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 (or even if it's still ‘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 - within minutes I’d 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, whereas to me they might as well be written in Hungarian.

Her two boys are equally practical. Her youngest, aged 15, built his own bed, and the other day he assembled a little 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 of the common sense scenario, I’d be the hopeless one left behind.

It seems I’m not alone. From dripping taps to wobbly 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, maybe a workbench in the shed, and the know-how to tackle at least ‘safe and simple’ DIY tasks. But in a poll by glass specialists Pilkington, many 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 had a fanciful notion that it “can’t be that hard” but 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...

* Kindness of strangers who give up their spare bedroom

I WAS on a bus recently and a boy who looked about 16 enquired, politely, about a hostel he was trying to reach. All he knew was it was near Manningham Lane but, unfamiliar with Bradford, he didn't know where that was. Another passenger told him which stop to get off at. Watching him leave the bus, clutching a small rucksack, I wondered why this smartly-dressed, softly-spoken young lad was in need of a hostel.

Young people from all walks of life end up on the streets. Bradford Nightstop offers 16-25-year-olds one-night accommodation in volunteers' homes, and over the past 25 years has provided 11,000 beds. "Giving up our spare room is a small thing, but huge for them," a volunteer told me. For many youngsters, it's a lifeline.

* Brutality of nature, seen through an icy lens

I HAD to look away, more than once, during Sunday's episode of Dynasties, David Attenborough's remarkable series about animals battling to protect their families. In Antarctica, a colony of penguins endured fierce storms, some unable to keep their eggs warm enough to hatch, others forced to abandon their chicks.

Controversially, the film crew stepped in to help some of the birds trapped in an icy ravine. Surely to ignore them would've been barbaric. It was a chink of light in a brutal, searingly honest and utterly captivating piece of television.