This morning, wondering momentarily if I had found my true vocation….now I have people’s sugar preferences clear again…. the kitchen turned into a cafe as I served up coffee after coffee as each of the current building team turned up in quick succession.
P arrived first.
“Where’s the little man?” he asked as I greeted him at the door.
“In bed, but stirring…” I replied “I’m just about to get him. By the way, the adhesive and tiles are in the hall”
“Ok” he said and we both headed upstairs….me avoiding a conversation about flooring which was likely to come up today.
Originally we had fancied the eco-friendly option of marmoleum but had found the price staggering and worried too that it might scratch easily. Switching our allegiance then to tiles we had asked K for a price. More than a week later we got one…. almost twice that of the expensive marmoleum. To underfloor heat or not then became the question and we oscillated between the two for a further week, changing our minds twice last Friday alone. Over the weekend things changed again. I had needed to call P, K’s plasterer at my side, to ask how a particular bit of wall was going to be finished. P took the opportunity to give me his shopping list, one more pack of slate and some adhesive, in addition to the news that the slate we had chosen might not be suitable for little feet after all…it’s varying thicknesses meaning corners might well end up being raised and likely to stub little, as well as larger, toes. Obediently I had driven to Topps armed with samples of the metro and slate tile where the staff, greeting me by name, had helped me make my necessary purchases and find a smoother alternative for the floor. Struggling to make a third tile work in the mix I had given up and suggested to S that we return to his favoured marmoleum…with a strict no-shoe policy. Whilst I was fairly sure P wouldn’t much care either way, I wasn’t looking forward to K’s response to further dithering….
C arrived next, magically appearing behind me having let himself in quietly with his keys.
“Morning” he said, unpacking his tobacco. I jumped.
“Crikey. Are you related to Samantha from Bewitched?” I asked, referring to the American sitcom where a housewife had the ability to instantly appear and disappear. He stared blankly back at me.
“Not to worry. Coffee?”
“Uh. Yes please”
With K and G arriving minutes later another couple were made whist O gently reminded me of his hunger by the rhythmic thud of his spoon against the table followed by a dismayed “ohhhhhh Dod” as he dropped it. Meanwhile C talked me through the outcome of his Friday doctors appointment, halting the tale briefly as I orchestrated the poaching of an egg before resuming it again from whence it left off when he felt I was suitably attentive. As he persisted in his monotonic tale, I rummaged in cupboards and drawers trying to reassemble the coffee station of fresh mugs, Nescafe and sugar whilst eggy water boiled furiously (on our newly connected hob) and the kettle, for my coffee this time, added its beep to the cacophony of noises each obstinately jostling for my attention.
With hot drinks made and distributed and doctors tale maybe or maybe not finished….I can’t be sure… C sloped off, buttered toast in hand, to resume wallpapering as O and I finally sat down to our breakfast.
We were interrupted by K.
“So, this cistern….?” he began
Mouth full I looked up pleadingly. The hint wasn’t taken.
“Do you have it?” he continued.
I swallowed, shaking my head.
“Sorry K, it hadn’t arrived last week. I’ll go down in person today and see what I can get.”
“I can’t see why a bathroom shop doesn’t have a cistern. I could walk into Plumbworld now and get one…”
“I know….it was the style of the one I’d originally chosen and they didn’t have it in stock they said. I’ll go down and see.” I sighed resignedly at the thought of another errand.
“Because if not P won’t be able to come in tomorrow.” he said firmly “There won’t be anything for him to do.”
I looked sadly at my egg going cold and braced myself.
“We’ve also changed our minds…again…about the floor” I said carefully
“Oh” he said lips pursed.
“P has said the tiles aren’t really suitable and I don’t have time to run about trying to find a third tile to go with everything else.” I explained hurriedly “so now I just need to find out when marmoleum can be fitted which will have implications….we may yet have to have another plan…I’ll find out today.” I paused “When are you ready for it to go in?”
A simple question, I thought. The answer was not so. Struggling to pick out the essential information through the barrage of moaning and technical jargon I deduced finally that the answer was ASAP.
“Did you buy caulk?” he asked.
“Ah.” He rolled a cigarette.
“I’ll pick some up this morning. Is midday too late? Do you need it before then?”
“No, that’s fine.” he said, heading out to the patio as I scooped up the breakfast things and unstrapped O from his highchair.
“Right” I said, mentally preparing our morning itinerary.
“Right” O mimicked back. “Scooter?” and with that he indicated his priorities for the day with a lap around the island.
