The builders are in, and I’m struggling to deal with it. I’m renting off of my mate Harry, who’s having work done to the flat. A lot of work. As in, rip it all out, get new EVERYTHING and then shove it back in again. He’s warned me about it for a while, to which I nonchalantly replied ‘It’s cool’. Except now I’m not as cool as I thought I’d be.
I was thrown in at the deep end on day one. There I was, lying in bed with a hangover scale of 10, after a spontaneous night out in Nottingham involving double whiskies, champagne cocktails, a spending frenzy in a shooter bar followed by a free lock-in at a pub. As I’m sure you can imagine, one’s head is rather delicate at these times, and it was all I could do to lie there, my pores sweating alcohol, every now and again sipping my water trying not to retch and generally feeling sorry for myself. All of a sudden, there was a huge WHACK! I jumped a mile, and with every subsequent WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!, my head pounded as I tried to work out the source of the evil noise, every blow feeling as if it were dealt to my long suffering head with full force and accuracy. Then I realised: the builders. They were here. And they were demolishing the wall next door to me vigorously with sledgehammers. I can categorically state that three fervent builders with sledgehammers working in close vicinity bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘banging headache’.
Another hurdle was the first time I had to actually go ‘out there’ and walk past them. Most people who know me will tell you that I’m a fairly confident person, but for some reason I came over all shy from the outset. It felt so ‘Me v. Them’, as if they were alien invaders intruding in my sanctuary of calm and privacy. Upon leaving my room to get to the bathroom a few feet away, I saw that in the few hours since the builders had been working, the flat had morphed into a dystopian war zone. Nothing was recognisable, and I dived into the bathroom to take my shower (…and take cover). However, upon emerging in a pink towel and a mud mask, squeaking ‘hi!’ and running underneath a hapless builder’s ladder while he grouted the wall, before bolting into my room, I can’t really blame the chaps if they thought I was more foreign than I thought them.
Since then, no thanks to my bashful conduct, I seem to have scared the builders off a bit, and now there really is a kind of a barrier between us. Harry serves as the bridge between us both, the middleman between two very divergent parties. He is my guardian against the alpha males, the scary ‘blokeness’ in my home, and he ‘banters’ with them, smoking Mayfair cigarettes and speculating about which one of The Saturdays is pregnant (surely everyone knows??). Similarly Harry is the holder of the key to the mythical portal of girliness that is my room, that I must so frequently vacate so the builders can do their job. Occasionally I have heard perfectly audibly (through quite literally plaster-thin walls) one of the builders hollering across the flat ‘So, err, Harry, when’s she leavin’ then?’ Similarly, I have sometimes texted Harry while he is in the front room to come in to my room, just so I can ask when the builders are leaving.
Cooking is another issue. Harry and I are living out of boxes, with all our crockery, cutlery and food packed into cardboard boxes on the floor, and assembling a meal is a bit of a lucky dip. Worse than this is the perpetual ‘builders dust’, the white plaster dust which resides everywhere, from the sink, to the bowls, to the settee and any unlucky food that should be left uncovered. Asbestos muesli, anyone? I cook on a wiped-down chopping board which rests on top of a hob which itself teeters on the washing machine (we’ve never had an oven). Preparing a meal in this way is hazardous, lest that stray piece of chicken fall asunder off the island of the chopping board into the perilous sea of white dust which would surely claim it. One comrade never to return.
Eventually though, after one day crying in my room about the builder’s dust and all my stuff being in a suitcase and not being able to find something or other, I realised just how much of a big baby I was being. At the end of the day, there was work being done on the flat, not a genocide, and itreally wasn’t as intrusive as I was making out to myself. Plus, I had a brand-spanking new flat with oven, dishwasher and laminate flooring to look forward to. My behaviour was puerile. Maybe, I thought to myself, maybe I’ve been over the top about this. Maybe I’m being immature. Maybe I’m being a big Girl. Maybe….oh. Maybe The Painters are in. That would explain things…