Our house looks like a bomb has hit it.
This is not, I should add, a criticism of my good lady’s domestic skills. Far from it. The better half has no equal with the dustpan and brush, and her scrubbing techniques are the envy of the village. The germ that cocks its leg at her isn’t long for this world, and that’s a fact. She’s won ‘Best Kitchen’ three years in a row with the local Homemakers group; and other women have been known to break down and cry when they see her clean a sink.
No. We are having renovations. And of the worst possible kind.
Several years ago, the current Mrs C set her heart on a new bathroom. I ummed and aahed for as long as I decently could, and managed to delay the grisly prospect till last November. Possibly I should have held out longer, but years of shifting cheese from door to door has taken its toll. And Mrs C is a determined woman. Especially where fittings are concerned.
We found a chap in the local paper – Dave – and invited him in for a quote. When he finally gave it to us (after a good deal of measuring, tutting and shaking his head), I told him – not unfairly, I felt – that he had misunderstood. I was after a price for updating the bathroom – not his best guess as to what we might get if we chose to rent out the house for a year.
Dave – an unfeasibly tall and slender man, with no facial hair – told me his was the going rate and, if I could find anyone cheaper, they were probably up to no good. I might have accepted the challenge, had his not been our fifth quote in as many weeks. And, sadly, the lowest by far. So I bit the bullet and we shook on the deal.
He said he was a busy man, but could ‘squeeze us in’ during the ‘back end’ of May and the job would take three weeks.
Well, today the nightmare began.
Tiles are being chiselled free as I type, and bits of wall exposed that haven’t seen the light of day for 30 years. Dave says he’s never seen anything like it. The plasterboard, he claims, must have been ‘put up by a girl’. (His words, not mine, should any ladies be looking in.) How the ceiling hasn’t come down long before now and crushed us in the bath is a mystery to him.
What the EU would make of it is anyone’s guess, he says. What business it is of theirs, I’ve no idea. (I didn’t tell him that, of course, as he’d have only downed tools and talked about it for a week. He favours UKIP, and has a photo of Nigel Farage in his bedroom. Greece is doomed, he informs me, though the drachma won’t be making a comeback. Sterling is the currency of the future, he adds, ‘just see if it isn’t’. But he elaborates no further.)
He’s only been at the job three hours and already claims to be behind schedule. With further delay on the cards if his mutterings about the plumbing are anything to go by. (In 1996 the shower sprang a leak and flooded the kitchen. I made the mistake of letting him know, at which point he shook his head and turned gloomy; as if I were his doctor and had told him something grim.)
‘We’re in for a long haul,’ he tells me, over his mid-morning cup of tea and biscuits. ‘But we’ll get there,’ he adds, in a voice that is doubtless supposed to reassure me, but which doesn’t at all.
He has an assistant, Eric, a young lad, ‘learning the trade’. I’m not sure what trade he’s hoping to become skilled in as his main task, as far as I can see, is to hold the ladder while Dave knocks seven bells out of the ceiling. Then stand around and pick his nose while Dave mutters about the latest thing he’s found under the floorboards that’s not to his liking.
It could be a long haul, indeed.
Thought for the Day
‘Talking about the future – which we’ll come to in a minute…’
Ghengis Khan (1162-1227)