B&Q was our first stop with O easily entertained by the novelty of pulling along the orange wheeled basket while I popped in the caulk and silicone. Sainsburys food shop was next followed by the bathroom warehouse where we successfully obtained the elusive cistern. Detouring home to issue K with his prize, we headed next to Fired Earth for water based eggshell…having discovered over the weekend that whilst B&Q claim to have a water based version, they appear to have omitted any other effective ingredients rendering it useless. On to the carpet shop in search of floor coverings for the lounge, stairs and landing…closed….before heading to the glaziers to collect an order of laminated glass for the upstairs doors which I’d placed Friday. The order had not been cut. In fact the order, when found amidst a pile of paperwork, appeared to take everyone by surprise….or rather…..gum chewing indifference.
“It’ll take a few hours” the chap said, staring expressionlessly back at my horrified face.
“I paid for that on Friday on the promise that it would be ready first thing.” I said, a silent O burying his face into the crook of my neck away from the unfamiliarity of the testosterone filled workshop as men blasphemed their way through the weekends gossip.
“I’ve got a builder at home waiting to put this in.” I continued, irritation clipping at my tone.
“The guy who was going to do it is off” he said simply.
“That doesn’t help me,” I said “when I’ve got a builder on a day rate ready to install it.”
“I can do it now but it will take, as I said, a few hours.” he repeated, shrugging.
“And you’ll deliver it” I said, more of a command than a question.
“Er…well that could take longer, I can’t promise when you’d get it”
“You said a couple of hours. That’s when I need it.”
A man sauntered out of a room, fastening his fly.
“Can you drop some glass off in an hour or so” my chap asked him
“Yeah. Course.” he replied easily.
“Thank you” I said and satisfied left the shop.
As I strapped O back into his car seat for the umpteenth time my phone buzzed.
“Did you get putty?” C asked.
“No….I…..no.” I replied, head in hands. “What do I need?”
He explained in some detail the aisle in B&Q where I’d find the tube he wanted and so we returned for our second visit of the morning. O delightedly took ownership of yet another orange basket and having seen how it was done on our previous visit, busily set about collecting a random selection of tubes from the shelves. Basket full to brimming, he set off with a wave and a “bye bye later” for aisles unknown pulling his heavy load behind him. Curtailing his adventures and emptying the basket back onto the shelves tube by tube, I called C.
“They have tubs of putty. Or there’s a number of silicones and sealants.” Less, admittedly, now that O was busily trying to refill the emptied basket. “But they don’t have tubes of putty.”
“It is there, that’s the thing” he said adamantly, “You see the blue and green wood glue behind you? Opposite are the sealants then just up from that, about knee height and before you get to the masking tape is the putty.”
Surprised by his accuracy I looked again.
“That’s where I am.” I assured him. “Theres putty in a tub but no tubes.”
“It’s definitely there” he insisted and repeated the directions to me again.
“Ive asked a member of staff” I said “and they have never heard of it.”
“I can’t believe they dont know their own stock” he said, disgusted. “its there” and he relayed the layout of the shelves to me again. Alas, the tube of putty did not appear.
“What do you want me to get?” I asked as frustration threatened to wear away my patience. “A tub?”
“You could go to Screwfix. They would have it there.”
Obediently I gathered O, abandoning his basket of sealants irresponsibly in the aisle, strapped him again in his carseat and headed to Screwfix where the entire process was repeated ……and I bought a tub.
Returning home, to be followed only minutes later, thankfully, by my delivery of glass, I fed a hungry and very patient O and settled him down for a nap. Back downstairs I helped C to organise the glass …each door having slightly different measurements….but it was a frustrated C, the doors not wanting to relinquish their old glass and accept new without a fight, who packed away his tools, radio, kettle, spoon and mug this evening…his last day here. He will return in a couple of weeks to finish the hallway floor and the remaining two doors but there was an odd and somehow ‘final’ ambiance as he cleared and swept out the snug, passing its ownership reluctantly back to us. The clear up took more than an hour to complete and I was midway through O’s bath time when he finally called upstairs with a goodbye.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done here” I said to him from the top of the stairs, one hand on the bathroom door where O was sat filling and unfilling bottles with water…not always in the bath.
“We will miss you.”
He nodded and in strangely Poppins-like way said,
“Perhaps it’s time for me to go somewhere else. Allow someone else to miss me”
“Bye.” he said simply, and closed the door behind him.