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Thursday, 29 November 2007

Milk and 2 Sugars

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Snout

Or, in my case, and sadly none of them dressed as a fireman:

Chris; Paul; 2 surveyors; 3 fencers; Tony; Barney; Neil; Mark; 14 plumbing firms (11 of whom we never heard from again); 27 skip deliverers; Paul; Chris; Pete; dear Gwillem; Fat Simon; Phil; Aaron; Darren; the Welsh one; James; Andy; Andy’s silent helper with the iPod and the piercings; Clive; Ray; Phil with the piercings; Carl; Dean; drunk Nick; Gary; Liam; Lee; Jase; Mark; Darren the Loft; and his boy; Prison-cell Paddy; Col; Shaker; Shaker’s mate; Martin; Rex; Paul; Paul; Rob the Roof; Rob’s nephew; Rob’s nephew’s friend; the one who fell off the ladder; the one who didn’t; Gay Matt (who wasn’t, not that I’m … some of my best friends … etc etc); Matt’s mate (and I mean that strictly pants on); Dave and the 4 screeders; Kev; Jalley; Ivan; Mr B; Mr B’s boy; Liam P; Liam P’s mate; the insolent insulators; Andy; Andy’s mate; Andy’s other mate; Mark; Nino; Gavin; Danny; Mike; Christina; Chantelle; Roger; Spade (such a pretty name for a boy, I weep that I didn’t consider it); Fred the Shed; and his boy; Pete; Simon; Tim; Chris; Gary; Chris; Chris; Paul; John; Paul; Nick; Peter; Stuart; Ian; John; Javed; Paul …

Milk and 2 sugars to a man. Apart from (because it could never be that easy) a request for an anaemic tea, a couple of “go easy on the milk”s, some coffee and one, and a handful of teas without, but the rest demanding that the spoon stand up in the mug.
Mugs grabbed with no wincing care to protect the fingers from heat, mugs dumped down carelessly and damply on nice wooden furniture, mugs knocked over and chipped and left in the mud for me to encounter when out on turd duty.
More than one thousand two hundred cups of tea, several hundred cups of coffee, a sack of sugar and several cows’ of milk. Needless to say, I merely drink an easy black coffee, no sugar, and no-body makes for me but E.

I know about their success in securing a surrogate child, and for how much they sold the story to sub-standard magazines.
I have caught them photographing the dog and texting her to their friends. Many times, actually.
I have turned deaf ears to their weekend tales of debauchery and infidelity.
I have advised on birthday presents for their daughters.
I have rushed into the next village to buy things they were meant to bring, but didn’t.
I have sympathised with vans that need fixing, albeit that this serves me zilch, since dead vans alibi their absence from leaning a ladder against our wall and doing something useful.
We have eaten on the floor for weeks.
I have doled out neurofen and biscuits and toast and cheques (oh, the cheques: a graveyard of shattered broken stubs stuff out our top drawer).
I have developed a fantastic on-line relationship with our banker, by dint of pleading e-mails, to which she responds with gratifying pleasure: she wants to meet. Perhaps to lob me into debtors’ prison?
Our carpets are more sand and mud than fibre, we wipe our feet to go outside.
We currently wash up in the bathroom; not the bath which is deep in paint trays, but the basin. We have had no idea where anything is for a very very long time now.

”Some of my customers,” said Kitchen Gary, “crack up half way through the fortnight. How long have you been like this? 6 months?””We’re into our 20th month,” I said, turning to locate the kettle.

Sometimes I wonder if we appear normal, if I am dressed correctly. Our old, enormous wardrobe, a beast of wood, carted upstairs in 17 bits, does not fit in our new bedroom. The door hits the bed. We nearly wept. The floor remains our clothes’ storage place.

But we are nearing the end.

… the scrape of shovel on concrete
the relentless whirr of the cement mixer
the choking and dying on a daily basis of the poor beleaguered Dyson
the perpetual aural wallpaper of an ill-tuned radio station
the pursed lips of tutting locals unable to navigate their drives AGAIN since, although a semi-capable, borderline-sober tank driver could swing his vehicle through the gaps left by lorries and vans and flat-beds and trailers, the same cannot be said for the powers of a pensioner manoeuvring a Nissan Micra (“not with my shoulder”)
the leaking of cash
the broken promises
the jolly banter
the setting of the alarm for half past seven on a Sunday on the promise of a chippy who fails to show; again
the “where d’you want this then, mate?”
and the “he never said nothin to me bout that, Carmeeell”
and the “any chance of another cuppa, love?” delivered with day in day out regularity to a sad sack of a woman heartily sick of tea and of being called ‘Carmeeor’ and ‘Cameelierrr’ and ‘Camilll’ and ‘mate’ and of measuring out her life in teaspoons;
but …
finally the end is within sight.

Or “an” end is within sight, for let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s not forget the shed-like nature of the erstwhile garage-cum-wannabe Family Room, lined with 54 metres of book shelves (and, oh no, this is not enough), nor the warehouse status of the sitting room, housing possessions of which we have long since tired, on which we bark our shins.

But the kitchen has been unloaded and the dregs of our old one languish in a skip, joining the ghost of the cooker, tossed a fortnight ago into another skip to enable us (“us” as in “E and his bro”, while I rode shotgun with my old chums the kettle, and the dustpan and brush) to lay the floor in kitchen readiness.

Meanwhile, paint colours have stressed: since a wall of a colour bears so little relation to that tiny square admired so on a chart.
E, being a colour genius has worked wonders to tempt glorious shades from unhappy tin-opening moments, mixing in whites and ochres and drops of black to enliven and subdue.
Paint is not alone in being replete with adrenaline-surge properties, for each new stage of the renovation process has trailed with it a new obsession to plague me at 4 in the morning.

My current one, beyond the black hole of minus cash, is ministering to the floor, anxiously eyeing it for the scratches it attracted from the moment it was clicked into place. None of them in places to be concealed by units. Don’t be silly.
One particularly nasty incident relating to the floor involved a glass of wine and the fridge.
Never, never, dear friends, do I not finish a glass of wine. Never. Except for the night when I didn’t. Whereupon I placed it, capped with a cunning piece of cling wrap, high in the fridge.
Never, also, do we move the fridge. Until the day of floor laying which coincided with non-wine finishing day.
So when I opened the fridge, the wine glass toppled. I watched it as it decided, and watched it as it freefell and shattered, a favourite glass, on the brand new floor.
The hole made was impressive.
“It’s all part of the patina,” E said brusquely, meaning, No, I’m not replacing that bit.
I wasn’t on for patina quite this early in the floor’s life.
An hour later, when the planks leading to the hole had all been grimly upped and a new one laid and the back fill re-laid, he still wasn’t talking to me. And I sort of can’t blame him.
Now, can I say, goodness we laughed? I can’t really. Although I maintain that we think that it was time well-spent. His time, naturally.

Previous anxieties have numbered:
ill-fitting skirtings: not only is the wiggly line unsightly, but surely a gateway to the ingress of spiders?
shelves in the kitchen which are just pants: too widely spaced and woefully unsupported in the middle. And that’s before you lay a testing jar of marmite on one, when it sags in protest; you can almost hear it sigh. You can certainly hear me sigh
botched plastering
bodged lining up of walls
jobs left merely 90% done
fuck-witted insertion of steels
frustrating siting of smoke alarm masking nice light
wonky bell push
bashed fence (were they warned to be careful? They were).

Milk and 2 sugars, tea with one, can I have a glass of squash? Yeah yeah, whatever.
Am I going to miss them?
You bet I am.