Make Do and Men… The Tradesmen in My Life

When Hamlet moaned about sorrows coming ‘not single spies, but in battalions’ I think he’d probably had the sort of week I had recently.

Friday evening began well; the table set for eight, a five course meal at varying stages of preparation, a bottle of non vintage champagne open and a mood of old fashioned gaiety  prevailing in the kitchen.

Fast forward forty minutes. The element in the fan oven has blown, guests are battling for parking space and the champagne has revealed itself to be Not Very Good.

Single Spy Number One.

The following evening is chilly. The central heating is turned on early. By ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, the house still has an Alpine feel.

I grope the radiator. It is stone cold. The pump in the boiler has failed. I am forced to reach for a bottle of red wine to warm myself up.

With my fingers contracting in the chill air, I add ‘CALL BOILER MAN’ to list which already reads ‘CALL OVEN REPAIR MAN.’

We decamp to friends for a couple of days. The weather thankfully turns milder. We return home, eager to welcome repair men into our home.

The journey is long and tiresome. I decide to run a bath to soothe my back which never appreciates four hours in the Volkswagen position.

I dip a hand into the fragranced, bubble filled water. It is barely tepid. The immersion heater has died.

I have resisted crying but now, now that a boy band of sorrows (let’s call them ‘Domestic Chaos’) has danced around my house breaking things, I choose tears; lots of them. I also vow not to put the washing machine on in case Domestic Chaos should shimmy into view there too.

At this point, I fantasise what it would be like to be the wife of a builder. In my fantasy, my builder husband winks at me and takes out his spanner.

Abracadabra! He’s pointed it in all the right places and temperatures are on the rise!

In reality, I am entirely reliant on tradesmen.

So, one after another, engineers have been calling at my house.

As a younger woman, I’d greet them with my grateful face, looking up at them in wonder and marvelling at their tool boxes.

Within moments of their having delved into my broken appliance, I’d be offering up a cup of tea, three sugars diligently stirred in, and a selection of Fox’s biscuits artistically arranged on a plate.

Two extensions and a refurb later, I have grown weary of men in overalls. I have tired of  abandoned plastic wrappers in the sink, unexplained washers everywhere and the visits to the loo. (My heart always sinks. It’s as if they don’t know why loo brushes were invented.) I will make a cup of tea but they can forget the biscuits (this is austerity Britain, right?).

In the past ten days, I’ve met Andy, Gary, Hamid and John.  I have learnt these things:

Andy (Oven Man: tea, milk, three sugars) has a cat with white socks just like one of mine. He loves cats. His last girlfriend though, was allergic.

Gary (Immersion Heater: coffee, milk, two sugars) is back on the dating scene after a divorce which cleaned him out.

Hamid (Dishwasher Man –  this is the third call out to my dishwasher in three months and I have started to organise my social life around his visits; no hot drinks, just water) has an ex wife who ran off with a much younger milkman. He cannot get over what a cliche that is. She also cleaned him out BUT she didn’t get the children. He is booked again for next Friday.

John (Boiler Man: tea, milk, no sugar) does not have a girlfriend. He likes Game of Thrones and World of Warfare.

By the end of this period, I feel I could pass high level examinations in relationship counselling. 

The weekend arrives. We enjoy two full days where all appliances are functioning normally, even if the air in the kitchen still reeks of heating oil and bitterness.

I ask my younger son to mow the lawn and this he does dutifully.

I am admiring the sun-dappled grass as he whizzes up and down on the ride-on, when suddenly there is a terrific crack and a shattering of glass – the opening bars of more Domestic Chaos.

The mower has thrown up a stone which has hit the UPVC window with such velocity as to shatter four panes. 

Vince from the glazing firm appointed by our insurers will be with me on Wednesday…

Hamlet was struggling with battalions. Man, I got regiments rolling in.

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