8.20 am. Wednesday. I've just given the boys a lift to school and now I'm back at the house. As I open the front door I nearly step on my face. My smashed wedding photograph is lying on the hall floor, little fragments of glass scattered far and wide. Quite how it landed that far from its position halfway up the stairs where it was innocently resting on the wall is a mystery.
I pick it up and start to carry it into the living room. The door bell rings. Again. I let a builder in. Again. Another one. There are already a multitude of them milling around at the back of the house.
"What's that?" says the builder.
"My smashed wedding picture," I say.
"Who did that?" he says.
"I don't know," I say.
Then I go back into the living room, still holding the picture, and switch on the kettle. Out in the hall the doorbell goes again and again and again...
The phone rings. I answer it, still holding the picture. It is my neighbour. He is calling to tell me about the roofer he just used to solve the damp problem in his top back bedroom.
We also have a damp problem in the top back bedroom. It is on going. We've had three roofers up there in that past few years and spent a lot of money on it - all to no avail.
"I'll send him over to you in a bit," he says.
"Thanks, I say, "but I have a governors committee meeting at the primary school this morning, so I won't be in."
"Okay," he says, "I'll get him to ring you instead."
"That would be better," I say.
So now I'm in a hurry. There is something I want to do before the meeting. I want to make a message. The school just had a nasty OFSTED inspection and I want to cheer them up, especially the head teacher because he is a lovely man and a great head. I'm very fond of him.
I put the smashed picture down on the sofa and go upstairs with a piece of A4 card, lots of old newspapers, a pair of scissors, and a Pritt stick. I must remember to print out the agenda and the minutes from the last meeting as well, I think, and it's already ten past nine...
The doorbell rings. It is my neighbour, and he has the roofer with him. "I thought I'd send him over to you now," he says.
"Right," I say, and I feel my back teeth clamp together.
As quick as I can, I show the roofer the wet patch in the top back bedroom. It's Middle One's room. Since the building work started the problem has got worse. There are cracks, and where once there was a constellation of tiny luminous stuck-on stars for him to look at able his head, now limp lining paper hangs down to reveal a festering black hole.
We discuss the cost and feasibility of having the chimney removed. It's a shame you didn't think of this before the extension, says the roofer, because now it will be very hard to access the roof. I keep looking at my watch.
We go back downstairs. He wants my number, or my email, but I can't find a piece of paper or a pen and now it's getting late so he leaves without either, saying he'll pop a quote through the door over the weekend (he doesn't).
I go back to my office and finish making the message. I print the last minutes and the agenda. I dash down to the school. We have the meeting and afterwards we chat about the OFSTED. I give the head teacher my unsigned message in a blank manila envelope.
I walk home. I open the door. I go into the living room. I glance over at my smashed wedding picture. Except it's not. It's not smashed any more.
I do a double take. I know I'm tired, I know I'm stressed and anxious and exhausted because there are 9 builders in the house and it's week 12 of constant banging and drilling and no kitchen, but am I actually hallucinating now?
Slowly it dawns on me that someone must have taken the smashed photograph and had it mended and then put it back in exactly the same position, while I was out. The builder.
So that message I made, out of lots of cut-out letters from old newspapers and stuck on a piece of card, to give to the head teacher and staff at the school where I am a governor, and where they just had a horrible OFSTED inspection, it said: Don't Let The Bastards Get You Down.
Seems appropriate somehow.
Love E x
(That's the photo at the top, now back on the wall.)
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