DAVID Beckham took six days to piece together a Lego Disney Castle, following 490 pages of instructions. I am more impressed by this than by anything he has done on the football pitch. Following instructions is something that does not come easily to me. I look at them, read maybe the first or second line, then my brain scrambles.

When we got a new microwave I took one look at the instruction booklet and was traumatised for a month. I got to grips with the basics, purely through trial and error. I can set the time, but can’t begin to work out weights of meat for defrosting and difficult stuff like that.

It’s the same with the washing machine. When we chose it we avoided those that had more dials than the flight deck of a Boeing 747, but even our basic model has a fat instruction booklet. I’ve managed to set it for a simple wash but can’t begin to figure out ‘synthetic with a hint of wool on a medium cycle with short spin’ or other such options. I abandoned the booklet on delivery.

I can’t even work our DVD player and we’ve had it for years. The instructions rivalled something from Stephen Hawking’s thesis.

I think some people’s minds are wired differently. When I was a child Meccano and Airfix were all the rage. My brother and his friends effortlessly made rockets, planes, cranes, diggers, all manner of things from of bits of metal and plastic. I remember looking at the instruction sheets spread out on our kitchen table and being glad that I had Barbie dolls.

Instructions can be far too complex. My tiny point-and-click camera did not come with an instruction booklet, just a piece of paper with a website, from where I could download them. When I pressed ‘print’ it used up almost 100 sheets of paper. After a quick glance I rebuked myself for not having a PhD in maths and put them in the bin.

The instruction problem is made worse by being in 50 different languages, so it takes an hour to find the English section.

I’m more of a muddle-through person. When we got a new microwave I was traumatised for a month until I got to grips with the basics, through fiddling around. I pressed random buttons until I got it right. The instruction booklet didn’t make anything clear.

Our phone was the same. I managed, eventually, to follow the clear-as-mud instructions but it took me all evening to create a list of contacts, and even now they are not easy to access.

Even my vacuum cleaner has an accompanying novel outlining how to set it to tackle low carpets, high carpets (who has shag pile nowadays?), laminate, tiles, you name it. No wonder I often leave it in the cupboard and resort to dustpan and brush.

Why can’t things be made simple? You would think that man had been around long enough to know that simpler is better, that people want things they can understand.

The people who write these things don’t even use simple language like ‘on and ‘off’, replacing them with ‘power up’, ‘shut down’ or ‘sleep mode’ or some sci-fi-sounding phrase.

If something is really complicated, I need a human being to show me and talk me through. Then I like to have a go myself, a few times, under supervision. For me, that's the only way I can properly learn.

Although I did once use a set of instructions to make a shoe rack from a flat pack kit I bought in Netto. With only four pieces of wood, it was a bit like an Early Learning Centre toy, and the instructions were at my level of simplicity. I was so proud of myself when I'd finished it that I showed it off to all my friends.