In June Sarah, frontwoman, Nigel, the boss, and Lloyd came to persuade me to have a new kitchen and bathroom, making the specifications which Lloyd drew from, to show how it’d look, he adding there’d be more space, the decider, though I was putting up only a show of resistance. Since I was also having a new boiler, some coordination with the gas people would be required. Incidentally, having smoked since nine, Nigel is terminal with emphysema. “Not a cough like mine then!”
Five months later Sarah phoned to tell me to clear the kitchen for Monday. I tucked it under the bed in the room.
The demolition boys came and went. Then I had to clear the books from the shelves above the lobby between kitchen and bathroom for the electricians, Mick and Nathan. The boys, Wesley, fifty-five, and Badman came back. Dave supervised them dolefully. Gasmen came, Roger and Karl, and I had to move a bookcase, where I’d put the books in the room, for Roger to see the immerser. He was making specifications that had been made before but got mislaid. After Wesley and Badman left the kitchen to them, Mick and Nathan moved the cooker into the room, and didn’t move it back when they left, as I almost immediately realised, too late. Since I hadn’t thought to remind them, I accepted the lack as an experiment, cooking sausages more or less successfully in the microwave I’d moved into the room along with the fridge.
It was Mick’s buzzing woke me. He showed me how to lock the new door to the flat and I cancelled the repair I’d put in for it. I made porridge in the microwave but toast was out of the question. My friend, Adrian, in Waitrose made a coffee for Mick who’d asked for me to bring him one back. “John has an electrician at home,” Adrian told our friend, Donna who went, “Oh,” suggestively. My tea was improving, Mick commended, to builder’s strength. Wesley and Badman made such a fleeting visit Mick wondered why they’d bothered. Out again, I met up with my prospective publisher where I usually meet her, in the street, who said the book’s with the printer, I told Mick, but she’d told him there was no rush, a cause I said for doubt. To please me, Mick said, he was wearing earmuffs as well as mask, looking like a Cyclon. I failed to guess from his eyes he’s a Scorpio. Mick trolleyed the cooker back to the kitchen and I finally could eat salmon, broccoli and a baked potato. He said he’d see me Thursday. Though Mick had advised I should, for the break, I decided, last minute, not to go to the writers’ group I wasn’t up to.
Karl and Roger put in the new boiler with difficulty into the open cupboard on the outside wall but without demolishing anything else, the old cold store stone being left. Wesley and Steve, the erstwhile Badman Mick had called Rude- or Badboy, arrived as I returned from a brief shop, leaving a bag of tools in the shed for the morrow, though there seemed no reason they couldn’t be doing the bathroom that day. I’d be short of hot water that night. Kitchen units were delivered. While putting the books back on the shelves, I realised the units could be stored in Diana’s to which I’d the key since her sectioning. “Stop!” I redirected them. I was left wet underfoot and with a tap dripping into a bucket in the kitchen.
Roger and Karl continually intruded into the room, to do with valves for radiator and taps at the immerser. Wesley and Steve stashed more stuff in Diana’s. Karl handed me a letter from my friend, Michele, about bug-killing. Steve had me trying to find WD 40. The old deep bath was thrown onto the gravel garden by Karl, Steve and Wesley. I’d withdrawn my helping hand because a finger’d got trapped painfully between bath and balcony box bracket. Steve’s married to Wesley’s goddaughter. They’re in the same sign, Cancer. Wesley believes in a spirit world and is okay, though I don’t believe in god, that I do believe in my own unconscious will, my man, who is god. He denied his belief had anything to do with his Jamaican origins. “Did you get your eyes from your mother?” I asked Steve, who had. They’re light. I had no hot water, couldn’t flush the loo, but did have cold water, gas, electricity and could have heating.
I’d only washing breakfast up to do when Wesley arrived, he and Steve soon called away on an emergency. Aren’t I! I protested unavailingly. Roger and Karl advised phoning in I’d no bath, water or flushable pan. Sarah phoned back and the boys came back. Roger was coming back next day. I could have heating and hot water except that the latter couldn’t be tapped in the kitchen. I couldn’t have hot water there. Taking advantage of a clear kitchen, I roasted poussin and had a white wine. My new kitchen stuff has gone elsewhere while whoever’s kitchen stuff come here. There was a brief visit from a kitchen boy. Hot water did not come through to the bath tap and the floor was concretised anyway with a level wash over tiles. I got paint Wesley didn’t warn me of on my jacket. Steve asked for a mop. I complained he should have one; I didn’t. He never had anything. Since I couldn’t go into the bathroom and had to fix the flushing mechanism once the concrete dried, I went downstairs to Diana’s before it became too dark; she’s no electricity. I lost my shed key which I found on the bookcase where I must’ve put it on some distracting demand from a workman. Adrian called in to have buttons sewn on his coat before going on to a casino. Only once he’d gone did I remember where needles and thread were and easily accessible. I’d conveniently forgotten.
