Tag Archives: building

Perks of the Job

An unexpected bonus of working in other people’s houses as a builder’s mate is not the coffee on tap, the bacon butties or the biscuits.

I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s the sneaky pleasure of having a nose around.

Me and the builder don’t talk about jobs in terms of what work we actually did there, it’s more, ‘oh, you must remember that one, you know, the one with the awful, red, flowery wallpaper and bizarre yellow sofas’ or ‘the one with all those very odd mirrors in the bedroom.’

It’s great fun, passes the time of day and you can tell a lot from people’s houses. Does that make me sound awful? C’mon, we all do it, don’t we?

I particularly like working in houses with lots of books and am vaguely suspicious when they’re conspicuously absent. Many a happy coffee-break has been passed looking through the shelves thinking, ‘ooh, read that’ or, ‘oh, that looks interesting.’ Same for artwork and pictures. And I adore family photographs.

We’ve worked in some creepy houses though. One had a bedroom stuffed full of life-size dolls. The owner was in her 30’s. In another, there was a massive model railway track taking up the biggest room upstairs, the bathroom we were working on was tiny and the owner worked nights, so all we heard were sinister snores from down a very and gloomy dark corridor.

On the upside, I’ve picked up some fabulous home decoration tips. People have the most brilliant ideas. My favourite was the huge hallway, a large square room basically,  painted entirely in black. Sounds hideous, but it was stunning. My hall is the size of an outdoor toilet so I don’t think I can steal that idea. And I definitely couldn’t fit in the matching chandelier.

Anyway, we had a very productive day yesterday pulling out an old bathroom suite ready for the new one. Then the builder asked me to pop a few tiles off and handed me a hammer and chisel. Easy. Four tiles in, there was an anguished cry. I popped my head round the corner to where the builder was standing. The entire other side of the wall had cracked.

Change of plan – we’re plastering today…

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Pass Me The Dinosaur

Who knew? Building work is a bit like being in an operating theatre and I seem to be getting much better at identifying and passing each tool to the boss. When he’s under a bath or sink with water leaking  out from somewhere, speed is of the essence. Unfortunately, sometimes my hands and brain don’t seem to agree, but I muddle along just fine.

I worked on Saturday, my last day with the woman who calls me Alan. The job is almost finished, the skip is twice as full as it should be and I will be sad to say goodbye. It’s been a crazy time and I’ll miss Trixie, the massive dog I sneakily buy treats for.

Anyway, all I had to do was unpack the bits for the sink, toilet and shower, lay them all on the ground and pass them to the boss along with the right tool. Simple.

‘Flathead’. ‘Yes, boss’.

‘Phillips’. ‘Yes, boss’.

‘Smaller Phillips.’ ‘Yes, boss’.

‘Push fits and isolator valves’. ‘Er, um, oh, yes boss’.

‘Adjustables’. ‘Huh??’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll get them myself (rummages in tool bag for ages, sighing dramatically)….these!’

‘Oh, the dinosaur!’ I grabbed them from him and moved the two bits together and actually, it really does look like a dinosaur.

Building can be a tedious and boring business at times, so anything vaguely comical (apart from me being called Alan) is good. I wandered round tidying up, chucked the brush around a few times and we were almost good to go. Until the boss realised the sink was leaking. I passed all the tools, one by one. Then he said, ‘Pass me the dinosaur’ with a pained look on his face. Result! My mission now is to rename each of the tools for a laugh.

I got home tired but happy. Then I noticed that my university books had been delivered. I don’t even want to think about studying, drafting essays or cramming for the exam. It all seems rather pointless, as the career I had planned for when The Teenager was old enough will now probably not happen thanks to MS, but I’ll worry about that another day. I would much rather work out what I can re-name a chisel. Or a circular saw.

Life’s too short to take too seriously…

p.s. where is the snow??

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New Job Nerves

My dream job doesn’t start til the Spring, so my friend is employing me as a builder’s mate in the meantime and I start today. Gulp. It will be odd as we’re best friends and now he will be my boss. He’s been joking all week I have to start addressing him as ‘Boss’ from now on too. Like that’s going to happen, mister.

I laid out all my builder gear last night – old jeans, several thermal layers, Caterpillar boots, woolly hat and gloves. Makes a change from dressing for the office and at least I don’t need to think about what to wear every day. I thought I would have the evening to myself to psych myself up, but thanks to over-running engineering work at Paddington, The Teenager has been delayed going to London, and he has hoovered up the rest of the Christmas shortbread and chocolates and I reluctantly shared my stash of Diet Coke.

Do builder’s mates wear make up? Should I still keep my nails tidy or are they going to be ruined anyway? I don’t want to look too butch, but there’s something quite nice and different about going to work in the open air, not caring if my clothes get dirty or my hair is wind-whipped. I’ve had a chat with my friend and my main job is clearing up, and I can definitely do that. Also, fetching tools from the van and making coffee and chucking a brush round the place. Easy.

He knows all about my MS, so he’ll understand if I trip or drop things and we’ll hopefully have a good laugh about it. I’ll enjoy reading The Sun and munching on greasy bacon rolls. I’m looking forward to the exercise and just blowing some cobwebs away. But I still have first day nerves. This is it for the next three months.

So wish me luck. My new building nick-name is ‘Half-Shift’, which is quite cute and  I feel like part of the building community already. Wonder if my friend will let me drive his van? Watch this space – I’ll tell you how it all went tomorrow.

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