This is the tale of my first major renovation project some years ago…
I can see daylight through the ragged hole in the roof, small wispy clouds meander across the blue sky and seagulls wheel serenely through the air. Normally I might enjoy a scene of such apparent tranquillity but it is disturbed by all that is happening below. The radio is blaring, the circular saw is gnawing its way through timber and there is a rat-tat of hammers that would do the Anvil Chorus proud. Up in the roof Dave, my builder, is leaping about in a demented sort of way and keeps muttering about the fact that the Steels are coming.
The tea breaks are far less frequent than normal but finally Dave stops, sinks gratefully to the floor and takes a steaming mug from his brother, Rob. “Who are the Steels?” I ask. Patiently he explains that they are not people but the steel beams which will go into the roof space to support the new floor of my attic office.
The steels are here but Dave and Rob are not. They mysteriously left on an important mission to the builders’ merchant moments before a huge lorry hove into view around the bend in the road and I was confronted by its agitated driver demanding to know “Where do you want them mate?”
The crane on the back of the truck is now straining under the weight of the lengths of metal as it lays them, one at a time, on the pavement. As the operation is completed, and a passing cocker spaniel sniffs the raw metal and then lifts its leg, I realise that I have made a terrible mistake – I should, somehow, have persuaded the driver to manoeuvre them into the garden.
Dave has not been happy since he arrived back. “You should’ve given him a tenner”, he complains as we try to manhandle the steels before he dismisses my feeble efforts and begins phoning the local wine bar on his mobile. At first this seemed rather inappropriate but then he explains that “It’s being refurbished and my mates there WILL be able to lift the steels”. What is more they are not only going to lift them into my front garden but right up into the attic. It sounds as if things are going to get ugly so I decide that it’s my turn to find an urgent need to visit the builders’ merchant.
It’s the first time Dave and Rob have been late and I’m rather glad I didn’t go to the opening party at the wine bar last night: Dave had warned me it might be “heavy”. Since the steels have been installed – a subject that Dave and I have not discussed but I have heard a lot about from the neighbours – a remarkable amount has been achieved and the attic is beginning to look like a room.
I pace back and forth – which is not easy since there are still no floorboards and to miss one’s footing on the joists would mean plummeting painfully into one of the bedrooms – and worry about the lack of space. What seemed at first to have opened up to become a wonderfully large room has suddenly shrunk and I begin to wonder whether my office furniture will fit. There is also the fact that the staircase that has been delivered is the wrong size and all sorts of compromise are being considered.
I pull myself together: there is something strangely reassuring that, above me, the sky is still blue and I am looking at it not via a ragged hole but through the glass of a new roof light.