It’s been over a year since we had the builders in. That’s the right phrase isn’t it? I’ve only finally recovered. I think I will be scarred for life. But I have reached that stage where I could actually consider having builders in again.
At the time though, my excitement at having an extension I have to admit dwindled by the day.
I stupidly escaped to Cambodia for three weeks in the vain hope it would all be over when I got back. Instead I came home to a demolished kitchen and a living room that looked as though squatters had moved in. My lovely husband had shoved everything onto the couches, into corners, and in piles on the floor. I stared aghast. The corner of the room that had once housed my couch and a little table with romantic candles now had a makeshift sink and washing machine. My living room in a matter of days had become lounge, kitchen, bathroom and junk room.
‘The tumble dryer finally broke,’ says my husband.
It just gets worse.
‘But we’re on the way.’
To madness I find myself thinking.
‘The builders arrive every morning at 7, so you’ll need to be up.’
‘But I’m jet lagged,’ I whine.
Oh God, did I agree to this. Can we go back?
‘Oh and the bathroom is coming down today. Come and meet the builders and see the portaloo.’
Why is making it all sound so glamorous? I just want to lie down and die. I’m so jet lagged. I don’t want to meet builders.
‘This is Dan, and Steve,’ says Andrew introducing me.
My lovely garden looks like a building site. I look at the portaloo and want to cry.
‘I need to lie down,’ I say only to find the bed unmade, Why is it men cannot make a bed? Is it that hard?
‘Well, there’s no point, we’ll be getting in it again later. ‘Says Andrew casually.
Now, I should tell you I am one of those women who clean up as people work. If Andrew does DIY, I’m there with the vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the dust as it falls. I’m dead serious. I can start working and if there is some mess on the floor I have to remove it otherwise I can’t concentrate.
To top it all. I’m right in the middle of a novel.
‘How can I write?’ I moan.
Honestly I’ve never moaned so much in my life.
‘You’ll cope,’ says Andrew.
He’s very understanding as you can tell.
I take another look at the living room and decide we can’t live like this and spend the next few hours sorting everything out. Dan and Steve keep looking at me and I see fear in their eyes. Oh yes, things are about to change. I’m home now.
I had these builders in my home for six months. During that time I had five periods. It’s no fun, trying to change a tampon in a portaloo when the builders are sitting outside it having their tea break.
I wrote a complete novel with them here. It was ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’
Dan became my own personal little helper. He would run out and bring in the washing when it rained. He took in parcels for me and the whole six months had me calling, ‘Dan,’ numerous times.
Then we had a little holiday. Just a week but we were so stressed that it became an emergency to have a break. We stayed at a lovely cottage in Cornwall which had a bathroom and a kitchen. I was in heaven. While we were away we arranged for the heating people to come in to install our new heat pump…
Right, I need a minute, a cup of tea and a Valium if I am to carry on. Just the word heat pump reminds me of that horror. Forget Freddie Kruger and nightmare on Elm Street. Forget Norman Bates and Pyscho. Just think heat pump and a company called Verdalec. There I’ve said the name. I’ve actually said it. I have never wished evil on anyone but If I could perform spells on these people I would do it tomorrow. We were doing well. Dan was wonderful. Steve was excellent. Kevin our main builder was brilliant. Everything was going according to plan and then along came Verdalec. There I have said it twice now. I emailed Dan to ask if they had been and whether the heat pump was installed. It took a long time for lovely Dan to reply. Of course, I understand why now. Finally, a text.
‘Hi Lynda, yes they have been. They were everywhere so we couldn’t do much.’
Oh yes, anything to get out of working and having another tea break with doughnuts. Of course, I was later to discover that lovely Dan had queried their mess and had actually gone behind them to clear up so it wouldn’t look too bad when we returned home. Bless his cotton socks. Because I cannot begin to tell you what it looked like when we returned home and this was after Dan had cleared up. I walked into the living room and my stomach sank. I don’t know why. It had looked like this for some time now but after leaving the lovely cottage in Cornwall it just looked a hundred times worse somehow. I went upstairs to take our suitcase and unpack and must have groaned so loudly because Andrew and Bendy came rushing upstairs. If only cats could talk. Bendy would probably tell you he seriously considered leaving home. The poor little bugger had no cat flap and was forced to stay out all night. His food was left outside as there was nowhere in the house for it. His kitchen had gone, which had once been his sleeping place. Our little cuddles on the loo (best not to go into those) had gone, as we no longer had a loo. Plus these big burly men came every day and scared the shit out of him so that he spent most of his time under the duvet. I can tell you I came close to joining him often. We were now all staring at the hole in Andrew’s office door and the scratches along the stair wall. I leaned on the bannister for support and nearly went down the whole flight of stairs as it came away in my hands. Andrew rescued me. I stumbled into the bedroom for a good cry and then saw the black footprints up the bedroom wall leading to the loft.
‘I’m phoning Dan,’ said an angry Andrew.
‘It’s not his fault,’ I hiccup.
‘Come on let’s go into the summer-house,’ he suggested. ‘That’s our sanctuary.’
Now Is the time to hide behind the cushions. This is worthy of a movie, I tell you. The summer-house was the one place not touched by builders. A place to relax, escape it all. I opened the door, a cup of tea in one hand and my laptop in the other. I opened the door and gasped. Someone had been in there. You know how you just know these things? Of course there were the giveaway signs. Bearing in mind I had cleaned the summer-house thoroughly before going away. It wasn’t just a feeling that someone had been in there, it was more the dirty footprints that gave it away and the throw on the chair all messed up. Of course the mud on the carpet was a complete giveaway.
‘I’ll kill them,’ I cried.
‘Right,’ said Andrew with that look on his face when he means business.
Oh, why did I ever go on holiday?
Dan explained that there had been about six people who came to fit the boiler and heat pump. That they made some mess and that he queried it but they said some mess is to be expected. So Dan, vacuumed and did his best to put the stair bannister back. Andrew then left a stroppy message on the answer phone of the director of the heating company. Two days later someone came to see me and the damage. We went upstairs and he looked at the door and the boiler.
‘Well you can see the size of that.’ He said.
For one awful minute I wondered what it was we were talking about the size of. Fortunately it was the same thing. The boiler.
There in moments in life when you have to bite your lip isn’t there? This was one of them. I chose not to bite mine.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well it was difficult for the guys to get that in here. It’s a small cottage in all fairness.’
‘Yes but in all fairness, the guys could have removed the door,’ I said.
He looks thoughtful.
‘How can you be sure hour guys did it?’
Now I saw red. Was he blaming it on Dan or the other builders?
‘I’ve had my builders here for three months. Dan even tells me when he spills water anywhere. I somehow think he would let me know if he bashes my door in. Your guys did it.’
‘Okay, we’ll obviously pay for the damage but you understand that damage happens when things like this are done.’
Finally he went. After agreeing to the pay the cost of painting the bedroom wall and fixing the door. I then decide not to go away again while I have work being done in the house. Of course it stupidly didn’t occur to me that they could do just as much damage when I’m in the house as when I am out of it.
To be continued…