So ages ago, I promised you the saga of Mr Litlove’s new workshop and now that he is finally in and preparing for Open Studios once again, I think it’s safe to employ hindsight. In the last episode of Tales From Litlovia, we had decided not to move house but to extend the single garage where Mr Litlove works. We found an architect in the village who drew us up a plan and said he knew a builder who was semi-retired but liked this kind of groundwork job. Let us call him Dave. We were now in, ooh let me see, early November? And Dave apparently had no trouble working over Christmas, in fact he loved to work over Christmas! So, terrific. I had fantasies of calling Dave in from the garden to have a spot of Christmas dinner and Mr Litlove, with great reluctance, started emptying the contents of his garage in readiness.
Never before had I understood the extent to which my husband is a pack rat. I mean no disrespect, after all, I myself have a handful of books about the place. But the amount of stuff that came out of that single garage was mind-blowing. Mr Litlove filled the entire conservatory to eye level and still it kept coming. Every stray piece of wood or metal that had ever passed below Mr Litlove’s pretty little nose had been squirreled away ‘just in case’ and we were looking at the fruits (or nuts) of twenty-one years of dedicated squirreling. The wood piled up on the lawn and was propped in great stacks against the garage wall. Mr Litlove was even surprising himself. But eventually the flow steadied and ceased and December came and the garage was empty and ready, and of course there were no builders.
Dave turned out to like working over Christmas so much that he went on a long and lovely Mediterranean holiday until a few days into the New Year. And then January came and went while they were working on a tricky job elsewhere. To look back now and think we were fussing about whether or not he’d ordered the steel in January. Ha! Finally towards the end of February the builders arrived, just as we were looking into the possibility of finding someone else to do the work. The first day they came there were three of them, likely lads one and all, but by the end of the first day they were reduced to two. Apparently, one had been sent home for having ‘too many opinions’ which was quite fascinating. Was it really the quantity of opinions that was the problem, or their content? I would have loved Mr Litlove to find out, but Dave was a talker and Mr Litlove was already drowning under a tide of anecdote. They went through Dave’s complicated romantic and medical histories and moved seamlessly into a chapter on Great Exploits. This featured, for instance, a story about Dave seeing off a burglar with stealth and one of his collection of sword sticks. I was admittedly cynical. But at least when I lay in my bath in the morning and heard the dulcet tones of Dave’s voice floating over the garden towards me, I knew it was a good day because the builders had turned up.
Because of course, they hardly ever did. See you Wednesday! Dave would say cheerily, by which he really meant, see you next Monday. Maybe. And when they were here, I had never before seen a wall rise so slowly. Dave placed a brick at a time as if arranging jewellery in a shop window. The plants in the garden were growing quicker. Where are Polish builders when you need them? I would wail, and then amuse myself by sending emails to friends in America, telling them I’d found the perfect crew to build that Mexican wall of theirs. March came and went.
Now March was an interesting month on many levels. I think it was the first ever month of my life in which I had to enforce a news blackout because watching it was beyond painful. i did some stockpiling, mostly the heavy duty eye gels that get me through the day, all of which come from Europe. of course. But also tinned tomatoes and sardines and loo roll because Annabel said it was a good idea. Little did I know then that it was all a rehearsal for next October. Brexit seems to me to be a problem caused by insufficient reality checks, and the inevitable outcome of trying to push through a bad idea whilst pretending it is a good one. You know when you were a kid and you told a lie to get out of a tight spot? Only the lie just made the situation worse and worse until you knew the truth was going to come out and then you really didn’t want it to? Well, that’s pretty much where our politicians are now. The overinflated fantasy of Brexit is going to run around on the uncompromising rocks of reality at some point, and there’s a scale from bad to apocalyptic along which it might land. Well, my friends, reason and compassion are the only things that can save us in this life. However much people might love their outrage and anger and hatred, they get us precisely nowhere.
But on a brighter note, we did find one solution to a vexing problem. You may remember that we had new kittens last spring? Dexter and Deedee. Well, last summer Deedee developed an alarming health issue. She began to scratch great wounds in her fur and to develop odd swellings – in her eyelid, on her cheekbone or a paw. The two seemed to be related but we weren’t sure how and at first there were all sorts of frightening diseases that might have been its cause. When she was old enough we sent her for blood tests, and these fortunately came back clear. There is always amusement to be had even in worrying situations. I will never forget the moment when the vet rang up and, on Mr Litlove answering the call, asked cheerily, ‘Am I talking to Deedee’s daddy?’ This threw Mr Litlove somewhat, but once over the first shock of paternity, he took to the role quite willingly.
So after all this, we understood that the problem was an allergy of some kind, but what it was we couldn’t discover, and regularly Deedee would puff up with what the vet called her ‘comedy leg’. Well, finally at the end of winter we made her a ruinously expensive appointment with the consultants at the vet school in Cambridge. They initially prescribed a special diet – kibble made of pea and venison, if you please which had Mr Litlove shaking his head in disbelief. In Mr Litlove’s cat philosophy, Whiskers is the food of the devil but any other cheapo options really ought to be fine. Now of course the cats adore this kibble and refuse anything else. But that didn’t do the trick. Finally, Deedee had a course of steroids, and these cleared the problem up immediately and – I am touching wood fervently here – so far she hasn’t had it back. Will we ever understand what happened during those ten months? I doubt it, but I can’t tell you the relief to see her fully-furred and normal shaped again. She is such a darling little cat.
