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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.


Elizabethd said...

Oh Milla...one could laugh and cry at this. We've been there, only in French, which doesnt make it easy when you want to yell...'but you promised to be here.'etc. Tea looked upon curiously. 'Pause cafe'? Is that what you English do every morning? YES. 11.00 on the dot, caffeine intake, mainly to give one strength to go on. Oh by the way, we think we'd like a cafe too, just a small black, with sugar...what's this brown stuff? No little square sugars?
I do hope one day soon you will see the light!

Cait O'Connor said...

We have a saying in our family

'It will be nice when it's finished' which harks back to a first visit to our first tiny old house by my dear late mother in law. The place was finished!

Zoë said...

It could have been me writing this 20 years ago now .... one 9 month old, another on the way, one room to live in etc, you so have my empathy, its miserable, I think you have done amazingly to survive 20 months of it, we did 11 and I thought I was insane by the end of it!

I so understand the frustration of things not being the way you want them either, when I spend that much money, pragmatism doesn't come easy!

Bill said...

By some margin your best blog yet. I may be biased, but quite possibly the best blog in the blogosphere.

Pipany said...

Oh Milla, how on earth have you done it? 20months!!!! Doesn't bear thinking about and as for that wine...such a waste! Groan....xx

Suffolkmum said...

Brilliant. i had no idea it was 20 months. I've been 4 months now without a proper bathroom and that's bad enough. Oh and 'Spade'? I didn't think of that one either. Though I once came across a boy called Blade. Lovely.

LittleBrownDog said...

Well, that lot knocks my puny five oilmen well into a cocked hat! But please explain the texting of dog pictures - was she munching on an iron at the time (or perhaps a toolbox full of tools, or even a Nissan Micra?) Or is your dog just beautiful?

Well worth waiting for, Milla. Now, of course, what you need is a lovely five-page feature in a glossy magazine showing the world how fantastic it all looks. You know where I am (and there'll be no chortling - I promise.)

Faith said...

20 months - good grief, you couldve had two babies!

And i'm intrigued about the dog pics too.

Anonymous said...

This was an excellent post, Milla. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You should have applied to be on one of those house programs like Grand Designs or something. I think the house sounds fantastic. Despite it having taken such a long time, I suppose one day you will be able to sit back with your glass of wine and finish it in peace.

Best wishes, Crystal xx


Hmm move ot France, our workmen arrive at 8 stop at 9.30 for a sandwich ( french are not breakfast eaters) and a hot choclate work till 12. go for lunch. come back stop for goute at 4.30 adn then carry on. If they arent up to schedule they dont stop for afternoon goute. They work rain shine adn snow and they tidy up after themselves.AND big plus here they let the boys go up on the scaffolding under supervision, explain their tools to youngest and do not treat me like an idiot cos I am female. Down side as they are all so good that you sometimes have to wait 12 months to get them.

Preseli Mags said...

I agree with Bill.

This puts me barking my shins on the bath in the living room in perspective!

The incident with the wine and the floor reminded me of our carpet fitters. They put down half an acre of gorgeous pale gold carpet, then dropped a lit cigarette on it. They blamed it on the woodburner, the b....

elizabethm said...

Ah, you see. There is an alternative. It is being married to someone who wants to do it all himself, who is actually very talented at it (although with an irritating tendency to balk at spending serious money), who will clear up after himself, listen to what you want and do a great job, but who has a full time job as well and consequently takes around about eight years.
The grass is always greener.
Hope your sanity is holding out. Great comment from Bill I thought.

mountainear said...

Super blog - brought back many memories.

Building work certainly sorts out the optimists from the pessimists I think. Keeping cheerful was such hard work! The soul destroying destructive and messy bits seem to take forever don't they?

Frances said...


Very fine writing about a long time that has not been fine.

Have a glass of something that pleases you. Repeat until it no longer pleases.


annakarenin said...

Am exhausted reading it, not the mayhem as have lived through that regularly but don't think I could have coped with that many people for that length of time, I would have gone and hibernated till they left.

Mike tipped a glass of wine on my mother's brand new cream carpet. Her previous one had been down for over 20 years without a mark on it!

Exmoorjane said...

