the state of things

 

The Basketball Diaries

by Douglas Lindsay - 09:38 on 26 December 2008

Christmas present for Two of Two (amongst a gazllion other items): a basketball net. I bought one with a stand, because when it comes to fixing things to walls I’m a classic Muppet About The House. For some reason I thought putting a stand together might be more straightforward. As a consequence of this absurd thinking, I didn’t start constructing the basketball edifice until 10:30 on Christmas Eve. What a poor sorry fool.

The instructions were in American, i.e. every single line had a warning attached to it, or was accompanied by a lengthy legal checklist.

Swallowing the basketball net could result in serious stomach upset.

Do not attempt to construct the pole without enlisting the help of a team of three hundred experienced construction workers with a full management chain of command in place.

Do not attempt to insert nut and bolt without consulting a team of lawyers.

Incorrect assembling of the Basketball System will result in certain death.


First off you have to pound the three sections of the pole together, so at about 11pm on Christmas Eve I trundled out into the back garden in my shorts and slippers and started pounding poles together on a block of wood. I was spotted by One of Two, and who knows how many neighbours. It must have looked like a semi-deranged activity for late at night on any day. Unless of course the neighbours were all shaking their heads and saying sagely: Poor bastard, should have started putting that thing up three weeks ago.

Thereafter there was a catalogue of things that wouldn’t fit. Bits of metal that had to bend round hard plastic in order to fit, nuts and bolts that wouldn’t tighten. I didn’t consult a lawyer but I did put an emergency call through to my psychiatrist.

There were two nuts in particular which I couldn’t get to tighten. They would only turn so far. I know nothing of nuts and bolts, but they appear to be a fairly straightforward system. On close inspection I spotted the small circle of plastic around the inside rim of the nut. Hmm, I thought, they’ve obviously put that there just to annoy me, and that’s the problem.

I decided to try to remove the small circle of plastic. First off I tried to do it with a knife, but realised early on that this was likely to lead to finger amputation. I searched around for another solution. The roaring fire in the hearth looked back at me. Hmm, I thought now, what would they have done in Lord of the Rings?

So, clutching the necessary implements, I picked up the tiny bolt and held it in the fire until the plastic had melted. It was all very Middle Earth. There I was, early on Christmas morning, forging the very basketball system in a scorching furnace. Strangely there was nothing in the instructions about using a real fire to aid in the tightening of the bolts.

It didn’t work. Sure the plastic melted; Hell, it was held in six hundred degrees flame for half an hour, of course it melted. The bolt still wouldn’t screw in far enough. Presumably there’s a reason for it. Presumably the plastic’s supposed to be there. I couldn’t work it out. The most basic construction system known to man. (Apart from the nail.) On the point of giving in and presenting the wee man with a ramshackle, half-constructed Death Trap for his Christmas, I hit upon the idea of wedging in the top half of a pair of chop sticks to allow the bolts to tighten.

It worked. The Basketball System was constructed and steady. I got to bed in time for upwards of ten minutes sleep...

So far, the second day in, Two of Two has played with the Basketball System for a little more than thirty minutes and it hasn’t seriously injured him yet. Given that it was constructed using fire and chop sticks, two items expressly prohibited by the Legal Provisions, Section 7, Chapter 11, Paragraph 512, subsection 12a of the Basketball System Instructions, this is a small miracle in itself.


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