So. ‘Bob’ has finally left the building. After just over seven months, ‘da builder’ and his team have moved out and moved on. They’ve bundled their hard hats, drills and man-size packed lunches into their vans and headed off into the sunset… to build something else.
‘Bob’ (mark 3, and mercifully nothing like the original ‘Builder Bob’ in ‘MOB Rule’) has been restoring my ‘labour of love’: a Grade 2 listed manor house in coastal North Devon. Together with an army of experts, he has restored crumbling cornicing to its former glory, replaced rotten sash windows with conservation double glazing, put parquet flooring back where previously there was none. He has, in short, helped breathe fresh air into an old building, and allowed it to shine. I think even Kevin McCloud might approve.
At times since last September, I have felt like screaming. Come to think about it, I probably did.
Times like when the bridal suite roll top bath which we’d lugged up the spiral stairs, was unwrapped to unveil a large chip in the enamel, had to be lugged back down the stairs and laboriously sent back.
Like when the FOB and I spent the best part of three Saturdays, standing in shops, trying to decide which chandeliers would look best where. Decisions finally made, we’d find the lights were out of stock, and so we’d be back where we first began. And don’t get me started on ordering the bulbs – ‘one size fits all’ isn’t an adage which applies.
And like when I stood helplessly in the storeroom surrounded by tradesmen, all staring blankly at a veritable Everest of sanitary ware, as we realised that that specific high level loo pipe we’d ordered for all 11 loos wouldn’t in fact fit our walls.
Times like those I would have happily seen the back of our Beeny-esque ‘restoration nightmare’.
But even as I write this now in the almost immediate aftermath, I am struggling to remember the really bad moments, the times when I yearned to join my weekly-commuting husband in the safety of a London office, rather than spending my days in the cellar, staring at pipes. I appear to have post-project amnesia.
The last time I ‘suffered’ from this amnesia affliction, was when ‘MOB Rule’ was published. The moment I held that book in my hands, and sniffed its 280 pages, I forgot any of the pain involved in its production. The hours, nay days, I had spent staring at a screen, trying, for the sixth time, to restructure THAT chapter on my editor’s expert advice, disappeared like Hogwarts magic.
And it was exactly the same with the births of our boys. When, only seconds before I’d been swearing at midwife, as I’d gasped for more gas and she said I’d had enough, when she placed my tiny infant into my arms, the searing agony was swept away, leaving in its wake only exhaustion and total euphoria. Postpartum amnesia strikes again.
In the aftermath of each ‘project’ people ask how it went. And so I think of the house, the book, the babies and I smile sweetly and say ‘It was surprisingly smooth.’
‘Would you do it again?’ they ask, interested.
Another baby – I don’t think so, another book – perhaps, but another building project? Someone hand me the paper and find me a wreck.