Thursday, 15 May 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Manual Labour Redux

Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….
Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals?
How-to books?
Self-help guides?
Anything at all?

There are three adults in our household, and three completely different, and largely incompatible, approaches to a new piece of "kit". My husband settles down with the manual before he unpacks anything else, reads it in depth and, if necessary, identifies every component part of the purchase, counting screws and checking boxes. I will have a cursory glance at the manual and then embark on setup, following the instructions reasonably closely and despairing almost immediately because it won't work. Younger son leaves the manual in the box. If you gave us the same object simultaneously and told us to get it working, he'd probably win hands down.

How-to guides? Well, if you count cookery books, then we all read – and use - them. I like gardening books, too, and wouldn't contemplate pruning a fruit tree without reading up\ on it first. When I was growing up my parents had a wonderful book, passed round as a great treasure, which was a compilation of handicraft leaflets published by Dryad Handicrafts (an interesting offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement, see here for information). We learnt to make all sorts of things from these: lino cuts (potato cuts for the children), raffia mats, stencilling, french knitting – there was even a leaflet on bookbinding, and one Christmas my stepmother made me an elegantly bound marble-covered notebook, possibly the beginning of my stationery addiction. I often borrow how-to books from the library, particularly books on petit-point and lace knitting. And there's the Access manual, of course. I've spent hours with that. Aargh!

Lastly, self-help guides. These don't loom large on my horizon. I'll borrow them from the library to find out how to deal with something specific – migraine, for instance, and browse them, making the odd note of anything that might prove useful. Really, I use them in the way I use all reference books, to find the solution to a specific problem. I know some people find them irresistible, but I lack the staying power for self-improvement.


Megan said...

Great post. I myself like self help books, but maybe not as much as my post and comments have led people to believe. *shrugs* I love writing and writing and self help books are sort of hand in hand for me. Sometimes they only have to write about is the craziness inside of you, and the self help books help you understand or see it.

Susie Vereker said...

I find reading self-help and how-to books & manuals an excellent substitute for actually doing anything.

Anonymous said...

One thing I do normally do when I bring home anything that needs constructing is check that all the parts are there. I've spent too many frustrating hours in the past trying to build things that have bits missing.

gautami tripathy said...

I have had bad experience in the missing part direction. So I now check all parts before buying!

GeraniumCat said...

Megan, it sounds vain, but I think I've come to terms with my idiosyncrasies - I don't like some of them, but even if change would make me a better person, I'm used to myself as I am!

Susie, you're right, when I read self-help books it's in that spirit.

TT and Gautami, I know I should check, and I do in a cursory way, but if it's something complicated to put together, I will usually leave it to my husband - shameful, I know, but he likes to feel useful!

elizabethm said...

I am another with not much time for self help books. Like you I think it might be part of getting older and more comfortable with myself, massive failings and all!

GeraniumCat said...

Glad I'm not alone in that, Elizabeth!