Tessa Waugh’s renovation project is clouded by her reliving the tortured relationships of her youth, but a joyful hack erases the heartbreak of absent workmen
Did you watch Normal People at the beginning of the summer? At the time it was perfect escapism; a love story with two hot young actors, lots of churning emotions and some very naturalistic bedroom scenes. The sort of thing which, as a teenager, you couldn’t bear to watch with your parents. I watched it feeling intensely grateful that those days were well and truly over.
Or are they? As I left another message on another mobile phone for another electrician, joiner, tiler, it occurred to me that builders are similar in many ways to the dodgy boyfriends of our youth. They have other women (or in this case jobs) all over the place and women like me making calls to them all day demanding their return. They arrive tantalisingly for three days, promising they are here to stay, then disappear for weeks, ghosting you for the duration.
Meanwhile, you are left conducting a relationship with their voicemail, which you get to know intimately. When they eventually get back to you, you are so pathetically grateful that you fail to be angry and agree with everything they say.
“I’m so sorry you’re so busy. It must be awful for you,” you say. “You won’t be back for two months then only for a few hours. No problem.”
Sometimes they ring back and, “damn”, you miss the call because you were doing something really boring like hanging washing on the line. When you pick up the phone to call them back, you know already what the result will be: the call rings out and you are once again listening to their voicemail.
“That’s the oldest trick in the book,” says Adam, who can’t help being amused as I am thwarted once again.
Mary wanted to go to a climbing wall for her 11th birthday but that was off, due to the obvious, so she had a couple of friends over for the day instead. The three of them went out for a ride with me chugging along beside them on the quad bike. Taking other people’s children riding is never relaxing, but with a supercool dude like Josh to plop them on, it’s not too bad.
One of the girls has regular lessons at a riding school, the other had done a bit of riding here and there. It made me so happy to see Sarah, the least experienced of the trio, cantering up the hill beside the others with the perfect symmetry and balance of a jockey – an absolute natural in the saddle.
These days it is these kinds of things, rather than angsty relationships, that float my boat (oh, and phone calls from builders).
Ref Horse & Hound; 23 July 2020