Now don’t get me wrong, I know people need to get works done from time to time in our fair capital. How else can we justify those absurdly inflated prices for what effectively are outmoded hunks of Victorian brick? But there comes a point when you just snap, and last Friday I did exactly that. When you’re running a Kickstarter campaign from home and the din and dust from downstairs penetrate through to the very fibre of your being, words have to be said.
To be fair, I held off as long as I could. I was pleasantly chatty (in that monosyllabic way builders seem to enjoy) when our paths crossed in the street. I pretended not to mind having to listen to Taylor Swift thirty times a day at ear-splitting volume, I managed to feign some kind of interest in the project and I even shrugged off the endless banging (that made my treaty glass of Pinot do a Michael Jackson across my desk) as the inevitable consequence of home improvement. What’s all that about? Why hasn’t someone come up with a device that just hits whatever it is they’re hitting once, very hard, job done? I don’t claim to understand what’s going on down there but it is positively Neanderthal. Yet still I did not react.
The final straw came when my water got shut off for the weekend. The builders had done a POETS day, the owner was on a train to somewhere foreign up north and I hummed like a lactating hyena. Then, finally, I saw red. A torrent of pent-up fury was unleashed down a broken phone line, made worse by the excruciating platitude that these things happen. I calculatedly escalated the intensity and tone of my delivery which would have culminated in a commanding Sgt Major roar, but unfortunately I had lost my voice a couple of days beforehand and ended up coming across as a mildly peeved Joan Rivers.
At approximately 11.30pm, a builder reappeared. He had hightailed it back from Southampton and was clearly steeling himself for the raving neighbour I’d no doubt been portrayed as. However, I was the consummate gentleman. Together we investigated the site and found the main feed, wrapped in white tape and haemorrhaging water into the back garden despite being turned off. Calls were made. Brows were furrowed. Not a lot could be done. Until tomorrow. Sorry, mate.
At this stage of the proceedings, there remained but two courses of retaliation. The first being an out-and-out screaming match which, as we’ve already established, was sadly denied to me. The second, ultimately more satisfying option was to plough into a freshly purchased bottle of Bulldog gin and stay up most of the night ranting and listening to vintage Australian pop. And then turn up at Crystal Palace Food Market (where I had a stall to promote the campaign) still steaming, still stinking and looking like death itself. Which is what I did. Obviously.