Monday, 23 July 2007

Plumbing the depths

Now I understand why those friends of mine who, having had new kitchens installed have, by the end of it, ended up in a secure unit of a local hospital. I for one have been a nut case this week and I’ve only had some new kitchen counter tops – oh, and before any irate Colonels write to complain that I have more money than sense, let me explain that, after the 11 year old set fire to the previous ones, this is an insurance job – even so it has cost me far more than I can afford, due to ‘unforeseen costs’. For instance the solid oak counters apparently need a special sealant – off I go to B&Q, the Red-Head and my little niece in tow to scour the shelves for said stuff. B&Q is not my kind of place. My husband loves it; the nuts and bolts and tools and routers, paints and brushes get his testosterone surging, whilst I flounder in such a place. It has something to do with the warehouseness of it – high shelves filled with ‘flatpacked’ God knows what and brown boxes with instructions written on them. Mathematical references abound too: 2mm this and 2x2 that. I must have looked bewildered as a lovely assistant came to my aid. She was sympathetic and compassionate as I told her of my woes and within seconds she had located the sealant (£25 a tub, I needed three) and the heat protecting foil stuff that goes under the hob (£7 each, I needed two).
Returning home it was a question of down tools. The boy who had been the day before to disconnect the sink had not only turned off the pipes but wrenched the sink out of its hole, breaking all manner of pipes and clips rendering it null and void. I’d been on the phone at the time and wondered what on earth all the smashing and clattering was. I hung up when I saw him walk out of my front door with the sink under his arm.
“Where are you going with my sink”, I calmly enquired.
“Do you need it then?” he asked.
“Well, yes I do, I’m only having new counter tops. You were only supposed to turn the bleeding taps off”. This was like a domestic version of The Italian Job.
All he could add was “Oh”, before dumping the sink and grievously broken taps on the kitchen floor.
The men who I now had in my kitchen were looking grave indeed. “You’ll need a new sink”, said one.
“I thought as much”.
“Won’t be able to do that until tomorrow”, said the other.
“But that’ll be two days without running water and gas”, I groaned, clutching my fringe like a mad woman. “How will I manage?”
Let me explain. These last five weeks we’ve had a full house. Mags and her children have moved in, they sold their house and have yet to find another one even to rent. Consequently six children and two adults, three at weekends make for some intimate living conditions. To be without basic means was seriously testing my resolve.
The workmen however just went quiet and started sawing away to make a hole for a sink when it eventually arrived. Unbeknown to me but surely an everyday event for these guys, sinks apparently need a template. So, guess what happened the next day? The new sink was too small. My workman looked at it, dumbfounded; once again I clutched my fringe.
I rang Hubby, my voice small and feeble, “I wish you were here to be assertive”, I said.
“There is nothing wrong with your assertion Alice. You scare the living daylights out of me”.
“Well there’s a slight difference between venting ones spleen upon ones husband than with a chippy”. Hubby muttered something about debriefing the captain before telling me I’d manage just fine and hanging up.
“ ’Scuse me love”, called the workman, “I’m going to have to go out again and get another sink”.
“Sure”, I said grimly.
Hours later he returned. The sink is undeniably the right size but it doesn’t sit flush with my counters, ergo water will seep under it. Another fringe clutching moment. I leant back against the one counter that had yet to be addressed. Looking across the very narrow kitchen, the corner of my beautiful counter facing me was chipped and raggedy. Oh God.
During all this time no-one has been fortified with a nice cup of tea due to the fact that there is no water. Dishes are stacked in the dishwasher and dirty washing sits forlornly yet dry in the washing machine.
A lot of muttering comes from the garden where the man is measuring and re-measuring. I begin to wonder if it will ever be finished. Thankfully the cavalry has been called and the doorbell rings. Help arrives by way of another workman who helps the original man lift and shift wood into position. He is a cheery sort although a great believer in the new rules of practice. I point out to him that it seems insane to have had an electrician, gas man and plumber, let alone two carpenters do this job. I wonder how much all this must cost insurance companies.
“That’s the way it’s got to be Mrs Band. Let each skilled man have his own job”.
“I hear what you’re saying”, I nod, “But what about customer satisfaction? A relatively straight forward job has already taken four days and that is because of the incompetence of one man. Had he at least been here on the same days as everyone else, there would have been some semblance of communication. Days wouldn’t have passed with little work done. I would have running water, the hob would by now be reconnected and I would actually be able to feed my children.” Nothing is said in reply, for nothing can be said, for I am right.


