C arrived first thing Saturday morning as promised and hovered expectantly at the island in anticipation of his morning cuppa.
“How’s the job going?” I asked as I waited for the kettle to boil.
“Yeah. Ok” he said, placing his tobacco tin down and reaching into his pocket for rizlas.
“I met my boss for the first time this week,” he extracted a paper from the packet, “the big boss”
“Ah. And how was he?” I asked, watching him pinching at his tobacco.
“Well…..he looks a bit like a combination of that American president….”
“No. The other one…”
“Yeah. A combination of Bill Clinton” he tapped his cigarette against the countertop “and Keith Chegwin….but he was alright.”
“Are you enjoying it?”
“The problem is…it’s like all these things..” he strolled purposefully outside (but only just) to light his cigarette. “I get asked to do one job then they ask me to do something else and I think “which one do you want?”
He exhaled smoke into an atmosphere more in need of breeze than carbon monoxide and I considered for a moment whether our fairly feeble attempts at reducing our carbon footprint were helped in anyway by the number of opportunities we have given C for cigarette breaks.
“Well today we at least are clear” I said. “Hallway floor.”
He nodded as he puffed.
“And we’ll try and stay out of your way” I added “as I know its difficult with us toing and froing.” so gathering ourselves together we left C in peace.
On our list of to-do’s was the purchase (finally) of an extracting island cooker hood for the kitchen. At a meeting with our building company late last week where we discussed fairly fruitlessly the incompetence of J and a potential resolution…which unfortunately involves not the financial reimbursement we had requested but, contrarily, a return visit armed with a book of stickers to label up our newly installed fuseboard…we were reminded of the extractors absence and its role in the delaying of sign-off from Building Control. It’s a fairly easy thing to do, you would think, to choose and buy a hood but our favoured local shop is still struggling with supply of our chosen brand so it was with empty hands, metaphorically speaking as they were of course filled with O related paraphernalia, that we returned home.
It would be fair to say that C did not seem pleased to see us arriving home so prematurely…. an emotion irritated further by the likely overhearing of a telephone conversation whereby I claimed to have resigned from making coffee, it being “too hot for hot drinks.” Guiltily I asked him an hour or so later if he did, indeed, want a coffee and his loaded reply of, “Er, yeah…” made it blatantly clear that the temperature of the air outside did not affect in any way the temperature to which he preferred his refreshment. A coffee was dutifully supplied.
His displeasure was not improved by the discovery, upon his return from another cigarette break, of a hunched and sheepish S attempting to reposition a displaced tile. With a dismissive wave of his hand C requested vacation of the prohibited area and set about readjusting it.
“Just got it in time” he said blissfully unaware that a second incident was, some might say inevitably, not far behind.
Making my way to the door to greet an eBay purchaser C called out his instructions.
“Left side of the masking tape!”
With a roll of the eye ….as if I needed reminding….I called upon my ballet training and jete’d lightly across the wet tiles whereupon I proceeded to greet my friendly but disorientated buyer. Stood on the doorstep she recounted her tale….her sat nav, having packed up en route, had thrown her into confusion so stopping to check her map she had seen a man exiting his house. An appeal for directions had resulted in an offer of a lift which she had gratefully accepted. Having arrived safely (…luckily…) she had come to the realisation that she had exchanged one problem for another.
She had gained a five pound shower slider rail.
She had lost her car.
Her net gain was, surely, a minus number of considerable magnitude. Nevertheless she waved happily and set out upon the next stage of her adventurous day.
Meanwhile I held in my hand a lone, pale green note….in all probability my own net gain from recent attempts at Ebaying. Having sold nine items and grossly misjudged the postage charges on the majority I have come to the sorry realisation that I have expended far more energy than necessary for very little financial reward. So,with the fiver held aloft coupled with an ironic cry of “I’m rich!” I strode back towards the gathered folk in the kitchen ….accompanied by a screeched chorus of “Tiles!”
Once again the tile was readjusted and an apologetic promise made by us to remain contained within the kitchen but it was only an hour or so later before C reappeared at the island with bad news. For the second time and irrespective of two sets of calculations made by Fired Earth, we had run out of adhesive. Complicated engineering would have needed to have been employed in the construction of a bridge to span the vulnerable area should he have continued so it was perhaps not a bad point in the day in which to stop. So with the serving of, bizarrely considering the heat, yet another cup of coffee we came up with a new plan. The shelf in the bathroom.
C, though resigned to the task, had little faith he would succeed.
“I saw the trouble your workmen had when laying this” he warned “but here goes.”
Watching from the window as he sawed his way with a rotating disc through the sandstone S proffered his prediction.
“He’ll never get through it”
The sawing stopped. Some examination of the machinery took place. Five minutes later C reappeared, black faced and dripping.
“My day is just getting worse” he said, a brown disc in each hand. “These are for metal. I picked up the wrong one in B and Queues. It’s like all these things…..I have ten of them somewhere in my loft but the issue is where”
“Would those not work?” I asked naively
“They would do something” he replied “but not what we need.”
“Shall I go and buy some?” S asked
“Problems” C began with a wipe of his brow which only succeeded to add more dust to his clammily adhering skin, “never come in ones. “Even if I did have the right discs I can’t get the spent one off. I’ve broken a little part on it….”
He looked at us helplessly as sweat dripped audibly to the floor.
“I could try the wet tile cutter…that’s what I’ll do” and with that he fetched the scarred tile, a singed black line etched down its centre, and lugged it into the snug.
“Careful” warned S. “that’s going to be dusty and there’s no partition up…”
“It won’t be” C promised.
It wasn’t….as it didn’t work.
“I think we best call it a day” said S finally.
“I’ll buy a new machine for next week” he promised “take the part out, use it, put it back and send it back. No one will know”
We nodded blankly and departed for the park, O desperate for a run out on his scooter and us desperate to escape another Saturday of infuriation.
“If we don’t see you when we get back we’ll see you next week” I said and with a promise to replenish the adhesive we said our goodbyes.
Later that evening, midway through O’s bedtime ritual (Greedy Goose now long forgotten, replaced by a thick, ageing tome of yellowed Thomas the Tank Engine fables…..part of the enjoyment appearing to be the struggle of ferrying it from bookshelf to story-seat accompanied by the proud declaration of “heavy”)… I heard our friends arriving.
“Careful of the tiles…” warned S….”keep right of the masking tape……”
“What did I bloody tell you?!”
An examination resulted in no harm done so the pop of Prosecco followed. The Pebbledashed Welcome. Perhaps also in need of some work …..