I arrived home from the nursery drop, Sainsburys and a detour to Topps Tiles to find both C and P watching the kettle boil, eyebrows raised at the blackboard Diary Door now in operation.
“You’ve got a couple of nice easy days at the beginning of the week” noted P, nodding towards the blank Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Hmmm,” I responded, mildly embarrassed. Realising that I hadn’t quite thought this one through I added, in a feeble attempt to save face, “I’m going to start on the lounge today so not sure how easy that will be” before huffing and puffing my way, as if the job was in some way hard through the emptying of my shopping bags into the fridge.
Whilst easy it may be, the decoration of the lounge isn’t a job I’m particularly looking forward to. With the fireplace emitting soot and grit intermittently like a dragon with a cough and the cheap curtains crudely nailed to the window frame blocking out the daylight its been feeling recently like a very unfriendly place to be. Bringing it back into the fold will be rewarding even if the thought of all the prep needed….sanding the skirting, smoothing the cornicing of any dried, curled paint left after my steaming operation a month or so ago, caulking around the joins as they both meet the wall, washing the lot with sugar soap, masking off the fireplace…is offputting. I sighed and delayed it all a little longer while I joined C and P for that coffee.
Whilst we sipped, I handed over my Topps Tiles purchases. More spacers for C and something to do with a tile cutter for P. The message I had received from him requesting I buy it was more reassuring than you might think. Yesterday P, a tiler, arrived bearing Maltesers for O but without the crucial tile cutter. O was delighted with the trade-off….sitting on the floor with legs in an open V, bowl nestled protectively between them murmuring chocolatey ‘mmmmmmm’s. I was less so. Firstly as the Maltesers had been handed over before breakfast (I wrestled the packet back and guiltily relented to allowing him four) and secondly as there were a pile of tiles to cut and Maltesers, particularly chewed ones, aren’t renowned for being very effective at the job. The reason for having a tradesman with no tool is because we have a tradesman with no transport, his theory being that “there’s never anywhere to park so you have to walk miles with your gear anyway”. Instead he catches lifts from K or works the London Transport system, going into London Bridge then out again, picking up buses where needed and leaving at the crack of dawn to miss both commuters and children. This elaborate method of getting about is adding another element of complication as with no keys, K the obvious donator having ‘misplaced’ his set, we are having to develop ways of giving him access to the house for 8am which is also nursery start time. Last week I picked P up on my way home but this week, with no prior arrangement made, wires were crossed ending up with a dash down to the station and back at 8.20 before taking O hurriedly to nursery late sans school bag. However, all things can be forgiven for trusted tradesmen, particularly as we continue to try and unpick the mess J and his cowboyed attempts at electrics have put us in. Therefore the request to buy the part for the cutter meant, at least, that P has one. It turns out that its C’s, a kindhearted gesture which may go some way towards deflecting K’s teasing when he returns to site tomorrow. Or then again it may not…
Speaking of whom, in the knowledge that I would be home a few hours after C arrived, I had called him from Sainsburys.
“Morning. How are you?” I began.
“Er. Yeah. Fine” said C.
“I’m back in an hour or so but wanted just to tell you one thing in case its too late by then….”
“Oh, ok” said C warily.
“There’s one tile in the border run which is the wrong way round. It needs to be flipped. Is that possible now? I was going to try and lift it out last night myself but they seemed stuck firm”
“Actually” C said with a cough “it’s not one tile….it was all of them.”
I paused, confused. He went on to explain….
Apparently yesterday he had started putting them in the wrong way round, unaware that there was such a thing. Coming to the corner tile, impossible to lay any other way than the way in which it was intended, he realised with a jolt that the single line should be on the inside, the double on the outside. He switched them all around. Detailing the logistics of a mistake he had made and, more importantly rectified yesterday – well under my radar – he remained seemingly oblivious to the point I was making which referred to an issue still apparent today. Once the penny dropped, following a similarly looping, roundabout journey pennies make when inserted at the top of those museum donation boxes, he cut himself off with a cry.
“I see what you mean! Not a problem. This is not a problem. I can fix it. How did I miss that? The light must have been off….”
“Thanks C, is it difficult?”
“No, no…it’s not difficult. We have spares so if all else fails I can break it but I should be able to lift it off.”
An ashamed C, whose instant and dismissive response to the illustration provided by the Fired Earth manager depicting how the layout of the ‘runner’ had been designed…”He’s not put the tiles in correctly, the stars don’t match up”…berated himself for the rest of the day. However, the tiles in question were lifted out and replaced with no apparent further drama.
Meanwhile, S was busy trying to unravel the complicated mess we have gotten into regarding the electricity feed by completing and returning the necessary forms to the grid ….while I accepted an offer from our electricity supplier for a site visit. A phone call from S highlighted that I was meddling in areas which are clearly Technology Manager domain so I took a deep breath, gathered together sanding equipment and caulk gun and, procrastination over, got to work in the lounge. Not able to leave S’s domain completely alone I did deviate from the task briefly to place a bid on an Ebayed dining table….us having talked ourselves out of the Habitat one.
“What should I offer?” I’d asked the Chief Negotiator last night.
He threw me a number.
I entered it minus a tenner.
I won the table.
As someone who used to cower in embarrassment as S began striking deals….in fairness one of those was once excruciatingly attempted in a shoe shop with “what price will you give me for cash?” ….. I’m learning.