"Alright Liz?" says the workman standing in our back garden with one of my best Sanderson mugs in his hand. I've just got back from an outing with friends. "We just made ourselves a cuppa, hope that's ok."
No, it's not okay, I think to myself. That means you went into the living room, which was firmly shut, and rooted around in my temporary kitchen and found my best mugs and helped yourself.
If I count them all up there have probably been more than 40 different workmen in and out of our house in the last few months: window installers, fire installers, roofers, plasterers, a team of electricians (I think there were 7 on that day), tilers, granite worktop installers, and most of them Polish. These guys, the ones installing the wood burning stove and the chimney pot, are British, or to be more precise, Londoners, and I think I like them the least. They come with a bunch of one-liners and a whole lot of cheek and they are the only ones to help themselves to tea.
"Where's the frame for the fire?" I ask. There is a gaping gap between in the new inset stove and the opening for it.
"Oh there ain't no frame," says the one holding my best Sanderson mug. "That's what it's meant to be like. Didn't you order a frame? If you want a frame you have to get it separate, love. Didn't you know?"
I can feel my heart start to race. I'm sure you don't have to order a separate frame. I've been looking at inset stoves for months and I've never come across one that required a separate frame.
They can see that I'm panicking. They look at each other. One turns away and whispers something to the other under his breath. There's a hint of smile.
They are in my house, being paid by me and they are holding my best mugs.
I go upstairs and ring the fireplace company. They are very apologetic. There should be a frame, they say, they will ring the company in Sweden.
I come downstairs. The builder appears from the back garden with a large cardboard box, "Is this the frame?" he says. It was there all the time.
By the time they finish it's dark and the chimney pot is on the roof but I can't see it, and they want paying, in cash, all of it. I pay them most of it but hold back £100.
"What's this?" says the one in charge, let's call him King Cheeky.
"I'll pay you the last hundred when my husband has seen it," I say.
"But we've done the job," says King Cheeky, clearly outraged, "It's all finished."
"Yes, I say, but it's dark and I can't see and my husband hasn't seen it. (He doesn't need to know that my husband couldn't care less).
He leaves in a huff, slamming the door behind him and the next day I awake, look out the back office window, and see a nasty splodgy mess of mortar all over the cowl (top of chimney pot) and the roof.
So, when King Cheeky sends a text a few days later asking when can he call round for the rest of his money, "Liz"? I reply saying anytime, thanks, so long as he clears up the cowl first.
"Why?" comes back a text, quick as lightening, "What's wrong with it?"
"Bit splodgy," I text back.
"Send a picture," he returns.
So I do. (At the top of the blog.)
"Saturday am okay?" comes back his reply.
"Fine," I say.
Touche to you Mr Cheeky pants-I'm-going-to-use-your-best-mug-and-buggar-off-without-doing-the-job-properly.
So he comes on Saturday and puts it right and I pay him and I won't be recommending him to anyone anytime soon.
But God it's exhausting.
Love E x