Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Milk and one. Milk and two. Milk and three. Milk and four. Strong and black. Strong and white. Black with no. Just some water. Do you have fizzy? Have you got a biscuit to go with that, love? Hahahahaha. 

Directed at my boobs not at my face. Flirting. Joking. Friendly. Moody. Condescending. Sarcastic. Lying. Educated. Rude. Polite. Not educated. Good English. Bad English. Helpful. Not helpful. White. Black. British. Polish. Italian. English. Crap at spelling.

Late. Postponed. No reply. Just coming. On the way. Terrible traffic. Looks bad. Worse than I thought. Cost you more. What a comedian. Parking permit. Bum crack. Beer belly. Dirty boots. Loose rubbish dumped in the bin/garden/road. Just nipping out for supplies...

If any of that is familiar then you too have had builders in. I've had a bellyful in the last year. I could write a book. Lucky for you this is only a blog post, but still, you can count it as therapy. My therapy. For free.

Builders at the top of our garden having a nice sit down.

Are we unlucky or are all workmen in London unreliable porky pie merchants who can't look you in the eye and tell you the truth for toffee? Or even for a nice sweet cup of tea and a load of tax-free cash stuffed in an envelope?

Maybe that's a bit strong, like most of the tea I've been brewing. I know I annoyed someone by writing that all builders are wankers on Facebook recently but in my defence I was at the end of my tether, and I'm not even friends with any builders on Facebook, unless some of my 'friends' are moonlighting behind my back, which they could be I suppose because God knows there's money in it. Loadsamoney.

On that particular occasion a builder decided to charge us extra for tidying up the mess he made of our neighbour's wall. He'd already been paid a princely sum for the job which, it turned out, took him only a couple of hours and not the whole day he predicted. So did he reduce his price? Did he hecklers like, he charged us more.

And that is a mere trifle compared to some of the cock ups, like getting the main load-bearing steel wrong for the new kitchen extension. Twice. And lying about it, to the building inspector, and us. Or laying a concrete floor that wasn't level and didn't set so it all had to come up, all 50 square meters of it, back through the front door because we live in a terrace. I reckon most of that floor is still in my lungs, which is why I succumbed to asthma at the time and have since had a bout of bronchitis.

Then there was the decorator who was engaged to paint the woodwork on the house who out-sourced the job without telling us, didn't watch what was going on, and was responsible for our beloved Virginia Creeper being ripped off while we were away, when we expressly asked for it to stay, and then the front door key went missing. When I asked for the key back pronto in a text message, he sent an instant reply that said… actually I'll copy and paste you what it said because it's priceless - 

"Key, no, need to pick up from epsom hospital. The last decorator had an hart atack on Sunday he has it on his key ring with him… Will getnit back as soon as visiting hours are alawed." 

All sic by the way, and English is his first language. He comes from Guildford. Went to private school.

The good news is we are nearly at the end of it all, for now. We moved here seven years ago and are nearing completion of the first pass: where every inch will finally have been painted, carpeted, mended, wired, plumbed or generally renovated and brought up to scratch at least once. Then we will need to start again with what we did at the beginning. 

And finally, after all those builders and scaffolders and roofers and plumbers and electricians and carpenters, we have just hit upon someone who is actually good. Really good. Someone who ran a tidy team, operating like a silent disco for decorators, all of them listening to Radio 4 individually on their headphones, discreetly creeping from hall to stair to landing, brushes softly stroking walls in unison with glistening pristine emulsion, who when I asked if they wanted a cuppa variously replied: not really, no thanks, that's okay, er, do you have any Red Bush at all?

I have glimpsed the future of workmen and it has no workmen in it. It is a future that is tidy, reliable, quiet, intelligent, considerate, not in the least flirty and tidies up after itself at the end of the day. A future in which if you put a pile of washing on the bottom of your stairs to go up, one of them notices and takes it up for you. Yes, that's right, you guessed it: it's a team of work-women. The future, my friend, is FEMALE to a man.

E x 

So shoot me if I'm being sexist I don't care. I am the mother of three sons. They are wonderful. I adore them. Do I ever want them to decorate my hall and stairs? No. 

Newly painted book shelves on the landing.


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  1. LOL reading this! All the NZ tradesmen I've had just look at me incredibly gratefully if I offer them a cup of tea. I am talking - curtain hanger, blacksmith and stonemason here.Not builders.

  2. Thanks Jane! If you like it pass it on, I'm always after fresh readers. Are you in N Z then? Or just using NZ workers? :) E x

    1. Ha me too! I'm always after fresh readers for my blog. I will retweet & fb you. I live in Queenstown, NZ. I'm a kiwi. Tradies I have mentioned were kiwis also.

  3. Thanks for the praise for my all-female team Elizabeth. We delight in keeping our customers happy! We might not have builders bums, but if you notice the younger members of my team bending over a skirting board, you just might spot the strings of a 'thong' popping out the top of their trousers!!
    In my other life as a textile 'Woman of the Cloth' here's a link to Sarah Campbell's blog which includes a mention of a little felt bag of mine she bought at one of our events. http://sarahcampbelldesigns.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/currency-of-colour/
    She is the Habitat designer coming to run a workshop for we Women of the Cloth at my house tomorrow, so today I'm tidying & cleaning, moving furniture, collecting art supplies & getting in the zone. We are all to bring something we find inspiring & beautiful - how am I going to choose .... I have so many things which inspire me ... look forward to seeing your new carpet which tops off our decorating! x

  4. Thanks for this Carol. Glad you liked it. I didn't notice the thongs but I think you might get even more work now, if that's possible. :)