When I stretched over the concrete to pour pee in, the pan leaked. In the morning I put the lid on the cistern. I used the pan. It leaked and kept running. I removed lid and flusher. I called emergency repairs for a plumber. Roger came and set up the timer for the boiler. Karl had repaired the tap, unaccountably no longer working in the kitchen, but I couldn’t have hot water because it’d’ve leaked at the bath, as Steve and Wesley must’ve known because the outflow tap at the immerser had been turned off. Andy, the plumber, said something else was misconnected in the cistern and removed it. The pan itself was misconnected, he said. I still had the leak, as I reported to Sarah by email. Bob, the leaseholder living above, had complained to Roger about vapour from my new flue condensing on his balcony though Carrie’s, the tenant’s below, doesn’t on mine. Diana’s cat wanted more feeding. Considering she spits ungratefully when I’m too near for her comfort, she’s lucky I feed her at all, but I’d bought special dry food she likes so gave her some of that along with a telling-off.
Wesley and Steve were apprised of the bathroom situation and fixed it, as the plumber could’ve done, Steve said. It wasn’t his job to. I found out how to get hot water. The kitchen unit guy came to take the unit from Diana’s that’d been delivered wrongly. Apart from sink, Steve was missing a 500 unit for the kitchen. The water was off. It was colder. Dave came morosely to supervise the miscreants. Isaac, Diana’s care support, phoned to have me get Diana’s card for money to pay bills since I’m the only one she trusts. Ashida, who was in charge, after consultation with the ward manager, got it from the hospital cashier to give me. The boys had gone by the time I came back just in time to extract money from the post office and have my first bath in years. The shower was dismantled. I worked out how to put water off and heating on, sort of. The pan was leaking, the kitchen cold tap sporadically leaking and no water else except at the bath.
The heating was on when I got up! I read the instructions and set it to off. Danny measured the floor that wasn’t ready for him to lay with lino and whined at the £6 parking fee he’d paid, money he’d never see again as I accompanied him out, leaving Wesley and Steve to it. He wasn’t bad if a bit dim-looking, long and thin. Sarah and Dave came to supervise. After they’d gone, Wesley and Steve went, and Isaac came. I sorted out Diana’s bills and her debt to him. He was impressed by the kitchen and bathroom. He might as well ask one for Diana, I advised. Wesley said it wasn’t my business but it was Isaac’s, I replied. Steve said most would find it fearsome to work here – “Am I fearsome?” – but he found it immensely pleasurable. “Presumption of them thinking they’re desirable!” “Yes!” exclaimed Steve who was taking immense pleasure in the remark.
I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, wakened by a start from dreaming the buzzer went. I shat downstairs. From having a smoke on the balcony, Steve told a caretaking young man over the way there was a carton of milk in the box at the top of the pipe, thrown there I conjectured by an earlier next door neighbour who’d also thrown eggs at a window across the lane. Dave called in, querulously.
Next day Wesley and Steve were earlier than expected. I got wipes and bread before going off with £100 for Diana and decided to take her benefits card in case she wanted it back, to save me a trot, obviously anticipating she would. The ward doorman made slow difficulties, suggesting I come back at four, at visiting hours. I just wanted to hand in the money and made it clear I wouldn’t be back. I was let see Diana, who refused to accept that the original card had been declined because she reported it lost, affecting not to know I’d had it. I wouldn’t hand back the new card without clearing it with Colin, the manager, since he was responsible for giving me it and for her. I rationalised there was no reason I should be involved. I warned Wesley and Steve she was being let out on home leave and to clear out her flat. I wasn’t getting another key cut either but put her hers back where she wanted, wrapping it in a plastic bag for the boys to use to clear the alien stuff out her flat and replace the key in the flower pot, for the burglar. Before leaving they put the cooker in the bathroom on my refusing to have it again in the room. To regulate any heating I had to walk like a mountain goat from sink unit top to top above where the fridge will go until Steve’s levelling cement in the kitchen dried.
As the boys guddled on, a floor-layer came to lay the lino expeditiously. With the cooker back, I was about to cook when I noticed the front plate had been stove in from being moved and girned. Wesley repaired it. I cooked, ate and drank. Steve stove it in again and didn’t fix it properly. Isaac phoned even after I texted Diana had taken her card back. Adrian texted to go for a coffee. He was in Wholefoods apparently but I didn’t see him, catching up with him with his ex, Richard, whom I recognised passing in the street. As we were going to Waitrose, I stopped for Penny, coming from it. “That’s my stalker.” “I know.” After Costa, he came back for a drink, loved the bathroom and kitchen and hung on as usual. I was putting things back from under the bed into the kitchen storage space till seven past one.
