Dad’s shed has a new roof. He would turn in his grave to think I’d paid someone £75 to work on a shed that only cost him £99 in the first place and which he erected alone, ignoring Mr MS’s nervous offers of help.

A £75 roof

Not that Dad is in his grave. He has just celebrated/endured his 96th birthday at the care home. But while life there may suit some, it doesn’t suit Dad. It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

He has lived for making things and mending them. As a geophysicist, he worked to find solutions to problems on oil rigs. In his spare time, he made furniture.

In later life, he made allotment tools and fashioned his own false teeth out of erasers purchased at W.H. Smith’s and steeped in tea and red wine to look  ‘natural’.

There are no real opportunities to make things in care homes. There are contrived ones – ‘would your father enjoy making a model out of drinking straws?’ – but these are best responded to by removing the activities lady to a safe distance before Dad replies.

He still looks for genuine projects. In the last 18 months since he has (as he puts it) ‘been coming to these places’ he has asked repeatedly for his tools.

From time to time, we’ve made the mistake of bringing them in. Last May, post tool delivery, we managed five nights in Portugal. We rang Dad from our hotel bedroom. He said he was fine and that things were going well. We were surprised, as his normal response was ‘when am I going to get out of this shit hole?’

But on our return, we were called into the care manager’s office.

‘While you were away, Dad managed to flood his own room and the room below,’ she said, combining  sentimentality and frost in one sentence. ‘I ask that you no longer bring him ANY tools. Under ANY circumstances.’

Dad’s story was different. ‘Damn toilet cistern wasn’t filling properly. Handyman here’s a waste of space so I had to take the bloody thing apart to fix it.’

Barmy as some of his actions seem, there’s always a reason. Once, back at his flat the District Nurse found him naked atop a mini stepladder, drilling into a sink full of water. ‘He could have electrocuted himself!’ she cried.

Dad explained. After a strip wash, he couldn’t get the sink to drain. Suspecting an airlock, he drilled a small hole in the plug to release the pressure.

But in the care home, Health and Safety gave us no choice. We confiscated the tools, a betrayal as bad as getting him admitted to the home in the first place.

He wasn’t beaten, though. He worked out that he could turn his TV on and off from his bed by aiming the remote at the mirror.

In a less benign experiment he filched various items of care home cutlery and twisted and bent them until a spoon and fork worked as two different kinds of screwdriver. Then he took his wardrobe door off -‘it gets in the way’ – and removed the safety cables from all the windows. ‘Let’s get some air into this shit hole.’

‘That’ said the care home manager during another tete a tete in her office, ‘could get us closed down. I’m sure you understand.’

I nodded, pretending I did. Inwardly I stayed on Dad’s side and when the handyman replaced the wardrobe door, I took it worse than Dad. The room in my opinion worked better without it.

Shortly after that, the care home did close down. I’m told it was unrelated.

Christmas 2018

At care home number two, Dad obsessed about getting the drawers in his bedside chest to run smoothly. On Christmas Day evening Mr MS eventually drove home to get tools so that Dad could prise off one set of runners and install another. The success of the 2018 festive season was assured.

As Dad’s powers decline, so his schemes become less ambitious. Nowadays he’s reduced to taking off his leg bandages as fast as the care staff can apply them. He has a point – a consultant once told him that ulcerated legs need air. But Dad’s disposal methods are his own.

After spotting a Dyno-Rod lorry in the care home car park one day, Mr MS bumped into the home manager at Tesco’s garage.

‘Ah yes,’ she said. ‘I’m afraid your father-in-law has been putting bandages down the toilet.’

There is no stopping him. Nor do I really want to. Yesterday I found him tearing tiny pieces of micropore tape off the roll and sticking them in a row along the table edge. I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish. But I do know that whatever it was, it made sense to him.