And so, thus distracted, the workshop crawled towards completion. Finally over Easter towards the end of April, Mr Litlove could get the electrician in and, the great moment he’d been waiting for, his new machines arrived. This turned into a lovely party, as the lorry driver’s tail gate bust and he had to hang out with Mr Litlove and the electrician all morning until his brother turned up to fix it. The lorry driver had voted Brexit but was going to live in Thailand later that year with his Thai wife. I just mention this in passing. Finally by the end of April Mr Litlove had his new workshop and was very pleased with his expanded space. In fact, I fully expect curtains to appear at the windows and a little plaque with the number ’10A’ upon it. Oh, but of course there was one more thing – the new bi-fold doors that are to go on the front. Mr Litlove swore blind to me that there was no way he could order them until he had the exact measurements to send. He finally got around to doing that in May.
We’re still waiting for the doors.
You’re so funny, Victoria! And I’m so glad about sweet Deedee.
Aw, thank you, Simon! Dexter and Deedee ask me to send their best regards to your cat.. is it Hargreaves? (I do hope so). They recognise a cat professional in you anyway, and approve mightily.
It is indeed Hargreaves 🙂 Thanks!
It was articles like this one https://prospect.org/article/brexit-panic-brits-run-out-toilet-paper (plus a friend at work) that convinced me to my double my normal quantities that ‘Brexit’ week – just in case! Ha ha! Love your story of life with the builders in.
Oh I was glad to follow your advice – and will do so again come October I don’t doubt. Not something I’d want to run out of!! We’re thinking of extending our kitchen now but I think we probably need another year or so to recover!
Deedee looks an absolute sweetie! My partner takes our cats to the vets’ where owners are known by their pets’ names. First he was Buster Pemberton, then Pipsqueak Pemberton and now he’s Mischief Pemberton. You’d think he’d remember that when we name them.
Oh I love that, Susan! Mischief Pemberton is just the best! Deedee is terrifically cute, so you may imagine all she gets away with….
Ah, the sage of builders… I remember having a kitchen extension built while I was in the early stages of pregnancy. Supposed to take just 5 weeks – and the baby came just after it was finished, but only because he was late (the baby, the kitchen was VERY late). What a little cutie Deedee is, so glad to hear that things are looking up for her and you.
Sorry, meant ‘saga’ of builders, of course.
I think Dave would have been happy to call himself the sage of builders, so it was a comment that worked both ways!
Is it really the same with builders the world over do you think? I would say I don’t know how they manage to make the process so slow, except I did witness it with my own eyes. Not turning up much was very effective. We are also contemplating a kitchen extension but your story is all that I feared! Might take a while before we commit to that…
This sounds like every building project that ever was! Charmingly told,though. I always look forward to hearing about your adventures.
Oh thank you, Susan. The ratio of anecdote to time taken was not very efficient on this one, though! I did think that there must be a better way to build, but maybe not? There must be method in the madness – or maybe I’m being too optimistic!
I had to laugh and weep at the same time while I was reading your tale of the builders, Victoria- we had a house painter some years ago who was just as bad. He would prognosticate rain and do several indoor jobs elsewhere while the sun shone and then come back and attempt to paint the outside of the house while it drizzled.. I tried to get Mr Kaggsy (who is just the same kind of hoarder of old nails and screws and bits of wood of all sizes and wire and string as Mr. Litlove) to speak firmly to the painter while I was at work but he never would. It was all most trying…. 😱🤣
Oh Karen that is EXACTLY what would happen here! Dave would turn up in his truck on sunny days and say he’d be here later in the week and then it would be raining when he finally did appear. And Mr Litlove was as averse to, ahem, discussing the matter as Mr Kaggsy! Isn’t it impossible??!!
It is. I guess it must be a man thing…. =:o
Ooh, does that mean he may be able to consider my commission soon? Much love x
Yes! This weekend and next is Open Studios here in Cambridge, so it’s been all go to get everything ready for that. But then he should be back in maker mode again (I do hope so!)
I hope that goes very well! I do hope that you and I can meet again soon; it’s been far too long … x
It has! x
I’m so glad Deedeee is feeling better! I loved this line from your post:
“Well, my friends, reason and compassion are the only things that can save us in this life. However much people might love their outrage and anger and hatred, they get us precisely nowhere.”
I keep hoping for reason and compassion to come back! Sadly, they appear to be in short supply these days.
Cheers and purrs!
Oh Andrea, we all just have to bond together, all the friends of reason. I don’t understand what’s going on in the world, but I do know that we’re only causing ourselves worse problems and I hope there’s some recognition of that – and sooner rather than later.