I KNOW I’m middle-aged because: I like an afternoon nap; I tut at children in pushchairs who look old enough to walk; I’ve considered joining the National Trust; I’ve no idea what’s Number 1 in the charts; most days I forget where I’ve left my glasses; and I potter around on Sunday mornings half-listening to The Archers omnibus.

Another sign of middle age is that I now possess a radiator key. I remember my dad ‘bleeding radiators’ but I never knew what it meant. This year I moved house and discovered my central heating was as noisy as thunder. “The boiler is going to blow up,” I wailed to my brother who arrived, calm, capable, armed with a spanner, and set about releasing air from radiators and fiddling with the boiler. He explained to me why it kept losing pressure - I’d quickly forgotten.

I just don’t have the brains for practical household tasks. I spent years in rented accommodation and when I finally bought my own home it was a low maintenance flat. My partner was as rubbish as me. “Don’t expect me to put up shelves,” he said, early in our relationship. Now I have an old house, which I love, but I live in fear of it crumbling around me.

I feel hopelessly out of my depth, yet I come from a family of no-nonsense ‘can-doers’ who embrace everything, from fixing leaks to laying floors. My sister is queen of flat-pack furniture and, weirdly, enjoys the challenge of putting it together. She has recently assembled bookcases, coffee tables and a sofa bed for me; breezily slotting and screwing pieces of wood together without a bead of sweat. My contribution was to hover around, put the kettle on and fetch little bowls for the nuts, bolts, washers and screws that she instinctively knows how to use. She even understands flat-pack instruction manuals.

Her two boys are equally practical. Her youngest, aged 15, built his own bed, and the other day he assembled a table for me in about 20 minutes. How do they know this stuff? I don’t even own a screwdriver. And I once ended up in tears trying to change a lightbulb. If I was part of an animal pack, in a survival scenario I’d be the hopeless one left behind.

It seems I’m not alone. From dripping taps to broken door handles, a survey suggests we’d rather put up with problems than attempt to fix them. Once every household had a well-stocked toolbox and the know-how to tackle at least ‘safe and simple’ DIY tasks. But in a poll by glass specialists Pilkington, DIY-dodgers admit they live with leaky taps, damaged walls, even broken toilets. Laziness, poor skills and lack of time are the most common excuses.

With no natural instinct for practical tasks, I decided to try and learn some skills. One of my kitchen walls needs plastering and I thought it “can’t be that hard”. Then on the Homebase instructions I saw the words ‘bolster chisel’, ‘club hammer’ and ‘gauging trowel’ and felt a stress rash coming on. I could no more plaster a wall than score a winning goal in the World Cup. I considered putting a big picture over the bit that needs plastering, then decided it would be easier to get someone in. That’s what the professionals are there for, right?

Thing is, I probably won’t. I’ll learn to live with it, along with the radiators that continue to be noisy, the boiler that loses pressure, the holes in my wonky kitchen floor and the shower that turns itself on at random moments. The joys of home ownership...