut lawn & varnish decking
When Covid began I took my daily exercise around the shoreline at Warrenpoint. Each day I passed an old lady who was always tinkering in the garden. We exchanged socially distanced nods.
Then one day she said "This lockdown is hard for you men. You don't know what to be doing with yourselves and we women don't know what to do with you either!" I laughed.
Lockdown started out as soemthing of a novelty. As the house cook I was initially delighted to have the opportunity to display my gastronomy skills more regularly.
Three course meals flowed. Menus too. Four weeks on and I got presented with a grumpy old git apron!
My territorial approach to the kitchen meant that my wife found it a no-go zone.
New projects had to be found. We have a large decking area and we usually get a painter to sand and varnish it. But how hard can it be, thought I?
And so off I go and apply yacht varnish to my decking. At first it was easy, then came the spindles - all 120 of them!! Let's just say - I clearly went to the Frank Spencer school of painting as I became as bronzed as the deck. Then catastrophe!
Hundreds of starlings decided to enjoy the sun on my roof, flying back and forth across the varnished decking.
I can categorically state that a bird c****ing on you is not lucky. Even less lucky is hundreds of bird droppings all over the wet rails.
Like the Forth bridge I re-started.
My next target was the garden. In nearly 30 years I have never owned a lawnmower. We have always had a guy who came to cut grass and trim trees. With Covid he disappeared and the garden was starting to look like an urban jungle.
I suggested buying a lawnmower. The Mrs laughed.
I decided on a two-for-one offer which included a strimmer. (This is one of the reasons I am rarely allowed in the middle isles of Lidl unaccompanied).
The odd thing about lockdown was the excitement around deliveries. When the lawnmower and strimmer arrived I had not counted on having to assemble them!
The closest I ever got to skills requiring technical capability was as a Boy Scout discovering the Alpine Butterfly knot.
The instructions might as well have been in Chinese - which is why like most men I ignored them.
Eventually I assembled the lawnmower but now I am seeing a chiropractor as the handles are about 12 inches off the ground. Yet it somehow it works.
The strimmer was much more complicated. A mad Frankenstein invention with a mind of its own. Twice the strimmer flew off attacking a neighbour's cat.
Now alongside the unused extendable wheel brace, my evil strimmer remains quarantined in the shed like one of those murderous Chucky dolls!
Four months of lockdown and the happy chef has returned - albeit with the 'grumpy git' apron!
Projects: Garden & shed overhaul
Ten days ago I tweeted: 'Looking back I wish that my school had devoted a couple of hours a week to teaching us basic DIY.'
In fairness to the school it did provide me with an excellent education, yet experience has taught me that while a grounding in Latin declensions and Euclid's Elements is very helpful for showing off during an episode of University Challenge it isn't, to be honest, much help when trying to unblock a toilet, stop the incessant dripping of an overflow pipe, bolstering a sagging decking or repairing an extractor fan.
I've tried to do all of those jobs in the last few weeks (part of my Grand Plan to use the lockdown to good effect), but the decking still sags, the extractor now brings smells into the house and the toilet flushes less effectively than it did before I decided to deconstruct and restore it to pristine condition.
I also abandoned my plans to repaint inside the house when Indy (having discovered his sister's felt tips) decided it was the appropriate moment to demonstrate his new-found fondness for Picasso and ersatz Pointillism. Kerri, my extraordinarily patient partner, doesn't encourage my DIY desires. That's probably because she has seen me fall out of trees; almost impale myself on a fence when I fell off a roof; whack my head when I stood on a rake prior to trying to saw down a small tree (by the way, they all look small until the first branch lands on you); and just miss being clobbered by a whopping self-assembly cupboard which fell apart when I left the room.
She has also seen me slide down the stairs on my back; fall out of her hammock three times, once holding a piping hot cup of tea and a terrified cat; and watch a neighbour shaping up for a stroke as he held the ladder upon which I had reached the top rung and was stretching - at an extreme right angle and on one leg - for a window ledge with a paint brush.
I could also assemble a garden shed from the bits of wood and assorted screws that have been left over from other projects.
When it comes to DIY my spirit is Herculean, but my flesh, sadly, is more Laurel and Hardy.
But I was determined to do something I'd be proud of during lockdown (I gave up on the Chronicles of Narnia after ten days) and the garden seemed the obvious challenge.
Yet for every plant I lowered lovingly into place, Indy removed it and threw it towards his sandpit.
He also discovered the sheer pleasure of just sitting around on sleepers and clumps of 'something or other' - killing things off in the process.
Lilah, meanwhile, using lockdown to improve her knowledge of snails, turned part of my new wildlife area into a remembrance garden for a snail I had managed to squash.
But after three months there is flowering colour; new wooden panels; a re-sorted vegetable patch; a patched-up garden shed (even though it seems a lot shakier than I remember it); a badminton net (which usually falls down when our robin sits on it); and a place I can drink Pimm's and praise my own efforts (there is a remarkable silence from everyone else on the subject).
Somewhere in this not-so-secret garden I have also lost three tools, a tin of paint, an un-drunk glass of vodka and white lemonade (which may explain the behaviour of both Indy and the blackbirds) and one of Indy's shoes.
Ah well, finding them can be my next lockdown project.