Thursday, May 13, 2010

Builders in the bath

I don’t know why I always approach building projects with a skip in my step, convinced that this is going to be the fabled, quick and easy job. I should know better. After all, I am not a complete novice on the builder front. As a family we’ve already lived through one major project when we added an extra storey to our house in London. During this prolonged process I became so callous that when the foreman rushed out to meet me with the news that someone had fallen through my bedroom ceiling, my immediate thought was not for the clod footed apprentice, but my bed.

A couple of years ago we tackled the front garden of our Sydney house. As with all good building projects the renovation of the front garden and putting in a carport sounded deceptively cheap and simple to do. But this was because we had forgotten the golden rule of building projects, think of an outrageously high number of dollars and weeks and then double it. (Or to be on the safe side use a multiple of 4).

As usual our timing was perfect, no sooner did the front steps disappear, to be replaced by a plank, than a family of five arrived from New York to stay. Just to add to the general chaos the weather turned unfriendly and the front garden transformed itself into a Somme like landscape of mud and craters complete with resident digger. At this point we began to wonder what had been wrong with the dilapidated corrugated iron shack and the layer of bricks that had been the key features of the previous front garden.

Our foreman, resolute in his boots, quickly became part of daily life. His arrival before seven each morning heralded the start of the day. He was terrifically diplomatic and ignored the morning dawn chorus of shrieks and shouts as the Drama Queens got going. He even managed to keep his cool when Drama Queen No.2, late as usual, belted down the drawbridge plank, turned left and ran straight through a bed of wet concrete. She was going at such speed that she attained a kind of body surfing momentum through the grey, porridge like, substance to the open mouthed amazement of the concrete guys.

As the job continued on a timeline way beyond our initial imaginings, the foreman was such a feature of my life that my sensitive, new age man of a husband started referring to him with heavy humour as “mummy’s lover”, the implication being this was the only reason that it could take over four months to build a carport. It was unfortunate that when the perfectly innocent foreman rang me, Drama Queen no. 3 picked up and tactfully handed over the mobile with the immortal and audible words “It’s your lover, Mummy.” As a result the poor man, who was at least ten years younger than me, could never look me in the eye again and tended to back away nervously whenever I cornered him for a discussion.

Like children, just when I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer it all came to an end, and as with children it was all worth it, if expensive. We now love spending time in the front garden and enough time has passed for both my nerves and the family bank balance to recover, to the extent that we can contemplate the next project, a bathroom renovation. So far it is all looking par for the course – they ripped everything out with vigour and enthusiasm at the beginning of the week – and then following the familiar pattern of building projects everything has now gone quiet leaving us with an interesting black hole of a room.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for the mythical quick finish on this one, as I am not sure we are a family designed to share one bathroom in perpetuity. I have just stepped inside the remaining sole ablutions block in the house and in the shower alone, counted 4 different types of shampoo and conditioner, 3 separate razors (fact they are all coloured pink and husband has actually been in WA for last 2 nights makes me suspect none belong to him) and a ridiculous number of potions and lotions. I think I might be celebrating the completion of new bathroom, (note positive attitude) by introducing a rationing system re the number of beauty and health implements/aids/disguises each member of the family is allowed.

Just to finish on the builder theme, and boy how I love a good theme, Drama Queen No. 3’s school is in the midst of a giant building project, as indeed are most schools in Sydney, as a result of the government stimulus package. The playground is divided into play and construction zones with the usual notices stuck up about health and safety and the wearing of hard hats – but the ones that made me laugh are the very prominent “NO SWEARING” notices posted everywhere, presumably to lessen the chance of the Kindergarteners picking up more than the rudiments of ABC at school

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