DIY disasters hammer us all

IT took me a year to sell the last house I owned. Now I pass it occasionally and marvel at the extent of restoration work the new owners are putting the old place through.

IT took me a year to sell the last house I owned.

Now I pass it occasionally and marvel at the extent of restoration work the new owners are putting the old place through.

Actually, I'm delighted. It's a wonderful old house, built around 1750, and though I loved it I simply couldn't afford to give it the care and attention it really needed.

It was, in fact, something of a worry at times. It can keep you awake nights to go to bed in a room with a sagging floor, doors that sometimes stick and sometimes don't, and cracks in the wall that appear to be widening.

Still, you know, “safe as houses” and all that. Houses - even old ones - don't just fall down, do they?

Well now, of course, we know they sometimes do. Like Michael Scott's cottage in Battisford.

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As Mr Scott told the Star this week: “I heard a crack and I jumped into the back extension - the only bit that's left standing.”

Thank goodness he was able to leap clear. And thank heavens his grandchildren were not in the house when it came crashing down.

I read the story and thought: “There but for fortune.”

For when I got a surveyor in to look at that old sagging bedroom of mine, his advice was to get it propped up immediately, then get a new reinforced beam and supporting post put in.

It appeared that when the house was extended in the 1950s, a ground-floor wall was removed and the weight of the building above left on a wooden beam spanning too wide a gap. Half a century later that beam had had enough.

Maybe something similar happened at Mr Scott's Battisford home.

(Colin and Catherine, if you're reading this, I got that reinforced beam and mighty upright put in place as advised…)

I wasn't keen to go through that sort of nightmare again - which is why I pulled out of the last house purchase I nearly made. That and the fact that the building society wouldn't give me a mortgage on it.

That was a lovely house too. A big, four-bedroomed semi with a grand staircase, a high, wide stairwell and a landing bigger than a flat I once had.

It had been built in the 1930s and was almost unaltered since. It had few mod cons - no central heating and no running water in the kitchen.

It was perfect. It seemed too good to be true - and, sadly, it was.

For, gorgeous as it was in lay-out and proportions, the builders had taken the kind of inventive short-cuts that seemed a good idea in the time of the Great Depression.

It was built not of bricks, but of hollow terracotta blocks - a common enough material in Mediterranean countries and some parts of the United States. Not a bad building material, either, as long as it's double-skinned.

To build two storeys - tall storeys, at that - with hollow walls just four inches thick was not such a bright idea.

It was with some regret that I pulled out of buying it - and with pleasure that I now hear it's being bought by a builder who should be able to make it secure as well as lovely.

THE trial of Michael Jackson has been a sorry, grim scratch at the underbelly of so much that is wrong with American society.

The fact that the jurors, having found him not guilty, should then be able to say publicly that they think he might be a child-abuser anyway seems bizarre and outrageous to British ears.

That couldn't happen here - and neither could much of the media circus that attended the trial. But that doesn't mean we're free of all the foulness it revealed.

There's the obsession with celebrity, for a start.

There's the obsession with money - the crazed, dysfunctional way Jacko spends it, and the grubby way his accusers tried to get their hands on it.

There's the messy obsession with paedophilia, and the sordid prurience of those who want to hear the details and assume the worst.

And there's the mixed-up attitudes to race - of which Jackson himself is a freaky, disturbing illustration.

Why would a once nice-looking black boy want to turn himself into a weird white spectre like something from his own Thriller video?

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