Our little family – tanned, relaxed and sporting sand in our shoes and, to the washing machine’s dismay, stones in our pockets (well…a certain someone’s) – touched down on Sunday afternoon with a bump to delighted cries from O of “Again!” For perhaps the first time since embarking on our refurb we were looking forward to coming back to home comforts…having once lusted after the soft beds and deep baths of holiday cottages and hotels we realised whilst away that we are now in the somewhat privileged position of discovering that our ours are just as good. Indeed for two whole weeks barely a thought was given to the stresses and strains of what until now we have referred to through gritted teeth as unlovingly ‘The House’.
Grecian relaxation had been significantly encouraged by the thought that our painter was busily readying said House for one of the final stages of its extreme interior makeover…. the laying of the stair and landing carpet. As we clumsily re-accustomed ourselves to the other side of the road helped in part to slow moving traffic on the M25, I ruminated on what we might find. Coffee stains gone. Doors eggshelled. Skirtings painted. Spindles coated and stair treads runner-ready. Turning into our road, however, S chose his moment to voice the alternative thoughts I’d been doing my best to suppress…
“Its at this point I wonder if the house will still be there ….or just charred remains…” he said.
“Or the front door swinging open….” I added with a nervous laugh.
“You chuckle. A friend of a friend….” and he launched into a terrifying story of a burst water tank and a very soggy ceiling whilst I shuddered in fearful horror.
“Thank you for that anecdote. Very calming.”
“We’ve got no water tank, pet.” he reminded, drawing up in front of our Pad. Pulling on the handbrake he cast a glance in through the curtain-less windows.
“The TV’s still there anyway….”
Feeling optimistic that a) we hadn’t been burgled and b) the house would be gleaming with fresh new paint, we opened…with some trepidation….the sky blue door.
I was to come back to earth for the second time that day, again with a bump.
We have employed, it would appear, a painter who can’t actually paint. He certainly can’t quote. Only half of what he’d promised to do was done. Badly.
To be honest I’d heard the warning bells. I’d simply chosen not to listen. Before leaving it had become rapidly clear that the quoted 3-4 days on the job had been grossly underestimated. Day two and barely a paint can had been opened. By day five the situation had looked desperate. Arriving home with O after a day out hunting bears at the theatre and holiday training in the Southbank sandpit I discovered a frantic painter whose cutting in was degenerating in direct correlation to the improvement of his cutting of corners.
“I won’t finish this today” CC stated the somewhat obvious, slapping white paint hurriedly on spindles. “But the architraves look good.” His face brightened. “I’ll be painting my house soon and I’ve said to the wife we’re going with this idea..”
I nodded sagely as I navigated the pushchair carefully through the wetly Down Piped door (one side only. More about that later… )
“Ob the Builder!” called O, not in reference to the recently introduced delights of the TV character but in greeting to the very real one sat upon our stairs. Sounding a tad unimpressed to be identified thus, CC continued.
“I’ve left that bit white” he waved at the door frame with the paint brush “then gone around the architrave with the grey.”
He paused mid-indication. At least….his body did. His neck continued nodding rhythmically, blue eyes bulging, as if someone had flicked the switch on a child’s toy or set off the monotonous motion of a nodding dog on a car back seat. Unfastening O I followed his gaze. It wasn’t quite as I’d expected but I decided wimpishly that it would be far less confrontational to join him in his nodding than admit that I wasn’t keen. I would, I decided, finish painting it myself at the same time as I crispen, with a steady hand and my trusty fine tipped brush, the wobbly lines making their way up and around our doors as our graphic frames contrast (effectively I have now come to think), against the chalk white walls.
With O free and hurtling towards his scooter I made my way into the kitchen to make tea as CC followed animatedly behind.
“What do you think to that extractor now?” he asked with a cocksure wink, pointing to what was still, enshrouded in its grey plastic wrapping, looking like a piece of wide tubing punching through the ceiling. More to the point, I’d thought, what do I think of his unfinished to-do list? If he was still painting downstairs doors at 6pm on Friday night there was little chance the sanding of the bathroom window or fixing of skirting in the bedroom would be done by close of business.
“The electrician returns tomorrow to fix it more securely, straighten it and raise it” I explained a little tartly as contrarily I sweetened his tea with a chinked stir before handing the steaming mug across.”I’ll take a view then.”
He sipped at his tea.
An elephant shifted uncomfortably in the room.
“So,” he said eventually, “if you are happy for me to come in while you are away I’ll finish up. I’m on another job Monday but I’ll come in the evenings …..or next Saturday.”
“The walls” I began “where I spilt coffee….those really do need to be done before we get back as the carpet arrives as soon as we are home”
“No problem.” He nodded emphatically “I’ll have that done for you. It will be looooooovely for you to get back with it all finished…..”
“It would” I nodded “it would. And the skirting in the bedroom?” I pressed, “and the bathroom window frame?”
“Yes. That still needs doing. I’ll make sure its done.”
“Ok great. Well. Thank you.”
And replacing the cup on the counter he gathered his things and was off.
“Have a great time” he called back.
Later that evening my heart sank further. He had painted only one side of each of the upstairs doors. Considering his quote I realised they had definitely not been factored in and I wondered at myself for not being clearer in the first place. Sighing wearily I scribbled a note.
‘if there’s any chance you could prep and paint bedroom sides to all doors I’d be grateful….realise this wasn’t included so will settle on our return.’
Signing off with ‘huge thanks’ I proceeded upstairs to join S in the process of packing…or rather piling which is the way we tend to (dis?)organise ourselves prior to a journey. A process which most usually results in the mutual forgetting of a toothbrush.
Saturday passed in a flurry of activity with the electrician reluctantly agreeing to use a spirit level…
….”but its flush to the ceiling as it is…” he had argued.
“Quite” came S’s adamant response. “I can live with a gap at the ceiling. I can’t live with the thing on the piss.”
And C, with a visible nark on, miserably finishing the floor and snug cupboard.
“Has your wife been beating you?” I asked flippantly, indicating his blackened eyes.
“Not that I know of” he replied, rubbing his face self consciously “unless its in the night in which case I wasn’t aware of it.”
“How is she?” I asked a little more kindly, referring to her growing bump.
“Milking it.” came the grunted reply.
So whilst the process felt inhumanely like the flogging of dead (tired) donkeys, we left for our holiday reassured that our motley crew of tradesmen had undressed the extractor to a gleamingly perpendicular cylinder, completed the tiling of the hall floor, decked out the interior of the inherited built-in snug cupboard in mdf and had the painter primed….
…which is precisely what it turns out our painter hasn’t been doing.
A gentle knock to the skirting by the carpet men Monday morning has resulted in the indecent exposure of yellowing, unprepped gloss. The coffee stains are gone and walls admittedly painted but patchily so (would you believe?)….. my trick of watering down the Earthborn having fallen on all-knowing but deaf ears. My note was ignored with doors remaining unpainted and my beautifully sanded banisters….which, as a fellow blogger recently pointed out, have been positioned, in my hierarchy of concern, during this process above even the welfare of my own husband (see S Speaks Out) are splattered in paint.
Call made to CC. No reply.