Not suitable for people with irony deficiency and
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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A Good (Work)Man is hard to find

Mr Blighty has entrusted to me the role of project manager for home improvements, phase 78.

He made me solemnly promise not to use the kittycat notebook or the pen with the pink fluffy feathers on the end. Something about losing credibility.

Mr B left me with a detailed list of home improvements which I am to oversee, and the order in which they each need to be done. The list includes words like "architraves" and "double gang socket" so already I am floundering.

I decided to play to my strengths so spent a couple of happy hours putting together little folders for each project. Stationery is vital in this sort of situation.

The most pressing project is new fitted wardrobes for Boy 1's room. Last week some men came and dismantled his old cupboards. Boy 1 is not the least bit perturbed by having his clothes and belongings in various boxes strewn across the house. He will take to student life like a duck to orange, er, water.

Then the wardrobe guy came to measure up for the new wardrobes. Measurements for a Savile Row suit would be less precise and extensive. Wardrobe man was with us for so long, I almost made up the guest bedroom for him. He and Mr B had lots of in-depth male bonding type chats, including about our septic tank (always a great ice breaker socially).

I need to organise the next steps. Mr B did a very specific 22 point timetable for this - with lots of complicated numbering, it went something like this:
Section 1 Provision of Beverage Refreshments to Workmen
1.1 Beverage Refreshments shall be provided to Workmen.
1.1.1 Beverage Refreshments shall be provided in a cup, on a tray and with accompanying biscuit assortment at the following times:
1.1.1.(a) 9am, 10am, 11am, 12am and at 2 hourly intervals thereafter until 3pm when they start packing up to go home at 5pm;
1.1.1. (b) Biscuit assortment must include chocolate biscuits.
For the purposes of Section 1 "Beverage Refreshments" shall mean standard Indian tea and/or instant coffee (either with milk and one, or just milk); it shall on no account include any herbal teas or chai lattes, or any other beverage which might call into question the fitness of the Workmen to carry out said duties.
After a lot of headscratching I think I need to arrange for the following to be done:
1. Electrics
No, that's wrong - er

1. Carpenter

2. Painter

3. Plasterer

No, that can't be right can it??

4. Dentist

5. Lie down

Within a short time it all went awry. So awry that first thing Monday morning I had no painter or carpenter able to do the job in time for wardrobe man to fit the wardrobes.

And then :

I panicked and by 11am Monday morning I had 2 lots of carpenters to do the same job (that is, one lot more than necessary), plus another guy also threatening to do the job as well. And the first two were both keen to come round the next afternoon to see what needed doing.

Workmen, it seems, are like London buses - none, or 3 number 74's coming along in convoy at the same time. Or if my experience as a single girl is typical, like boyfriends: either your love life is a Gobi desert of no suitors at all or ...I was trying to explain this to Mr B who said he'd really rather not know.

So I had visions of trying to juggle the 2 sets of workmen, to keep them apart, like a demented wife in one of those old West End farces, with a subtle title like "Banging in the Bedroom". (" No, don't go into that room, why not come downstairs and have a cup of tea with the Vicar!"). Now I am not an expert, but this does not seem to be good project management to me.

But luckily my saviour arrived in the form of Ron the Plumber Extraordinaire, who has done various jobs for us in the past and turns out to be so much more than just a plumber: electrician, builder, carpenter, philosopher, man of few words and serious style icon: never seen without a pencil behind his ear. Ron and his son Little Ron (both are 6ft 5) arrived, surveyed what needed doing and told me the painter would be able to get the work done in time. "But he told me he couldn't!" I blabbered. "We'll speak to him. He 'll do it." (Ron seems to run all of West London workmen, and if Ron says "Jump"..)

Of course Ron thinks I am a completely hopeless case but I think he enjoys sorting me out. I tried desperately to impress him by showing him my new folders. "And that helps does it?" he said.

Next time he comes I'm going to show him my kitty notebook.

P.S. This post has been delayed because the electrician turned up today and switched the power off mid-composition, how can an artist work in these conditions!

P.P.S. All that hooha about the Athlete's Village in India not being ready and fit in time for the Commonwealth Games - just like to make it clear, me and my kitty notebook were in no way involved. In any way. At all. Never even been to India. Honest.


