Communication, please

"If you follow these instructions you will have no difficulty in assembling the Bauknecht Modula Self-Assembly Units yourself. All the requisite screws, brackets etc., are supplied with the units, and no adhesive is required."

A-a-a-a-ch, (as the muscular hero, or she-ro, might put it were a comic strip), what friendly words can strike more of a downright tremble into the doughty modern heart than such as these?

I haven't invented them. They are lifted verbatim from an actual sheet of "general assembly instructions" I have in my life of evenings not easy to forget. Nor, incidentally, do they have anything to do with United Nations, unless it is that they are printed in four languages. (I can't personally pass qualitative judgment on the Dutch or German versions, though I did seriously try referring, in my dire need, to the French, but I'm sorry to say that these mots injustesm only persuaded me that there were as many people all over the rest of Europe as there were in Britain struggling forever and ever with the practicalities of getting their kitchen units together, without adhesive . . . Laocoon, his sons, and their oversociable snake, let me say, are having a partym compared to this. After all, that serpent did arrive fully constructed.)

It might not have been so frustrating if the store had warned us. But its been a quiet revolution, the change over to do it yourself furnishings, and apparently it is not the policy to warn customers too loudly in advance. So instead of collecting the completed cupboards and drawers as displayed, I probably shouldn't have been surprised when I was presented with three flat cardboard containers full of neatly packed components.

I won't burden (or terrify) the reader with too many details. My perflexities --apart from the fact that the eight screws provided to join the hinges to the doors were too long thus inevitably piercing the immaculate faces of the units -- were not with the units themselves, but with the instructions. Guidance such as "insert eccentric locking disc into the holes provided (arrow pointing towards the unedged side), seem fine and clear until you actually try to implementm them (though, to be fair, the accompanying drawing did help considerably). I mean, how many people have actually met an eccentric locking disc before and know what they are looking for? And doesn't "eccentric" mean "peculiar"? Where does it say you'll need a dictionary as well as four different kinds of screwdriver, pliers, scissors, three hammers, an electric drill with several different drill bits, a fair collection of spanners, a chisel , a gimlet, a fret-saw, four hands and a Ph.D in anthropometrics and ergonomics? No "eccentric" (thanks to Mr. Webster) means "not having the same center." So the search is on in the boodle-bag (all the requisites being merrily lumped together without identification tags) for one disc "not having the same center."

. . . Not having the same center? . . As what? As noneccentric dics, perhaps. Ah --maybe this is it! It certainly looks odd. Now let me see. Where are the holes provided? That's a thought: How do you insert one singular dics into a number of holes plural? Several holes means there must be several dics.

Light dawns: Now are there any more eccentric dics in the bag -- ?

And so it goes, three and a half hours of linguistic enigma and constructional mystification, despairs interspersed with brilliant flashes of triumph and self-congratulation. Midnight strikes. But you're nearly there, you only have to pop some "plastic dowels into the narrow lengthwise edges of the plinth sides" and loosen a "top central screw" or two and bobs-your-uncle.

One o'clock comes and goes. One forty-five. . . What's wrong with that bottom drawer? It looks different somehow.

Oh, no!

(Oh, yes. Its upsidedown).

Still. . . Well, there is, after all, at sunrise, a certain pride to be felt in your workmanship, a certain sense of heroism, something never-to-be-forgotten. Remember the time it took all night to put that unit together? Those were the days.

But there are still a couple of things that intrigue me. The first is precisely what the raw plugs, nails, screws and washers left over are for.

The second is why the manufacturers haven't considered the possibility of inserting into their general assembly instructions (with its reversed arrow aligned clockwise below and to the right of the edged adjusting hinge-base of the bracket-nut), just one word. It wouldn't take up any space. It would come at the beginning, actually, just after the words "If you" and just before the word "follow". It is spelt c-a-n.

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