Gremlins or Angels?
It all seemed bright when we saw D’s work in the home of exacting friends and looking forward to a great renovation, we went ahead and bought the old part of a Georgian house which once housed servants, the coach and horses; it even had a garden hanging above the town. Situated one minute from the shops, it’s exactly where we’ve wanted to be since my health has declined further. Life seemed perfect.
But as we took possession of the keys we discovered problems everywhere at every level. Then lockdown was announced. In a flurry, we complied to D’s wishes, running here and there to order materials as places shut down and as the world closed up, supplies grew scarce, prices doubled, even trebled. It was a nightmare, haemorrhaging our little savings. All gone, we borrowed from family, we borrowed from the bank. Undaunted, D began by taking apart the rotten sash windows, exposing the house to the British weather, but we had confidence in him.
However, when C started laying reclaimed wooden planks as soon as they arrived, we questioned him. His angry response threw us. After all, we were employing him. But then, we realised, he had us over a barrel - our hard saved £6,000 deposit was in his bank and with lockdown, no other builder was available. Knowing we were caught, we pussy-footed about, walking on eggshells. And to buy him up, we treated him like royalty, buying him quality pies for lunch, excellent cuts of meat and cider for supper because, working two day-trots, he was camping overnight in our empty building site.
Living in that mess without a proper bathroom or working kitchen, he looked crazy, fine dust made his hair stick out and tinged his beard, his cider wild eyes
were those of a mad man. And he flashed about, working here, working there, leaving no room clear, so the place grew more and more like a disaster zone. After his two day stints we’d covid clean the place. His work, when he returned, grew worse.
Backs against the wall, we did what we could, chiseling, scraping, sanding, painting one coat after another. It was slow, but it suited my condition, for my doctor had advised we move sooner rather than later. We had time, the world was silent beyond our crazy walls. Each evening, stumbling back to our rental after another hard day at the building site, jealousy arose as we passed relaxed people sipping wine in their gardens and we pined for the wonderful rural cottage and garden we’d sold, lockdown would have been magical there, now it was grime, grit, working with clenched teeth and dealing with a madman.
Then he didn’t come back for seven weeks. We heard little. He texted that he had the coronavirus. We later learned from our friends who live opposite his wine bar that he’d been renovating the place. When he did return, in a whirling two days he did lots of work, having us rush about the county buying materials. What, we thought, of the huge deposit we’d given? But then our friends had trusted him….
One day we discovered he’d left the project. When we rang, he closed contact. His wife emailed, unjustly saying we’d violated lockdown laws by letting a friend visit the house. I was rushed to hospital assumed to be having another stroke. D said I was now a real danger, he couldn’t return, I was spreading the virus. It was his way out.
We were left with no part of his work completed, with leaks everywhere, with the water cut off. His work, now we had time to look at it, was abysmal. Far worse than mine. An expert said much of it had to be pulled apart. It was a disaster. The place was uninhabitable, we had to quit the rental within three weeks. We’d lost our money, D wasn’t responding. Legal advice stated it was too costly to reclaim, and, due to the coronavirus the Small Claims Court waiting time is over two years.
Dealing with this with poor health hasn’t been easy. I feel my age. I look it too. For the first time in my adult life people show no surprise upon learning I am 71. Out of the blue, without us revealing our dire circumstances, a friend gave us enough money to install heating. Bless her. Our friend we’re renting from eased our deadline. Angelic.
And then, feeling sorry for us, J, a talented young neighbour where we rent stepped in. He, a plumber who also loves woodwork, solved all the leaks, helped us complete the bathroom, the kitchen, laying floors. Working in his spare time, he’s helping redo D’s lousy work. Somebody drove 7 hours round trip to help out. Money offers we sweetly refused, came in. Now, three long and difficult working days from moving in, we have a place that’s almost a home.
Yesterday, as if the gods are looking out for us, a parted friend left in his will the exact sum D owes us. How spooky is that! It seems that there aren’t just gremlins, but also many angels out there - my long suffering wife included.