This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago…
It could have been worse; it might have been the whirring blade of a circular saw, a fall from scaffolding or electrocution, instead it was a radiator bracket. I’m now sitting in an overheated cubicle of the local hospital’s A&E department with my finger in a great swathe of bandages.
Just half an hour ago I was in my 1900 terraced house happily fixing the skirting board in the master bedroom following the completion of the replastering by Dave, my builder. Somehow, in one of those slow motion moments, I sliced my finger on the bracket sticking out from the wall. At first there was no pain and not much blood, I simply looked down and… well, I’ll spare you the details.
Steve, the plumber, had offered to drive me to hospital but I was feeling foolishly brave. It wasn’t until I changing gear that the pain and blood started, so I drove all the way in second. The hospital car park was full but, waving my bloodied finger at the shocked driver of a SUV, I’d taken a space as it was vacated. It was then that I’d seen the large black and yellow notice “VEHICLES WILL BE CLAMPED IF NO VALID TICKET DISPLAYED”. I’d gone to my pocket and, of course, discovered that my work trousers contained no money.
The stony faced A&E receptionist had looked at me disdainfully “Everyone has to pay, that’s the rule…” her voice trailing off as her eyes followed the trail of blood that had fouled the grey linoleum and was now threatening her desk. After the briefest hesitation she scribbled a note on hospital notepaper and commanded me to “Put that on the windscreen”.
Hospitals make me feel anxious; I start worrying about my house. For weeks Dave has been reassuring me that it’s nearly finished. But the work is well behind schedule and this was meant to be the week of the big push when it’s transformed from building site to home.
Floorboards have to be laid, the huge pile of boxes that arrived yesterday has to be transformed into a kitchen, doors have to be hung, plastering has to be finished, and the last of the radiators has to be installed so that the heating can be tested.
Not only was my finger meant to play a crucial role in at least some of these activities but long ago I’d realised my presence and nagging on site is vital to keep the momentum going and prevent my bank balance spinning even further out of control.
Eventually Dr Aziz, a kind and efficient man accompanied by a nurse, leads me along a dull hospital corridor to a room where an antiquated panel of dials is mounted on the wall. I’m instructed to lie on the examination table. The process of trying to fix an armrest to its side is complicated; the nurse drops a vital bolt and both she and Dr Aziz end up crawling around on the floor. Standing up, the nurse cracks her head on the examination light and, as Dr Aziz unwraps the bloody bandage around my finger, I see her turn deathly white. He’s oblivious to her staggering out of the room.
As he works to repair my finger we discover a mutual interest in renovating old houses. It’s only when he come to the job of stitching, and looks for a means of cutting the suture, that he mutters in exasperation “Where’s that nurse?”. We both look up as a matron like figure sweeps in and responds “She’s ill in the corridor, it’s her first day, you’re bloody finger finished her off”.
Dr Aziz takes the scissors that she hands him but they prove to be so blunt that they’re incapable of cutting anything. He shrugs despairingly, “Hopefully your builders are better equipped than the NHS.”