A rattling at the door alerted us to the prompt arrival of the builders, their key no longer giving them access as bolt and chain were still pulled across. S alighted to welcome them with some Monday morning humour.
“We are sick of you so we’ve locked you out”
A wry smile from S. Silence from the foreman.
“The bolt was still on as I haven’t left yet” S continued in explanation.
“I see that” replied the foreman dryly.
The exchange didn’t really pave the way for the touchbase S had planned. He arrives home each night long after both the builders and the sun have departed and so weekends give him a chance to look over the work in the daylight and get a feel for how the project is shaping up. We had pulled together a list of questions and I cowered behind S as he went through each one in turn. . . the positioning of a cupboard wall, the positioning of the stopcock, the positioning of the radiator pipe work and the possibility of extending a step to mask a change in floor height into the WC. The foreman listened and agreed reluctantly to change a few things around before finally uttering the famous sentence used by builders across the land…
“I can do it. You can have whatever you want. But it’ll cost ya.”
The foreman, eager to get his own back on this grisly Monday morning, had his own list of grievances. Our shower is “pissing down”…. his words…..into the new plasterboarded ceiling and he asked us to reconsider bath times. S was having none of this. The leak has been caused by the seals around the bath breaking due to the resettling of the house now that steels are replacing supporting walls. A comedy arrangement has been rigged up as a temporary measure – a shower curtain gaffered to the wall – until S either finds his sillicone gun (another casualty of our house’s eclectic appetite) or the builders offer to put right what they’ve made wrong. This discussed, we were then mildly reprimanded for not sourcing any paving and looked on disapprovingly for our wallpaper stripping efforts. In that area, having shed blood (we’ve both sustained steaming injuries), sweat (goes with the territory) and tears (I’m a woman….. and not always a very nice one) at the weekend we admitted we needed help and have asked to pay his labourer to help out.
Progress on the house has moved on rapidly but snow on the ground sent me back in time to a few weeks ago…a lifetime ago… and I didn’t like the feeling. So I was thankful for having plans arranged in order to escape and I filled the window of time before my arranged rendezvous by going, obediently, to look at paving. Now …. I can get excited about shopping for all manner of house related materials….I once dragged a friend carpet shopping on a bank holiday….but I’m finding it difficult to get inspired by paving. Reclaimed has been ruled out for fear the foreman and his team would walk so I hit some DIY stores, O in tow. Or rather, O out front in his pushchair which is a sight not usually seen in trade warehouses. Ignoring the quizzical looks and armed with both bathroom tile samples and a paving slab I manoeuvred the buggy back to the car one-handed and headed off to meet a friend for some swimming. An hour or so later, with one little, wet, wriggling body restrained in a less than clean council cubicle and myself partially dressed, I got a call from the foreman. “Just wondering when you are coming back?” He wanted to talk patios. I negotiated another hour to have time to dry off and get dressed, have a coffee and feed both O and myself. Dry and suitably refuelled we headed home.
The builders certainly can’t be accused of hanging about and already a huge chunk of garden had been sliced back, knarled old diseased trees removed and an old garden wall taken out. I stood with the foreman for a good while, paralysed with indecision, contemplating how wide the steps should be before finally picking a number (any number). After I’d brought coffee down I was then told the sink I’d bought for the downstairs loo would now not fit. The Non Appearing Work of the Finally Appearing Gasman has meant pipes and a meter need to be boxed in, eating into the space the sink would have been. I’ll need to either negotiate a return and exchange or embark on some ebaying.
A friend and her baby braved the building site and visited us for tea, cake and finger painting before O and I headed to B&Q to collect some more paving samples to run by S. At close of business the bathroom tiling has been decided (K the plumber arrives tomorrow and wants details so he can quote) but no decision has yet been made regarding the patio.
The hunt for the Perfect Paving continues…