Yesterday I was mostly being held hostage by Miguel, Fatima and their impressive array of power tools. After a somewhat unusual Monday in London, which will forever be imprinted on my memory as the day I ate fish and chips for elevensies, lunch in Hospital, was served delicate amuse-bouche French pastries an hour later, and a full afternoon tea at four, being subjected to several hours of ear-splitting drilling and jigsawing was something of a brutal jolt back to reality.
“VROOOOOAAAAAHHH” growled the drill, as I tried (but failed) to read in the next room. An image formed in my head of a bullet hole in a shop window, a web of cracks fanning out from the entry point in all directions. Superhuman strength of will was required to remain where I was and refrain from inspecting the floor to ceiling kitchen tiles for damage.
Miguel called to Fatima (expertly assembling furniture in the next room with her electric screwdriver and clearly the brains of the operation) and a sliver of fear slid down my spine. The urgency in his voice was carefully dosed so that his partner would down tools immediately and rush to his aid, but the customer would not rush in or grab the phone and start dialing the pompiers. Something had clearly been botched, but I gritted my teeth and opted for the “ignorance is bliss” approach.
“We’ll be back soon, and finished by four,” were the words Miguel tossed cheerfully over his shoulder as they headed out for lunch, at 11.30am. As I had entrusted Mr Frog with one set of keys for emergencies, another to a friend who is in town, I realised that effectively I was now a prisoner in my own apartment. There was no means of preparing any lunch for myself in this war zone, so I dashed out to fetch junk food. There is a reason why people generally eat kebabs a) after midnight and b) after four pints of lager and I will bear this in mind if I am tempted to repeat this sorry experience in the future.
Of course I needn’t have hurried. The power tools remained downed until a little before 2pm, when the terrible two returned, slightly sheepish, and resumed work. At 3.30pm Miguel was called away to another chantier for “a couple of hours”, leaving Fatima to soldier on in his absence. I collected Tadpole from school, took a detour around the park; anything to keep her away from the saw blades and splinters which littered her bedroom floor. The doorbell finally rang at 6.30pm and I began to harbour some hope that it would all be over before Tadpole’s bedtime.
A glance inside the kitchen an hour later revealed Miguel and Fatima spooning in a most unorthodox position whilst he demonstrated how to plumb in the sink. At 8pm I wrote a fat cheque and heaved a sigh of relief.
“Mr Builder and Little Miss Builder are gone now?” enquired Tadpole, momentarily pulling her eyes away from the television screen at the sound of the front door slamming shut.
“Yes, it’s all done. We’ve got a lovely new kitchen, look!”
Tadpole padded into the kitchen, disappeared, then returned, carrying a pot of magnetic letters.
“Come on mummy, we have to put these back first, on the frigo, and then it will finished,” she explained.
I arranged the lower case multi-coloured letters into a series of comical expletives and started to feel much better.