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Less “do-it-yourself”, more “get-a-man-in”

By Gillian

When Christopher was made redundant last year, I had a long list of jobs around the house that needed doing, and part of the deal we made was that he would use his increased leisure time to do more DIY and general house repairs (we have a Victorian cottage, which is anything but low-maintenance). But now of course we need to renegotiate the deal. Not only is he physically weaker and lacking in stamina, but I would be very uncomfortable with sending him up a ladder, especially when he has unexplained fainting fits….

However, the list of undone maintenance jobs around the house wasn’t shrinking, and in fact was growing. So now it’s a case of “getting a man in to help”. Our aim is to get at least one job done per chemotherapy cycle, and if we do that in the last week of the cycle then Chris is generally well enough to supervise the workmen himself, so I don’t have to take any more time off work. Already we’ve got the gutters cleaned out (my very least favourite job and well overdue), the electric shower and extractor fan in the bathroom replaced (both broken for at least six months), had the hedges in the garden chopped back to get them much more under control, and today the chimney was swept.

We’ve never had the chimney swept before, despite living in a house with an open fire for the past twelve years. Our excuse is that we hardly ever use the fireplace – usually only for some atmosphere at Christmas, or if we run out of oil. But for the last few months the local paper has had several stories every week of chimney fires in cottages around Malvern, so we thought we’d better take some action. It was fascinating to watch, and not at all messy. Basically the sweep gaffer-taped a sheet over the fireplace, taping it firmly to the surround on all sides. The sheet had an armhole cunningly constructed in the middle of it, through which he could thrust his arm and shove a brush up the chimney. Apart from the very 21st-century industrial vacuum cleaner he used to clean up the last bits of soot, the tools looked identical to those in history books. It was really interesting to think that the original inhabitants of our house, back when it was built in 1872, would have had their chimney swept in an identical way.

The next job I want done is to have the kitchen and dining room redecorated. Both have been left in a bit of a mess since we had the extension built two years ago. Although Chris had originally promised to do them himself, I suspect that the very word “paintbrush” would give him backache these days, so we’ll have to call in the professionals. But that’s going to be a big job and may have to wait until he’s finished the course of chemotherapy.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. frosty | 15 March 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Always go for ‘a man who can’ I reckon ;o). Frosty Towers is a labour intensive Victorian pile so can be ssomewhat over-facing particularly where paintbrushes and high ceiling are concerned – I can recommend an excellent decorator if you need one.

  2. icyjumbo | 15 March 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    What Gillian is kind enough to omit is that the word paintbrush has always given me backache. The cancer is irrelevant to that particular connection. 🙂

    As for the decorator’s name, yes please! We used to know a very good one, who has been here twice, but I suspect he’s no longer in business: Derek Adams. (Actually, Google tells me he’s still in business. Maybe …)

    I’m good at the supervision, though. I make a mean cup of builders’ tea!

  3. frosty | 16 March 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    We’ve just used a guy called Paul Newman to do the hall, stairs and landing which was in dire need due to being untackled in the eight years we’ve been here and then suffering from a leaky roof. He did an excellent job…very high quality.
    His phone no. is 07970661784

  4. icyjumbo | 16 March 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the name and number. If Derek is no longer trading, we’ll try your star decorator. 😛

  5. frosty | 16 March 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I have a little black book if you need any other ‘men that can’

    Being a northerner I am delighted to learn that you are able to make builders tea…so few who are blessed with such a skill…Having been billet all over everywhere in the last 17 yrs I am now acustomed to fruit teas and Earl Grey although only if served with lemon ;o)

  6. icyjumbo | 17 March 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I never doubted there would be a little black book. 🙂 As for the tea, we drink Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong around here, usually with milk (Earl Grey, anyway) not lemon. That was why brewing builders’ tea was such a big deal. I have a friend who says she likes her coffee like her men, black and thick enough to walk on. I think she’s joking. I adopt that sort of approach to tea brewing for builders, and it seems to work. That and the sugar, of course…. Oh, the sugar!