"While you're on holiday I need you to do something for me in the bedroom," my wife says, and my hopes rise. "I want you to help me strip," she continues, and they rise even higher. "Let's see how imaginative you can be with these."
She waves something provocatively in my direction and I realise my hopes have climaxed prematurely. It is a decorator's colour chart and a book of wallpaper designs. "Don't look so worried," she says. "I've arranged for a man to do the real work. I just need you to strip the walls and help me choose paint and paper."
After 35 years of marital harmony (with occasional periods of discord, cacophony and shrill jarring sounds), she is fully aware of my inability to do practical things. Unfortunately, she is not fully aware of my sensitivity to comments that question my manliness. "What do you mean you've arranged for a man to do the real work? I'm more than capable of doing a bit of painting and decorating."
"Well, if you think you're up to it I suppose it's not too late to cancel him," my wife replies. She leaves the threat hanging in the air until it becomes clear she's won an argument that until now I didn't even know we were having.
"Hang on, don't cancel just yet," I say. "Obviously, I need to check I have the necessary equipment first."
A cursory look around the garage confirms that my tools are no longer up to the job. My brushes have shrivelled away in a mug of white spirit, my nine-inch roller has congealed and my fold-away decorating table is showing signs of erectile dysfunction.
The economics are such that it will be cheaper to let the decorator do the work. I console myself that at least I made the offer, and we begin leafing through fifty shades of every colour you can invent a name for. By the simple process of eliminating all my suggestions, we arrive at a colour scheme my wife likes. My only task now is to provide the man with tea and advice. What can go wrong?
Things come to a head two weeks later, when my wife announces that if the bedroom is not finished before I go back to school in September there is a chance we could become a divorce statistic. As she is a member of the legal profession and I have an aversion to spending my twilight years living in a cardboard box insulated with old copies of the TES jobs section, I grudgingly get my toolbox out and contemplate the task in hand.
In front of me is a wall of freshly painted wardrobes, cupboards and drawers. An inspection confirms the quality of the work: there is not a run, a blemish or even a brushstroke to be seen. Unfortunately, there are no handles to be seen either. "They can't be put back on until the gloss has hardened off," the decorator had said. "But I expect your husband here will be able to do that little job himself."
"I doubt it, he's useless with a screwdriver," my wife had replied. It was an opinion that the few remaining shreds of my masculinity felt an overwhelming urge to take issue with and that, until now, has caused the bedroom to be something of a no-go area.
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield, England.