The idea to pop in to our nearest DIY shop only took on out of being asked to wait for another hour to get the car’s headlights aligned in order to have it pass its annual MOT. Otherwise, given the fact that I felt like death warmed over and the weather outside further compounding the pitiful situation, my bed would have been the better alternative straight after the necessary car service.
Topps Tiles is not a DIY shop I’ve frequented before although I have heard of it and seen their TV adverts. Normally we head down to Homebase if we need to work on anything around the home. But this time round given the vicinity to this particular one to the place our car was being serviced, and the awful weather, we found ourselves dropping in. It was purely out of curiosity on my part – but also to get out of the rain and cold I must admit.
I have to say, this “window shopping” episode turned out to be quite an eye-opener. I am not saying I’m leaving Homebase – that would be silly given that they do have more of a range on offer in their stores. But when it comes to specialisation in the tiles or wood flooring, I am won over by Topps Tiles. We were very impressed by the range of services they had but more so, their sales staff who went out of their way to give us full attention, guidance and advise, even throwing in a free DIY DVD that trains you how to lay tiles etc! It is a pity the costs of exporting most of what we want to use abroad in another building project outweighs our budget, but if this wasn’t the case, I would most definitely buy and export. Still we were very impressed by all we learnt and saw.
The sales person giving me a set of business cards for people who could come and lay the tiles down for us after purchase brought me to recall a fellow Ugandan in the diaspora who is in this line of work. I was about to start searching through my contacts when something my husband said stopped me. You see, being a very private individual, my husband is very cautious about who he allows in to our home – especially if they happen to be from Uganda. Experience has made him evolve to guard his private dealings. Some of this caution I have come to appreciate stems from the lack of confidentiality or inability to isolate in a professional manner what is work, from social affairs of discourse.
Perhaps it is a cultural thing from having lived abroad for so long by both us in that it is disconcerting to head to a shop to purchase something and for the owner or sales person of the shop to lay claim to knowing you so well that he/she will happily share this knowledge (sometimes imagined or assumed) with whomever pops along or cares to listen. Or to expect you to know so and so in the Ugandan community, the current politics of this and that etc…basically the assumed social elements that appear to be so natural but which unfortunately come across as intrusive if not inquisitive.
My guess is that this is why most Africans shy away from utilizing their kinsmen. This, or the old adage: familiarity breeds contempt. It is easier to pay someone to come do a job you’ve contracted them to and not worry about them using the opportunity to fill up on information for their social networks as to who is who and what they do or have to anyone willing to give audience.
Lack of professionalism in relation to undertaking work of any kind remains any to some persons and sadly this is not just in contractual work of this nature alone, but in other areas such as in nursing and beyond. It is partly why most persons in the African communities would not share the causes of their illness or any social issues. This is costing Africans solidarity in being able to pool together resources, skills and finances that would bring about sustained positive empowerment and development.
I would dearly love to utilise the skills of my fellow kinsmen but how can I obtain guarantee that their only stake in working the job given is to ensure it is restricted to just that without coming across as being a snob or a pompous individual?