After much prevarication (just under nine years), Mrs L and I finally took the plunge and engaged a team of builders to carry out a minor house refurbishment. There wasn't a lot to do, was there? Knock through here, add something there, paint that. Except 'wouldn't it be nice if we just...' ended with 'well if we're going to do all that...we might as well do the whole house.'
And so, in December 2010, we made acquaintance with Michal and his crew. Michal is 6' 8" and not someone you want to fall out with over...well over anything. So I didn't. His boys, all Polish and unfailingly polite (except to the bonkers neighbour over whose driveway they parked every day just to watch him get in a froth), were dwarfs by comparison, one of them barely nudging 6' 2".
Day 1, Unforeseen Problem #1: That wall is going to need a steel frame to support it. Not just any old steel frame, mind, but one that will cost £350 just to design - enter the weirdo structural engineer. The frame itself cost way in excess of that, the installation...well, let's just say the contingency fund was looking woefully inadequate before the first week was out.
I won't bore you with the details of the disastrous kitchen designers and fitters (14 months later and it's still not finished); the arguments over the reneged promise to paint every room; the freezing fucking cold as doors and walls came down and the heating packed in; the useless - and I'm talking barely able to work a monkey wrench useless - plumber who has now made 796 visits to try (and fail) to rectify his own incompetence; the disappearance (off the face of the universe), money in hand, of the entire crew when we presented the snagging list (a mere 93 items).
Barely a year after that lot scarpered, we engaged another guy and his mute, scary mate to come in and finish everything off. Except his skills lay mainly in, I'm guessing, dressmaking or possibly retail. Hence the laughable attempt to prepare our front driveway which included cementing in anything not specifically removed by us (umbrellas, a loose manhole cover, one of the kids) and expertly 'repairing' a leaking pipe by burying it in concrete. Well we weren't to know these boys couldn't even put tiles on straight, were we? They came recommended, albeit I'm not sure by whom (whom needs shooting). And, bless them, when I sacked them after their ninth massive mistake of the day, they refused to remove the 27 - count 'em - bags of rubble comprising the erroneously laid concrete I had them remove from the driveway.
We live and learn...except we, obviously, don't.