Read this with a failing of heart and sinking of stomach....not sure I could endure so long. Am hugely tempted to yell, 'No, it's fine, we'll keep it as it is'. But one always has that forlorn hope that it will be better for you than others....foolish undoubtedly. Not sure the dog helped either, frankly. We always blame Jack for everything - usually with very good reason.
But a new kitchen?! Wow. Not sure I have ever heard of anyone putting a bit of cling-film over a glass and bunging it in the fridge - but hey, it's different. Very fine blog, m'dear. jkxxx

bodran... said...

You poor thing remember it well and it is still ongoing! Flippin can't stand builders whining for tea or rolling roll up's arghhhh.. and i bet you can't get a brush through your hair cos of the continouus dust.........be strong and picture the finished product xx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

BUT ...and here is the big question.....would you do it all again?

Fennie said...

Oh! these other half-recognised worlds of friendly chaos. But what a beautifully understated blog. I must pass it on to Younger Daughter who is in her 12th month now of this sort of thing. They've done the kitchen and that's about it. Meanwhile Dr Who and his merry men from BBC Wales have dropped by and blown out their windows (twice) - well they did replace them and paid for the privilege and slowly the place is moving forward - but she could be providing you with competition in the completion stakes.

Hannah Velten said...

I feel very dizzy having read that brilliant post - I think I got away rather lightly when we renovated this house; mind you, we did move out at the water-off and electric-off stages! But you seem to have been a real trooper, what with all the drinks, advice and money you have obviously doled out to these men who you/we let into our lives....only to cause chaos, but eventually they come good - glad to hear that the end is in sight! Mootia x

Fern said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, it brought back some good and some not so good memories. A few years down the line you won't believe you actually did it!

Blossomcottage said...

Wonderful post and still with a great sense of houmour, so glad you did not sucommbe to making them bacon and egg rolls at 8 in the morning as I did "Bad move".
I have been both sides of the fence, being the builders wife and then renovating 3 houses as the client. No idea which is the worst only know that next time I decide to "do up a house" or take on a "new prodject" I will lie down until I feel better and go and do something easy like learning how to take appart the computer and reassemble it with sunglasses on in a darkened room.

lampworkbeader said...

Oh Milla, perhaps I don't want that extension after all. Wonderful blog. You express it all!

KittyB said...

Crikey, no wonder you don't blog very much, love. But when you do it's as marvellous as ever m'dear. Spade, hmm, interesting. I will suggest it to my friend who called her son Hexell. Spade would be just super for a sibling, no?

Withy Brook said...

I agree with Fennie. This is the best blog I have ever read and we should have a special place for such double starred pieces.
Really feel for you. You won't know yourself when it is finally done!

The Country Craft Angel said...

Inspired writing and Milla Lite at your best!! Worth the wait. Wonderful-you really should send this in to the Times of somewhere!!
enough gushing??!

I wonder what on earth you will do my dear when they have all gone!...

warmest wishes

CAMILLA said...

It's been worth the wait darling girl, absolute cracker of a blog, as your lovely Bill has said. Will look gorgeous when all is finished, and you can then sigh a sigh of relief.

Lots of chaps Milla, no Windy Millers though.! Heck, you have seen enough dust, tea, and coffee to last a lifetime.

Your wit never fails to amuse me Milla, three gold stars for this blog honey, and as CCA has said, send it to The Times, it will knock spots off the other columnists.


CAMILLA said...

It's been worth the wait darling girl, absolute cracker of a blog, as your lovely Bill has said. Will look gorgeous when all is finished, and you can then sigh a sigh of relief.

Lots of chaps Milla, no Windy Millers though.! Heck, you have seen enough dust, tea, and coffee to last a lifetime.

Your wit never fails to amuse me Milla, three gold stars for this blog honey, and as CCA has said, send it to The Times, it will knock spots off the other columnists.


@themill said...

About time too, but well worth the wait....and that's just the blog.
Cracking form, Milla.

I posted this three days ago, but just popped by to read more comments, I am a nosey old cow, and I see it hasn't registered. How odd...

Cowgirl said...

In other words, you're going to miss them!!!" Go on, you know you are!!!!

Well done, you are so nearly there - party at Milla's everyone!!! Mills, don't bovver cleaning the carpet just yet!


Tattie Weasle said...

Dad says I'll have to carry on with my builders 'cos I won't know what to do without them...I'm sure you'll share my sentiments and accept I could never put in print what I thought to that!!!!
Three cheers to builders...
and could you put a bit more sugar in that....

Anonymous said...