All parents know there are certain things in life you can rely on. Certain irrefutable facts…
If your baby is crying at 3am and you’re naked when you pick her up she’ll vomit down your back.
Go into your 5 year old son’s room in the middle of the night and you’ll stand on a piece of Lego
And if you tell your teenage daughter that X is an ugly waster with no future she’ll fall in love with him the next day.
But eventually they go to university, or to homes of their own. And you survey the ruins of your battered house and think, ‘Yes! Finally, we can do it up. We have the time; we may even have the money. Dream Interiors here we come…’
And so you send for the plumber. Who in turn tells you that you’ll also need the electrician and the plasterer. Which brings us to another irrefutable fact of human life.
If you have the said tradesmen working in your house, said tradesmen will need to tramp remorselessly backwards and forwards to the van they’ve parked in your drive. They will leave the front door permanently open and it will always be raining.
A plumber never, ever arrives on a sunny day.
So not surprisingly I was at home, a) babysitting the dog so she didn’t run out of the still wide-open door and b) watching our hall carpet gradually turn into a paddy field.
Oh and c) trying to do some work.
But why bother?
“We’re just going to drill through this wall. Not disturbing you are we?”
“Blimey, it’s thirst work is this…”
And, “Where do you want these plugs to go?”
What he means of course, is where does your wife want these plugs to go? Fortunately, I’ve made notes. I may not have learnt much in 24 years of marriage but I’ve learnt to make notes. And when you’re in charge of the workmen, notes – a.k.a. your wife’s instructions – are exactly what you need.
And then we hit a problem.
“Just need to turn the power off for a while.” Clearly the electrician has finished his cup of tea. “Where’s your fuse box, mate?”
Tradesmen have a particular look of contempt for people like me. Before I can tell him where the fuse box is I have to work out what it is. A fuse box… I’ve heard the term. Is that what we had to fix when the kettle stopped working?
It was the same last time we needed the plumber. “Left me wrench at the last job. You got a six inch wrench I can use?”
They automatically assume you know exactly what a six inch wrench is and that you’d consider your life worthless if you didn’t own one. Meanwhile I’m thinking, ‘Wrench, wrench… What is that? Some sort of big screwdriver?’
And the plumber is giving me that look…
As a writer, I really need to stand up for myself: take my revenge with the only weapons at my disposal.
“Look, mate. You know there’s a grammar mistake on the side of your van, don’t you?”
“What?” Completely baffled look. I stare at him with total contempt.
“Yes, you’ve used a possessive apostrophe incorrectly. ‘No tool’s left in this van overnight.’ You’ve used a possessive apostrophe. That’s wrong.”
I could also point out that on his business card he’s put a full stop inside the brackets when – obviously – it should be outside.
But I don’t. Instead I mutter something about my tool box being under the stairs and I’ll look for a wrench.
I’d have more chance of finding a unicorn…