THIS LIFE: BY CLAUDIA CARROLL
WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG, you think love can break your heart. But when you get older, you realise that actually, it’s builders. Now I have both the great luck and great misfortune to live in an old house that requires constant maintenance. It’s the family home and as my mother often says, it’s a bit like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – you start painting one end of it and by the time to get to the other end, you have to go right back to the very beginning to start all over again.
You’re never really done with any house, but with a Victorian home, believe you me, there’s always something that needs doing or some catastrophe that needs mopping up. I’ve had whole ceilings fall in. I once came home from my NCT test to discover that a tree had collapsed through the living room window and was now nestling on top of the telly. I’ve had rusting water tanks the age of the house leak down on top of the room below, leaving me wading about in wellies, screaming hysterically for a plumber. On Easter Sunday, by the way, just for added drama.
Ever tried getting a plumber to your house on a bank holiday weekend? Not to be recommended, trust me.
Over the decades, I’ve been shafted up, down and sideways by builders so cowboy-esque they might as well have arrived on horseback with the theme tune to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly playing in the background.
I once had a guy who took one full year to do a three-month job and who only eventually finished on Christmas Eve because he claimed I owed him money. (I didn’t, but would have sold my soul just to get the useless fecker out of the house once and for all.)
I’ve had workmen call to the house to help out with whatever emergency was I was coping with, take one look at me and realise that they were dealing with a sitting duck., ie, a single woman who knows shag all about rewiring, plumbing, plastering or electrics. You know the feeling: a workman does an emergency job for you, then when you ask how much you owe, you get the teeth sucked in, the head shake, the folded arms and then the dreaded phrase, ‘Jaysus love, it won’t be cheap – you might want to sit down for this.’ The single woman supplement, I call it, and I was sick of it and I’d had enough and I thought to hell with this, never again. Let the place fall down around me, was my furious vow, before another useless builder will ever cross the threshold of the house again.
But then Christmas 2017 happened. And you know what Santa delivered me? Two burst water mains and a flood of such Biblical proportions that I had to abandon ship and move out.
Which is when my lovely friend Kirk McCormack stepped in. He’s an architect and although I’d never worked with an architect before, Kirk swooped in like comic superhero from the Marvel Universe. It turns out that aside from the hard work architects do for you – drawings, laying out plans and project management – they do so, so much more. They mind you and hold your hand and liaise with the builders on your behalf, so the days of being shafted and having rings run around you are now a thing of the past.
Anyway Kirk gently advised me on how to get the house finally put to rights once and for all.
Then he put the job out to tender and weeks later, the builders from Heaven arrived. On time, at 7.30am, punctual to the dot every single morning. With cheery smiles and a good morning and mortified apologies for all the dust. I’ve never known workmen to be so utterly devoid of negativity – whenever we ran into roadblocks on the house, they’d say to me, ‘this is not a problem. It’s an issue that we’re here to fix. We never use the “p” word.’ Did you ever?
I was working from home throughout the whole building project and from the floor below, where the main work was going on, all I could hear was the lovely sound of laughter. Then, when I’d stick my head into the site, the lads would gladly show me whatever they’d been working on, with such pride in their work, it gladdened my heart. Having been shafted so often by builders from the ‘ah sure, it’ll fecking well do’ school of works, this was the stuff of heaven.
So now, my builders from Heaven have almost finished, and not only have they left the place cleaner than they found it, they even brought in contract cleaners, to really make the house sparkle. And now, here are the words I never in my life thought I’d ever say...
I’ll really miss the builders when they’re gone!