I tried repairing the oven panel’s rubber seal, which was peeling off, with Loctite, which had sealed itself, cap to tube. I snipped the bottom.
The sealing dripped from the oven. I was in the throes of putting things away in the cupboard under the sink when Adrian called in for herbs. I asked why he didn’t grow them. Finished off rationalising use of the cupboard space, more thoroughly repaired the oven panel, levering bent holding pins back into place with a flat screwdriver, and used up the last of the Loctite through another snipped bit on the rubber seal. This didn’t stop the new smoke alarm enunciating fi-er, fi-er and finally warning of carbon monoxide during the baking of bubble and squeak before shutting up.
The boys were back, putting in the bathroom sink. Dave was whinging about a missing strip for the kitchen sink unit I hadn’t even noticed. A noncommittal Michele took me out for lunch at Marks with her bag and baggage and is so slow doing anything I patiently wait for her to arrive at a decision for herself. The boys were still there when I got back about 2:30. While out for a paper, I bought a mop from Dyas and a clothes horse to replace the old one Steve had thrown onto the heap of rubbish to be taken away. It was so cold I had the heating on for an hour early evening.
Nathan came to do the electrics, Wesley the leak and Steve was called in. Donna said Adrian wanted to see me. Richard had a theatre ticket he wants to offload. Nigel was there when I got back. “Have you kicked them up the arse yet?” He hadn’t. “Good. I haven’t missed it.” I then missed it. Nigel knocked on the room door and came in to tell me he’d sacked Wesley and Steve. He was incomprehensibly apologising and pointed out misaligned kitchen cupboard and sink unit, that in the bathroom Wesley had painted over mine of the door instead of rubbing it down first, leaving the door handle unpainted and that tiling Steve had done was uneven. I thought he was being pernickety. Had I been paying for the redone kitchen and bathroom it’d cost me £4,800 I found out. Nathan helped me lift the fridge over the new lino and I put the microwave back. Nathan says Nigel has a little man’s complex ie Napoleonic. He’d been so embarrassed by the sacking he went out for a smoke. I had a bath.
Not expecting anybody, I missed Sarah’s call a Liam was at the door and couldn’t return it for being out of credit and having to negotiate my way to having more credit, finally managing it through customer services, all of which took hours! Sarah laughed. I was free for five days till Monday when the bath was to be turned around.
Not finding a heat-resistant sealant at Homebase, I ordered one on eBay.
I had a cool bath and shave Sunday evening because I wouldn’t be able to next morning on the irruption of workmen.
Liam annoying me by leaving the outside door open while he untiled. The door was finally shut when Liam left, leaving his detritus in the bath for tiling on the morrow.
I won the battle of the open door with Liam, lost the renewed battle but didn’t mind since Nathan came with the four screws Liam wanted for the shower. Initially I hadn’t thought Nathan, twenty-one, sexy, but his shoulders are broad. He thought the woman at the job he’d come from prejudiced. “Give me the details, in case I can use them in writing.” She’d been standoffish with him but effusive with the other guy. Nathan was especially nice to her thereafter. “What about me?” He snort of laughed. “I hide it well!” The shower hadn’t to be used yet. Nathan thought the kitchen sockets weren’t working. “I thought that but it’s the fluorescent light,” so bright it put the one on the kettle out. Nathan activated the single unworking socket, asking about the NW I’d pencilled on it which he, an electrician, would do for ‘not wired’. He was growing on me, like fungus. I did mention the broad shoulders to him but not the curly lashes. He’d had a haircut. Pauline quietly asked up from over the way, where she works in an office, what was being done, while Nathan was having difficulty unparking himself. I told her I was getting a kitchen and bathroom costing £4,800 because I was poor. Going out for a paper, I asked Nathan if I could do anything. He said to tell him when he was near the step down to Union Court. I did and he managed to clear his exit. I waved in passing and he gave me the thumbs-up.
I helped Liam carry his stuff to the van, a tape left I put where Wesley’s was taken from, on the cold store stone. I’ve even been given a new shower pole and curtain. Liam phoned about his tape, men came to take away the rubbish and the men come to put in new outside doors buzzed Diana’s to no avail since Isaac’s always late.
Diana has a new blue door, with vertical panes like my red one. Sarah emailed I was amazing, so calm and patient. I replied it’d be ungracious not to be.
I let in a floor-layer I didn’t recognise as Danny for Diana’s since Isaac wasn’t there yet. After washing clothes and hoovering, I had my first shower in ages. I’m not done yet. The boiler has a slow leak and something’s to be done about the connection for a prospective washing machine.