It seems bad days are not being reserved only for me. . .today the foreman seemed to be having a rough one. The builders start each day at McDonalds and today the foreman’s van refused to restart after his fortification. The dastardly effects of the McBreakfast are not reserved, either, to cars. Last week one of the builders ventured upstairs and knocked on my bedroom door as I was getting ready to go out.
“Can I have some water?” he gasped
“Of course! Help yourself…the kitchen is there” I pointed in the direction of the spare bedroom and continued wrestling a pesky O away from my makeup drawer as I attempted to apply mascara. The gulping I could hear suggested he had found a glass and sorted himself out but I followed him in to check.
“Ok?” I asked
“Yes, thank you”
“Dusty work huh?”
“No” he said “it was my breakfast. Its so salty!”
Following his breakdown the foreman then had to find his way here, leaving his van at Maccy D’s.
“I know how to get around in London” he sighed “but here, I didn’t know where I was.” he paused perhaps noticing my raised eyebrow. “Well….I know this is London but…you know what I mean”. I did indeed. He is from North London. We are in South London. North Londoners (generally) don’t believe London extends beyond the Southbank which wasn’t helped in this case by our street not showing up on Google Earth. Apparently we don’t exist at all.
His day got no better when he realised he would have to dig out a great big chunk of the floor to level off the sections between the old downstairs bathroom and the kitchen. We now have a grave shaped hole awaiting new joists and some concrete screed. This didn’t make my day much better either as it is at added cost. To top off both his day and mine he had words with our plumber over the phone which I was uncomfortable with. K has had a far more nurturing role on this project than simply manoeuvring pipe work and has got us out of a few tight spots for which S and I are hugely grateful, but I had handed the phone over so they could both speak their language together. On hanging up the foreman let off some colourful steam and I took the position “better out than in” and left him to it, retreating upstairs to my own version of steaming. A few minutes later he ventured up.
“Are you winning?” He asked me
“I’ll get there” I said. I pointed out some rounded corners we have, one of the only desirable features of the house and asked if his plasterers would be able to make them good again as they were crumbling away.
“Plasterers hate curves but we’ll get around it. Excuse the pun”
He apologised for being grumpy and for letting off at K. It was the result of a bad day he said. I know all about irrational bad days.
“How do we fix it for you?” I asked him.
“It’s fine it’s fine.” He replied.
The poor guy then had to get tubes and trains home but refused an offer of a lift to the station and left before collecting his cheque. He returned a few minutes later. “That would have topped it” he muttered. As he disappeared down the road I called K and apologised to him for the foreman’s tone. K was, understandably, peeved and though he had been caught up today said he would come later to finish off which should hopefully please the foreman after all. Sure enough, when I returned home this evening K had been and gone and a hole in the wall and dust around the loo is evidence that he has done what’s needed. Phew. Piggy in the middle between grumbling trades is no great place to be.
S and I synced our dinner to the baby meaning we had a little family time together and also a longer evening after O went to bed so we used it productively to continue with the wallpaper. We chose a section downstairs so as not to disturb O which was a good call as it was a patch where the paper was coming away more easily and we covered as much ground, or rather wall, in one hour together as I have done in three afternoons. Being downstairs, under a section of original (we think) plasterwork reminded me of another job we had planned to do which was to try and peel away some of the gunky paint to reveal the intricacies of the currently clogged up plaster detail. When we first moved in we tried a section using a green method we had researched on the internet using porridge ….and green it did indeed turn out to be. We mixed up a concoction of oats and water, spread it thickly onto a piece of the cornicing and covered it in cling film. ‘Wait 24 hours’ the instructions said and the porridge will have kept the moisture close enough to the paint to make it easy to peel off. Daily life distracted us so it wasn’t until 3 days later when I looked up and saw the patch had turned mouldy that I realised emergency removal was needed. It was as effective as you would probably expect porridge to be and did sod all. S has since tried some of the non toxic stripper on a piece with much more favourable results but I am wondering if I have the energy to start on that kind of restoration work. It’s one thing stripping wallpaper and doors when you are standing vertically. It’s quite another to strip paint while upside down.
My afternoon was gloriously spent in the hairdressers ….far away from the dust and dirt of the house ….and I treated myself to an Elle Decoration while my locks were tamed. I have a fairly severe magazine OCD, manifesting itself as not being able to ‘flick’ but rather reading systematically, page by page, including both the editorial and About The Contributors. Thankfully it excludes adverts and advertorial or whatever they call those fake promotional articles masquerading as reading material. Today, at the risk of sounding a bit wafty and spiritual, something the editor said resonated.
“I firmly believe that changing the physical, tangible world around you – your home and even your work environment – can have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing. In other words while it may not make you richer, thinner or attract the perfect mate, getting your home right will make you happier and healthier (which will probably sort the other stuff out too”
I recognise in myself that that is what I am trying to do…to make this house which is not making us feel happy or healthy right now into a space where we can grow our family. Ironically while we are busy stripping wallpaper away from the walls to reveal crumbling plaster I’m aware we are also probably only pasting over the crack left by the loss of our premature baby a few months ago. But as S said tonight, we have to try and pin our recovery on something. For me, this house is it.