Monday, 12 November 2007

It's all in the Timing

We have an on again, off again relationship with our builder. In July 2005 he came for 4 days, to smarten up the kitchen ceiling, replaster the walls and do a spot of tiling. The day before he started work my upstairs neighbour's washing machine leaked, sending gallons of rusty water through my ceiling and down my kitchen walls. When my builder came to start work he poked at the old ceiling and watched in disbelief as the whole thing fell on his head, revealing the damage from months and months of slow leak from upstairs, mould, fungus, rust and decay. And some rather spectactularly illegal wiring. The 4 day job became a 4 week job; at the end of which things were mostly finished, but "one or two minor points" would be saved up and added on to the next job he was booked for, namely to rebuild our sunroom, something he would come back and begin "in a few months". These 4 weeks naturally took up the 4 weeks of the school holidays where we were at home, and ensured we were unable to use either kitchen or garden during that time.

In June 2006 we went away for a week. The builder had returned the week before, and planned to demolish the old sunroom (an interesting creation, a blend of breeze blocks, fence panels, greenhouse windows and corrugated plastic, with a handy six inch gap between wall and roof and a grapevine growing in a cement tub in the middle), and replace it with a more useful addition to the house, carefully designed to fit in with the original extension. Side note - can you have an original extension?

We returned from our week away finding, not the promised foundation, but a tangled mess of concrete and glass. The people who had built the sunroom had not, as I believe is standard practice, dug a level base, filled it with concrete, levelled it, and then started to build, but had instead loosely tramped down an old flower bed, poured concrete over it until it looked roughly ok (this would account for the large puddle which gathered right in the centre of the room), meaning that the concrete was 6 inches deep in some places and 3 foot deep in others. This, in turn, had necessitated extra work, and the builders' mates had taken umbrage, leaving the builder (we'll call him Bob since Little Fish thinks that's his name) to work on alone. Over the next six months (yes, yes, including the next set of summer holidays), he proceeded to fill our garden with rubble and the house with noise.

Highlights include the day I went to collect a baby I would be fostering for the next two weeks, a baby with a variety of different medical conditions, and returned to discover that Bob had decided I needed new cupboards in the kitchen, and had spent the afternoon emptying my existing cupboards and knocking large holes in the walls. Not a part of the original plan.

The day I went out for a walk and came back to discover Bob ripping up a floor he had deemed offensive (in fairness, it did turn out to be deeply mouldy underneath, but again, this was not part of his original plan).

The day Bob decided to carry concrete plinths (girders? joists? He did tell me but I'm afraid I lost interest forgot) by himself, and fell over, breaking his arm. His subsequent refusal to take any time off work or to wear a cast, leading to the sight of a man with a broken arm climbing all over the roof to finish the carpentry bits and pieces.

The day the roofing contractors came, began to lay the new roof and discovered major but previously hidden damage to the existing extension's roof. Our handy previous owner had decided to fasten the waterproof layer with giant nails, creating a nice sieve effect.

The day after the contractors had finished laying the new roof when my upstairs neighbour decided to climb into her house via my extension roof, pulling off the guttering and causing major damage to the newly finished but not yet settled roof.

The complete side track into my garage, where wood and metal bits were purchased and stored in order to build storage there (a great idea, again, not part of the original plan), storage which twelve months on is still in the extreme flat pack version whilst the bits and pieces intended to be stored upon it stack up in ever-more-messy heaps in the rest of the garage.

The announcement, three weeks before Christmas, that he had about one week's work to do.

The subsequent disappearance until May 2007, the reappearance, 4 days of planned work and an additional three weeks of extra work not a part of the original plan but now somehow necessary. The departure with just 3 days' worth of original work left, and another couple of days to tidy up the extra work undertaken. Breezy assurances that I could book a painter for September, 2 years since the original work and 13 months since this piece of work began.

The disappearance of all tools including the cement mixer in June.

Since then I have had periodic messages left on my phone thanking me for my patience and promising to return "next week", "tomorrow" or "this afternoon". Followed by at least a month's silence.

Intertwine this, if you will, with the arrival and departure of one baby girl in September 2006, the baby boy we had for six weeks over Christmas, the fortnight of introductions to Little Fish in January, the stress of finding a new place for Goldy to live, adjusting to life with her living elsewhere and then life without her. Add to this the last two months with Mog's surgery and subsequent illnesses. It has been a busy year.

Goldy's funeral is fairly soon now. Before that, I have to arrange a hospice stay for Mog, and juggle our standard constant set of hospital appointments. This week the diary tells me we have parent teacher confrontations consultations, physiotherapy, general paediatric consultation, paediatric neurology appointment, hydrotherapy, and some funeral planning stuff.

Additionally, I have the arrival of a very dear friend - this is in no way an additional stress, it is in fact my sanity in a sea of busyness, we will take time out from all this to sit and be still, remember Goldy without worrying about upsetting other people, and plan our holiday for next year. Intense and relaxing, all at once.

I am in trouble for refusing to countenance an additional meeting this week, a standard and routine meeting which has had to be rearranged. However I decided that we had enough happening this week already and have asked for it to be postponed or held without me. On Friday, I had a message from school to say that since I have spent so much time in school already this term, and since the girls have spent comparatively little time there, it will not be necessary for me to attend the PTCs this afternoon. Hurrah. Then, the paed appointment was cancelled, and the neurology appointment postponed. Even better. This leaves me with a week to relax and enjoy spending time with my friend, a very necessary rest before jumping back into real life again next week.

It is therefore with a sense of inevitability that I returned from the post office this morning to discover the builder's van parked outside. And with further resignation that I learnt he intends to finish up his final bits and pieces once and for all, and has, of course, found more things to do which will keep him here even longer.

Who needs rest anyway? Alright, I do, and I want to be here:


Alesha said...

Oh, Tia...I get it. I really do. I am so exhausted with my life right now. I told my friend I would be overwhelmed...if I just had the time to think about everything that needs to be done. But I don't have time, so I guess I'm just blissfully ignorant!

Your contractor sounds like my late grandaddy. He did great construction work. Great, that is, unless he started drinking. Then he would be on binge - for a few weeks or so. Then no work would be done at all. He'd eventually show up to try to finish. Sigh...

It's good to hear you'll be having the funeral for Goldy soon. I know the closure helps a little. I'm also glad that LF's adoption is soon. What a wonderful day that will be!

I'm sorry to hear that Mog's hip does not look noticeable better after surgery! That is really disconcerting - all that work and it looks the same? Yikes! Did they offer any explanation?

I'm really praying that you will have a wonderful time of fellowship with your friend. Try to just relax and "be". I know your heart needs a break.


Tia said...

Thanks Alesha,

Our builder's quality of work is outstanding which is why we asked him to do the sunroom work after seeing what he did to the kitchen. He has a medical condition which means he has to take a lot of time off work (not alcohol related!), and I did know that when I hired him; I just forgot how stressful it would be not knowing when he would come back again. Oh, and he's a perfectionist which in the longterm is wonderful but in the short term means he will not take shortcuts or be satisfied with "good enough"; he keeps tweaking his designs until they are the best they possibly could be.

Take care of yourself now you're home Alesha


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