  1. Hey,
    Your pencil matches your tail.
    You are soooo stylish Blighty, I think the two Ron(nie)s like sorting you out because you are such a cutey with that pencil behind your ear.

  2. Dear Mrs Blighty, I too start these endeavors with new stationery. I love a competent tradesman and when he is kind to boot, I start to go all girly. My step-mum has a lovely tradesman who obligingly takes his shirt off to reveal a washboard stomach on a hot day. We sit out on the porch with our coffee for extended periods of time and my dad asks us not to wolf whistle...

  3. hi blighty,

    you are so funny. and guess what? i have a ron the plumber too AND his helper is his son, little ronnie, swear to god. problem is their other job is drinking. we have to call them early in the morning if you care about getting the prob fixed otherwise they tend to make things worse. but i love big ron, he always forgets i'm in the house and shouts out instructions to little ronnie like "it's okay, janet will never notice." or "don't let janet know." but i'm sitting in the next room and can hear everything. and yet we always call them back.

  4. Blighty...
    I think marabou slippers might go well with the kitty cat notebook and pen arrangement....if all else fails bring on the biscuits!

  5. You are a treat! I guess workmen are the same all over. I need that kitty notebook.

  6. Blighty,
    A hilarious post!

    Thank you for confirming my long held fears about home renovations conducted whilst living in said home.

    Just jokes, it will be all right in the end!

    Take care,

    SSG xxx

  7. Oh Blighty, you are hilarious. My kingdom for a Ron, or even a 6'5 little Ron. I can't believe you showed him your folders! I am still giggling.
    A-M xx PS My boys always get a chuckle out of your possum thingy.

  8. I love your blog Blighty - makes me chuckle every time! NHG

  9. P.S. I think you should get a twitter account - I'd love to see your life commentary jammed into 140 characters.

  10. Oh Blighty - your project management skills seem to have gotten a major workout with that wardrobe! As for double gang sockets - I wouldn't know the first thing to look for.

    I think you underestimate the power of the kitten notebook. We are in the process of knocking down our house and building a new one in it's place and I think a kitten notebook would be very useful. But then again, the only thing I am entrusted with is choosing wallpaper and furniture. I think Mr K understands my limitations - and is letting me nowhere near the structural or important bits, like wiring...

  11. Oh dear. Better scrap the Hello Kitty stationary idea I had up my sleeve for you...Look at those organised folders though- Impressive. Just remember to show those tradies who's Boss (That's You Blighty!!)

  12. Dear Louise, coordination is everything.
    Dear Linda in Chile, please send contact details of washboard stomach man, I don't care what his skills are, I need him. (My mother loved your comment about you and your step-mum carefully supervising the guy!! Close supervision in these circs is vital)
    Janet, loved your comments about your Rons, hilarious! My Ron is silent but polite with me; but if I catch him unawares he is usually moaning to Little Ron about the incompetence of other workmen, and the language used is very forthright!
    Hostess - the slippers are a great idea, no one would mess with me then.
    Deb - I heard that in US it was not expected to make tea for workmen and an American lady I know could not understand, when she first moved here, why her workmen kept lingering in the kitchen and asking if her kettle worked..
    SSG - spot on, best to be far away when any work being done, the other day the noise of banging from the electrician..aaagh! And also the secret rule that all doors and windows must at all times be left wide open to ensure homeowner hypothermia...
    A-M - Mr B is relieved that I only showed Ron my folders...we don't want to frighten him off
    NHG - welcome! thanks for stopping by! I am really enjoying your blog, you are my latest young slick urban professional style icon!!
    Miss Kitty - building a new house sounds fab, we are just trying to bring ours up to scratch as and when we have the money and the energy; personally I would rather live in a tiny studio in central London and go out a lot!! Am planning this for our retirement, but Mr B plans to spend quality time with his lawn..
    FF - i go pathetically fluttery around workmen and fail to keep on top of what is going on; a while ago a carpenter sawed a door in half to make cupboard doors, and it was Boy 1 who noticed later than they were not sawn in equal halves..


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