He lies there in the sink motionless. Or at least I think it’s a he. Since the beginning of time – or at least, since the beginning of sinks, Daddy Long-Legs (Latin name bigflakyspiderus) have sat in wash basins and baths, wondering what choices they made in their lives thus far to get into this mess.
This time it’s different. The daddylonglegs sits in an Impala washbasin in a bath and tile showroom so is safe, for the moment, from drowning. Maybe, like me, he and the wife were out looking at sanitary ware too; scoping out the latest trends in basin-slope. Now he’s marooned in the showroom. I know how he feels.
There’s no time to waste on arachnids, because it’s waste-time. We need to look at toilets. Out of the huge range available, we seem to be in agreement on an ‘Olympus’. Quite why a toilet is named after the mythological home of the ancient Greek gods, I’m not sure. Unless it’s been ages since you last went and you’re having a really heroic….. oh well never mind.
We’re spending precious time here looking at sanitary ware because B-Day has arrived, the builders are in. After months of changing our minds, what-iffing and HOWMUCHing, the time for talking is done.
Over time our plans have been scaled back. The soaring 50ft atrium and ‘wellness space’ has been abandoned as unsuitable for a former council house. Similarly my pipe-dream of a complex underground hide-away in case of zombie attack cannot be realised due to the lack of foresight on the part of the original builders in not leaving a suitable space. So we’re just making the bathroom bigger and putting in an ensuite. And knocking a wall.
Can there be anything more cathartic than removing a wall? (unless you’ve removed the wrong one). Some men come into your house, make some noise and you arrive home to find “there was the wall: gone”. Straight away a pool table becomes possible. Or a surprisingly fun game of soccer with a small sponge orange ball.
There are of course hopes and fears when changing your house. One cannot but walk through what used to be cosy domesticity but is now dominated by a Hilti ScourgeOfWalls Saw and not feel a nervous thrill. We are expecting Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs to turn up any day now questioning our choices.
“And I suppose what concerns me the most is that the O’Regans are planning to install an Olympus toilet in the Downstairs. It’s a bold, bold statement, it’s audacious… and yet…and yet.. I can’t help wondering if this couple have bitten off more than they can chew.”
All of this said while we are standing about three feet away.
Posterity also becomes a weight on our minds. We’ve done a sizeable amount of moaning about the choices made by the previous occupants of the house. “Oh that light fitting, I just want to rip it out with my teeth. If you replaced it with a dangling parsnip it would be an improvement.” “Look at the colour of the original paint – what a hoot!” and various other “What were they thinkings?” At this point a canny builder will interject “Ah ye know, they were just cutting corners to save on costs but it’s never worth it in the end. You’re better off spending the money and doing the thing right.”
How will our renovation actions be judged? In fifty years’ time will a skinny-tinfoil-jeaned hipster couple be joking with a RoboBuildItTron 7000 about the choices we cherish now?
“They took away the wall? What were they thinking?”
“Ah you know, like. It was different times. They didn’t know what we know”
The arrival of the builders does have its less obvious benefits. For the previous three weeks, every accidental T-bag-against-the-wall stain that would have been a cause of recrimination in the past now results in a shrug of the shoulders. “Sure the place’ll be covered in dust anyway”
By the time they arrived we had almost descended fully into slum landlord mode. “Lasagne on a plate? What’s the point in cleaning it – the whole lot’s coming down anyway.” “You’re washing your teeth? Are ya mad?”
The signature statement of a household ‘getting something done to the place’ is the skip outside. What a wonderful no nonsense object is a skip! A big bastard of a Panzer tank in front of the house. As if it’s shouting at the neighbours. I’M A SKIP. DEAL WITH IT, FOOL. COME AND HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE HARD ENOUGH.
The lads are gone for the day now and it’s all quiet as we sit having our dinner looking around us talking about ‘stud partitions’ and ‘chasing’ – and wondering what they are.
The house has changed. But it’s still home.