Mrs C has had a rude awakening!
It happened like this.
I’m not a practical man. A man of business, yes, having made my pile in cheese and got out while the going was good. For work around the house, however (not in the kitchen, of course – that’s Mrs C’s domain!), I usually get a man in.
Sadly, the man – whatever his reputation – proves, by and large, as practical as I. Which is to say, not practical at all – as those of you with memories of Dave will readily concur.
Our winters have been cruel of late, and the weather has taken its toll. The house is in a mess. Timbers are peeling, and anything that faces north needs touching up with a large brush.
A while ago – you may recall – a leaflet arrived, extolling the virtues of a local ‘handyman’ and ‘locksmith’. I kept the thing on file and last week gave the lad a bell.
His name is Simon and, it seems, for many years, he worked with pets in a commercial capacity; trading them over the counter, along with rubber bones that squeaked and bags of assorted nuts. Last summer, tragedy struck. (His own word, not mine.) Out of the blue, he developed an allergy to fur and had to call it a day.
I’m not sure selling domestic livestock for profit is the best apprenticeship for painting houses, but then I’m no expert. Our man was willing, eager – and attractively cheap – so I handed him the ball and told him to run with it.
He said he was up to his ears at present, mostly indoor work, but at the first sniff of a dry spell he’d be round to our house like a shot and ‘handle your exterior needs’.
This morning, at two minutes to seven, Mrs C – an early riser since her Girl Guide days – pulled back the bedroom curtains and screamed like a woman in peril.
I’m not an early riser myself, but on this occasion I was out of the stalls like a whippet – all but taking a short cut through the ceiling and into the loft.
A late-night forecast proving fair, our man had opted to get started early, and scurried up a ladder shortly after dawn, painting for Queen and country. He hadn’t thought to call us in advance, and was lucky I wasn’t armed. Bernard, a crack shot in his soldiering days, would have blown him into the next county.
Mrs C feels the chill, even on a summer’s day, so had on at least three layers of flannelette, and was as decent as a nun. But she’s gone into hiding since and won’t even surface to make a cup of tea, for fear our man has got designs on her.
While breaking off for a smoke in his van – it being illegal to light up in public these days unless you have a doctor’s note – he informs me the skylight over our downstairs loo is rotten, but he can knock up a replacement for a reasonable price.
He tells me that 14.3 per cent of all domestic break-ins last year were through a downstairs loo, and that I’m asking for trouble if I don’t get it seen to. Mrs C wouldn’t sleep at nights if she thought a youth might break in through the toilet window, so I give him the go-ahead and he makes a few notes on a pad.
He was here till just gone 4, sanding things down, taking measurements and drinking tea from a small metal flask, engraved with the face of a dog with one eye. He says it used to sit behind the counter of the shop where he worked and, though these days it would be fatal for him to go within half a mile of the beast, he keeps the image for old times’ sake.
I may be making too much of it, but I think he’s prone to exaggeration.
He tells me he lives with his widowed mother, spends a lot of time on the internet, and taught himself carpentry from a book.
I don’t tell Mrs C any of this. There’s no sense in worrying her further.
Thought for the Day
‘Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.’
G K Chesterton