Alice Band said...

To friends and readers - I wrote this before the floods. No-one needs to point out that compared to losing ones home a few days without creature comforts are but minor irritations. To those affected, I sincerely wish you well, a speedy drying out and efficient, non-cretionus Isnurance empoyees xxx

Alice Band said...

That was meant to read - insurance employees!

Sally Lomax said...

Well maybe one benefit of the floods may mean that inurance companies, robbed of all profits for 2007 will be much more circumspect in surveying jobs in future, and may just actually employ the right person to do the job right first time!! We live in hope. Good post A.

It's just me said...

I had a small kitchen disaster today. My cooker ceased to work. Completely. So, the beginning of my day was all wrong as my planned grilled bacon had to metamorphose into an omelette.

So I called the kitchen company and they said they would try and chase up an engineer to sort it out, but it would cost, and was that ok. I then rang house-share-girl to inform her, and she said:
"Ah. Yes. Well, yesterday we had a powercut, so the clock reset itself, and it was beeping, and I didn't know how to change it, so, well, the long and short of it is that I unplugged it from inside the cupboard".

I'm so glad I hadn't paid the Stoves engineer man yet.

I feel your pain, if in a much smaller way!

Lisa said...

B&Q sounds like Home Depot, which I loathe.
Why is it that women can't say a single word to these 'experts' and yet we always seem to come to a much quicker and easier solution?

enidd said...

floods are worse, yes, but getting kitchens put in, forever, would be one of enidd's versions of hell. good luck - you'll need it.

Alice Band said...

Sally _ an inspector came to look over the work this morning and was about to walk away with my 'new taps' receipt. I clung on to it tightly, could just see it being conveniently lost!

it's just me- Ha Ha i've doen that more than once. Hope you enjoyed your bacon today!

Lisa - B&Q is exactly like Home Depot, it's even orange. I think they were once owned by the same guy. Hellish place. I only like it at Christmas when they sell sparkly lights and decorations!

enidd - not just being able to swill something out or wash your hands was hellish. I could never live in an African village. Fresh, clean running water is something us namby pamby westerners take for granted.

Anonymous said...

Great stories Alice!

sally's huby said...

Sally always used to have a Pavlovian response to finding herself in B&Q - she would keel over. It was completely reliable. I could start a countdown 9 1/2 minutes after walking through the door, and be within a couple of seconds or so of her hitting the deck 30 seconds later. It was a surefire way of getting the attention of the staff though.

Mary Alice said...

Uggggghhh. That sounds terribly inconvenient. Last year during our homeless period between base moves we spent three weeks with friends. 10 people, three dogs, and two cats in a home with one bathroom. Fortunately there was running water in the kitchen however. And we are still friends in spite of it all! Living all on top of each other is truly a test of friendship.

belle said...

Oh, how I know!
Our kitchen upgrade lasted a year from seeing the designer mid-January to being able, just, to cook the Xmas dinner.
If insurance had been involved - how long would that take?????
I like the deal that many companies take now that they do it all - to avoid submission of receipts and possible cheating - it might feel like they don't trust you but if they do it all - how wonderful!

Talking of floods - we have to get some sort of answer to the building on flood plains issue ... it just cannot happen. Although I know these floods were beyond such areas ... riparian buiding is just not ON.

Sally Lomax said...

I made you rock on my blog btw!