“Immense,” is the word our builder used.
“Immense,” he shook his head, and I should have taken more note of how he looked. His face was beetroot red. “Far more work than even I thought.”
Was he talking under duress, he too is under pressure. Pressure not only to creat a liveable home for us in less than a week, pressure arising from his own ‘immense’ problems.
“Been tough times, everything going wrong, like dominoes falling, one after the other,” he’d told us earlier. “Moved eight times in ten years.”
Four of those moves have been since Christmas, the second was prompted by events at three o’clock one morning just after New Year. Imagine being woken by a loud noise, switching on the light, watching a crack rush across the far wall, quickly leaping from your bed, grabbing a handful of clothes, dashing into the cold winter street where you haul those few items of clothing saved on top of your pyjamas as you watch the back wall of the place you are renting collapse and devour everything you own in a whoosh of bricks and dust.
“Tired of building. Ruins the body. Should’ve stopped a decade ago.” That’s why he was renting the building which part collapsed, living in the flat upstairs and turning the old pub below into an evening wine bar and posh cafe during the day. Since the disaster he’s been living in a caravan and repairing that crumbled side-wall for the landlord.
Then we bought our seemingly fine house the week before lockdown and he came over to help us, “My last job.” But working on that wall, the miraculously unscathed bar and creating another flat in a safe space upstairs, his attention has understandably wavered from our job. During that crazy corona week he ordered goods flat-out as suppliers shutdown, worked flat out to do the most essential jobs on our new home and then he caught the corona virus. As we worried for him, friends worried for us, but we proved to be OK.
Two weeks ago as the country unlocked, recovered, he returned to work again on our house. After just a day and a half’s work his wife rang, needing help packing up. He went. Time was fast running out… we must quit our rental very soon. He returned, worked for two days but feeling ill, left again, having removed the leaking shower, toilet, bath, radiators and leaking joints, so with exposed pipes everywhere the property’s without water. Was his a corona-red face? Can you get the virus twice within three months? Have we caught it from him? So far, we’re fine. Or has he gone off to understandably attend to his own ‘immense’ problems, poor man?
As you’ll gather if you’ve read the post two weeks ago, ‘immense’ also describes the incredible stress we are under. We will be homeless in a few days. A normal house move is said to be one of the most stressful things people face, our move has been anything but normal. Poor health is another recognised great stress inducer, financial straights too. No wonder I’m finding it hard to keep a grip on myself. Apart from my stable, generous relationship with my lovely wife, everything else in our lives is in crumbling chaos.
To get from sitting with an ill, painful body, at 7.15 this morning I clacked my crutches past the sandstone church which the sun glowed golden and admired its thousand year weathering. Birdsong spilled from walled secret gardens, carrying me through the old streets, past shops stocking up for the day, past cheerful faces throwing out greetings, past the old golden market shelter, beyond the estate agents, solicitors, accountants and banks all strung together by the golden buildings and there, opposite the Arts Centre, stood our new ‘home’. From the outside, perfect, innocent in the utterly lovely Georgian street.
Life really is what you make it.
Let our problems get us down and our muddy little lives only feel worse. Face them squarely, no matter how immense, seek solutions, no matter the odds, and we've the chance to rise above the tsunami and surf life as it happens and take what comes in a spirit of positivity. Uhmm, each time panic rises in my throat I must keep reminding myself this as the count-down to our homelessness flies past, for the opposite is to sink. And so I put our problems into perspective against those that people like our builder face. As the tension wells inside me, I try to stop and smile, smile at anything - for we won’t be on this planet for very long. Every day, be it stormy or sunny, is a boon.