Every so often, life spins away from you, like a ball of wool unrolling across the floor. It is quite probable that, until that moment, you’d always thought of yourself in the life that you live as a reasonably organised element of a reasonably organised whole. And then … well, the landlady from next door decided to refurb her tatty flat and although she sat on your sofa, saying all the right things, an attractive woman with respectable diamonds, you can’t ignore the little voice in your ear which whispers “Yes and now you’ve said all that – you’ll do exactly as you like.” And she did – well her builders did, because she is sixty miles out of town, the relevant solicitor fifty miles in the opposite direction and you just thank heaven you are not the tenant in the lower flat. What should take three weeks takes six and I am sorry to tell you but just because people work hard, it doesn’t mean they do a good job.
There is of course a whole sociological study in who other people use to do what. Well, more than one. There’s the neighbour up the road who explained that her builders were just wonderful – of course, they couldn’t follow the roughest drawing so she had to show them what she meant and she thought they’d be through in six weeks – ha ! (her kitchen took six months and a year after that, the discarded bricks and concrete are still stacked up outside the house). Or the woman who brings in whoever it is, finds fault with whatever they do and brings in a second shift to complete the unsatisfactory work. I’d like her bank balance. And the friend whose neighbours hardly speak and don’t wash, who hired to repair the damaged section of property they share a roofer with a previous record who is currently under section as they all enter month five of what was supposed a three week job . Builders and plumbers have us all by the short and curlies and they know it.
The con of the roof over your head is that as long as it doesn’t leak and there is enough of it to go round, you think everything is all right. But really the name of the game is less decoration than maintenance and as the lovely Linda Evangelista once remarked “After 40, half of what you’ve got goes in keeping things where they are” – which is just as true of a building as it is of a face.
The trouble is that troubles don’t come singly.
I invited painters in to give an estimate and showed them the blistering low down the side of the bathroom wall. “Don’t worry “ smiled chummy” we’ll make that right.” Which was fine till Mr. Interiors called in between millionaires for a cup of rosie and I showed it to him. “It’s a leak “ he said at his kind and authoritative best, and he has his plumber and builder in the next morning to discover a slow leak at the bottom of the badly made cistern casing which was a parting gift from the original pain in the neck of 16 years previously. “And all because they were too mean to put on a long enough length of pipe” said the plumber in disgust.
So sing a song of rebuilt cistern, a repainted bathroom, regrouted tiles and the painters throughout – “What estimate?” enquired Mr. Interiors, his nostrils on the flare. “Use my boys. They’ll meet your estimate and do a better job.” Well, it was due and if you’ve got this much to do, you might as well do the rest. Which is mostly why the wool of my existence is rolling down the road. “ What should I do to get ready for Terry and John ?” I asked Mr. Interiors plaintively. “Let them come and arrange things” he said. “I don’t want to be rude but you are past the age of hefting furniture about when there are two strong men who expect to do it.”
And when it’s all done and I have used it as an excuse for a belated spring clean, I shall love it and forget how my heart quailed at the thought of moving everything.