Nine or ten weeks ago I was invaded by Council workmen.
With the short list of works they had to do, the aggravation they expressed at the thought of any delay and the grumblings they made about keeping anything in storage at all, a person would reasonably have expected them to move in en mass, cause total chaos for a week or so and move back out. Pah. They are STILL HERE. Or they would be. If the painter hadn't been sent somewhere else yesterday and called in sick today, and if the electrician wasn't still 'en route'.
They were instructed to change the kitchen and bathroom units, lay new lino in same, replace exterior doors and windows (this is only a bungalow) and paint the rooms. Actually the word they first used was 'redecorate' but then they changed that to just 'paint'.
Not only do I not get replacement for my own hard-purchased wallpaper, but I am to believe I am the luckiest little girl since Red Riding Hood because they've let me choose a few colours. Oh it had to be all pastels from the Dulux whites range, all the homogeneously bland and interchangeable shades that scream 'insipid' as they assault your eyes in a way that suggests Town Hall corridors and sundry creativity vacuums.
You know the type of place. Places to sit quietly with nothing but an old copy of Country Lady magazine or National Geographic, and enough stomach butterflies to repopulate the Amazon. Places where your soul is 'taken for you' as swiftly as your coat with a near imperceptible 'thwrupp' as it is sucked away.
Still I am, they say, blessed. They would have me believe that redecoration almost-under* the Decent Homes scheme not only involves painting everything and discarding the old concept of like for like, but that it usually means covering absolutely every surface in Magnolia. They have also demonstrated that they will paint over every unwashable wallpaper and where possible will peel only the top layer from vinyl ones. They have shown how they plaster over holes in a wall only if it is a bare wall, but if they can get away with leaving the thinnest sheet of old lining paper up then they only have to paint it, irrespective of dips, chunks, lumps and bumps. This hasn't stopped the decoration of a nine-roomed bungalow from taking a month and counting.
How can I put this, without removals, with us living here and the boys painting at most two rooms at a time, there seems to be a lot of 'waiting for the first coat to dry'.
We spent our Easter weekend preparing for the magic-disappearing painters to turn up yesterday, i.e. not taking the kids to the park or other such normal family activities, but stuck indoors, stripping wallpaper. More specifically HE stripped wallpaper all over ever more jumbled piles of whatever happened to be in his way, through one day off, two Bank Holidays and Easter Sunday itself. We took brief respite on the Saturday, I believe, for little joys like shopping. I resorted to writing poetry about how our relationship was beyond repair and used the new shared identity 'Anonymous' over at GOB to publish unnoticed**.
(No, it was one of our far more balanced souls who penned the cathartic confessions of life with a screwdriver, that same weekend. I just stuck to total emotional regression to the age of thirteen - aka expression of angst as bad poetry.)
There is nothing more to say, really. The electrician has arrived and is just politely explaining why half of the jobs are nothing to do with him. This would be because:
- the Council said 'do the electrics' and
- his boss came round and decided what electrics needed doing, but
- he missed bits with the defence 'Well if nobody tells you...'
- so he hasn't put in a work docket to get paid for those bits
- so now I have to go back to Ealing Council and reapply for the repair for another decade.
* Ealing Council has a huge schedule of works under the Decent Homes scheme. The Decent Homes scheme has rules and regulations, and standards, and clear points of communication. It is protected. These out-of-County works are listed on their website as being part of the Decent Homes Scheme, but I am told by the Complaints Department that they are a special case; i.e. NOT under the scheme, and therefore nobody, not even, it seems, a single soul at Ealing Council itself knows what the bloody rules are or who is supposed to be the buck stop for what. Lovely.
** If you occasionally need to be 'Anonymous', let me know and if I know you well enough I'll give you his/her log-in details.