Men about the house.

I have managed to persist in writing and editing a book while the house has been undergoing that curious species of madness known as renovation. I did this through the purchase of some earplugs costing less than $7. They’re not particularly good but somehow they provide just enough blankness to convert the builder’s radio to a background rumble. I was so desperate to complete my book that I just kept on working.

It helped that the renovations – an outside verandah, a new sunroom – were largely taking place outside the skin of the house. They were outside and I was inside. The three cats all came into my room and like people suffering bombardment we huddled together, occasionally exchanging a long questioning look when a hit seemed closer than usual.

But now the skin of the house has been breached. An internal room is being made into a bedroom, with the additional luxury of a dressing room and a bathroom off that. A fireplace has been demolished.

Then a few days ago the house was suddenly occupied by a small army of men. There was the electrician who is a jolly small man with a very loud voice. He is friendly and only too soon that fatal mistake had been made. My name was abbreviated to ‘Pete’. This is the rare gift of friendship awarded for a lifetime service, or in the case of my mother, having done the hard yards of giving birth to me. The friendly electrician invaded my space completely by ‘popping’ into my study to see what lights were working, to inform me about electricity going on and off. I was thrilled.

He also had retainers, young lads slim enough to slither under floorboards with cables. They all looked startled on seeing me, which I put down to their sudden awe at seeing an award-winning author at close proximity.

In addition there were suddenly two plumbers on site.

Now things really looked up. One of the plumbers was a handsome lad dressed informally in Hawke’s Bay rugby colours. He sported some fetching shorts. He was modest and polite.

I am wised up enough to be wary of good-looking tradesmen. Charm is no substitute for capable work. But the plumber showed no such mercenary dash. He worked away quietly in the hall right outside my office – distractingly so –  while the ever-cheerful electrician ‘popped’ in and out of my personal space to keep me up to date with his electrical adventures.

In defence I had put up a lace curtain over my study windows. My cats naturally disliked the way it cut out the sun. Usually one of them managed to claw the curtain away, since the curtain was pinned up with drawing pins. This added to my completely admirable absence of stress.

My book is now on its way to China. I say this because I like its romantic image, which conjures up slow boats, sunsets and Singapore Slings. Realistically I know the book went electronically.

Just as I know now the skin of the house has been breached, having ‘men about the house’ will be increasingly invasive. There is another month or so of renovation madness to go. There is dirt and mess everywhere. When someone at a recent event referred to ‘your beautiful house’ I had to do a double-take. Really the house resembles nothing so much as one of those country houses made over to an army barracks during a war. It isn’t beautiful at the moment. All is mess, all is chaos – but you feel sure in time – or you hope – some kind of magic will return.


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