We’ve had builders bumbling around outside the house on and off for weeks now. They are gradually multiplying and the frequency of their swarms is increasing. Yesterday, as my fiancée was trying to enjoy her first day off work in about two weeks, the morning and early afternoon was a nonspecific cacophony of hammer against concrete from all around the building. With tedious predictability, just when you thought they had finished it started up again. Last week there were a couple of the shiftiest looking workmen you ever did see; they were knocking the lintels off the downstairs flat, shacking the whole building in the process. Every time they needed to ask the downstairs tenants a question, they knocked on my fucking door first. I had to tell them four times to try the other door. Anyone that stupid is suspicious to me.
Today we were woken just before 8am by more hammering against concrete; that solid thud which you feel as building vibrations as well as hearing. I looked out of the window to see the garden path being ripped up by a crew of high-vis’ hard-hats. We rent a flat from a private landlord. It’s the top floor of a semi-detatched. The downstairs flat, and most of the other properties in the area are owned and maintained by the local council. They also maintain the exterior of our flat so we are always getting communications that would only make sense if they were our landlords.
One day a few months ago they came asking to measure our front door and asking me to choose a design from a scrap of paper. I told them to ask the landlord. Last year a couple of them came around when I was out demanding to see in the attic. This was before the confusion about them maintaining the property was sorted out, and they basically barged their way in by intimidating my fiancée, and repeating ‘we need to look, you’re on the list’. Nice blag if you want to go around trying to rob people in their homes.
Next week our lintels will be demolished, and then later in the month we enter a six-week period of hell. Our building and most of the street will be surrounded in scaffolding, chimney rebuilt, new lintels and guttering, new cladding, probably a bit of accidental roof damage, and a fuck load of noise. We got a letter through the door advising us to move around the house from room to room in a desperate and futile attempt to escape the all-pervasive racket. Expect a few more blog posts about the noise as it gradually becomes all I can think about.
The path has been dug up for about five or six hours now, and paving slabs are piled all over the place waiting to be installed. In a couple of hours the dark will be setting in. The extremely thin road is almost entirely blocked by massive red and white barriers weighed down at the base with sandbags. Tomorrow is bin day, and if those barriers aren’t moved the dustbin lorry won’t fit down the street. Usually it can only just squeeze through, as long as cars are only parked on one side and they are right up on the pavement so far that prams can’t get through.
This counts as excitement. Bin men and builders. I am a curtain twitching old granny, watching some youths defacing a ‘this is a neighbourhood watch area’ sign and not doing a thing to prevent it. I am a reclusive ‘what’s he building in there?’ type; the scary house – mysterious parcels from Transylvania and Malaysia go in; nothing comes out. I conduct sinister experiments from behind closed curtains, and a strange impenetrable rain cloud hangs perpetually over the house.
Indeed. Ok, time for some proper writing, and a cup of tea. Going to the cinema later to watch Black Swan. I’ve heard great things about it, plus my fiancée loves dancing, and I love the film The Wrestler by the same director (Darren Aronofsky). Plus it stars nerd pin-up Natalie Portman (multi-lingual, atheist, science geek; what’s not to like?). Plus Aronofsky has this to say about it: "Wrestling some consider the lowest art—if they would even call it art—and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves." That kind of thinking is right up my street. I can’t wait.