Monday, 18 August 2008

Radiator Blues

Almost 12 months ago now a company saver-scheme came to an end.

The idea of the scheme was that, for a given period of time, you sacrificed a percentage of your salary (anywhere up to £250 per month) – at the end of the scheme (usually 4 years) you had the option to buy shares in the company at a fixed rate (the rate they were at the start of the scheme)

I had a nervous few days where our shares slumped precisely at the point in time that I decided to sell, but still made more money than I would otherwise have done.

Being on a single income I had no choice but to buy a house that needed “work” – and for work read “knocking down and starting again”. Whereas the ancient Egyptians had built great edifices that stood straight to the skies with little more than a weight, the north star and a piece of string the Council builders of the 1950s had abandoned such methods for the tried and tested “Get it up quick and deal with the problems later” approach which led to every house in the street being papered with luminous yellow wall-paper containing blue, green and red flowers (in fact this seems to have been an area-wide campaign, as every time I see council housing on the local TV they always ALWAYS have my wallpaper)

However, the problem with being on a single income is that all the money goes into keeping the bills paid – so the scheme coming to an end finally meant that I had some money to spend on doing up a few rooms. I decided to get the box room/office, the whole of the landing (upstairs), stairwell and entrance hall plastered – as well as to fit a proper radiator into the office.

It so happened that my neighbour had recently had a lot of plastering done (which looked reasonably good), so I took the details of the man doing the work – who we will call Oscar to avoid nasty litigation later in the story.

Oscar came, gave me a reasonable quote, and left. I then called Trevor the plumber – who had previously saved a radiator from falling off a wall when I first moved in (No, not joking – it was at 45 degrees and held on by a cobweb. Another radiator was later found in a cupboard, along with half a Ford Anglia in the roof)

Trevor came, removed the office and hall radiators, and left. I measured the office radiator and found it to be 600 x 600, then drove to a big DIY Warehouse to buy a replacement.

Oscar returned and did what initially looked like a really good job. In fact he did a merely reasonably ok job – plastering over a nail that he couldn’t prize out. In the process of which he had to pull off the skirting boards in the office.

For which I needed to get a quote for a carpenter…but this was ok because Oscar had a mate. These people always have a mate.

Cue Obligatory Weekly Phone Call From My Mum:
MUM: You should try Gerry’s son Michael
Gerry is someone my mum has known for years through her local church. He did DIY jobs until he retired and his son, Michael – who was at school with me – has followed into carpentry. I explained that I already had Oscar’s mate coming round, but would consider Michael if he was no good.

At this point Trevor the plumber came back to replace the radiators and announced that I had the wrong one. I mentioned that I had measured the old radiator and they were the same size – but apparently new radiators hang higher than the old-style ones, which would have meant that my radiator cut into the windowsill. Cursing under his breath Trevor sloped away, still unpaid.

I re-measured the space and found that I needed a radiator that was 600x400 and promptly took the radiator back. Trevor returned, took one look at the radiator and announced, in tones that suggested I had less intelligence than the average Amoeba that I had the wrong one. What I had was a 600x400 radiator, whereas what I needed was a 400x600 radiator – subtle difference I know: surely, I thought, this is the sort of thing they should have taught me in school instead of all that nonsense about the effect of crop-rotation on Yams.

Trevor stormed off, swearing quite freely now at my mistake and at having made yet another long journey without payment. I returned to the DIY store.

This time I managed to buy the correct radiator and took it back to the car – only to find myself parked next to a carpentry van. I was in the middle of taking the man’s name and number when he returned and gave me a card. Now it so happened that although Oscar’s mate had not visited yet I had spoken to him on the phone and was not sure he would be any good – so when this man was polite and professional I resolved to give him a call if Oscar’s mate turned out to be shifty in person.

Cue Obligatory Weekly Phone Call From My Mum:
MUM: You should try Gerry’s son Michael

My mum is a simple soul and once she has an idea lodged in her head it is not easy to dislodge it. I responded that Oscar’s mate had yet to visit, plus I now had the card of this chap I had met at the DIY store – but if neither of them was any good then Gerry’s son Michael would be my next port of call.

Oscar’s mate finally turned up a few days late and gave the general impression that he really wasn’t interested in getting the work – so I decided not to give him any and fished out the man from the DIY store’s card…and it was at that point that the name of the company rang a bell…

Yep – it was Gerry’s son Michael. Turned out he’d recognised me in the car park from school, but had been too polite to say anything.

The story ends happily, however, as Michael did a sterling job at a reasonable price. Now all I need to do is get the rest of the house done!

12 comments:

Jenny said...

It's so tricky with shares. I mean, it's difficult to know when it's the best time to sell or if it's better to wait...

Hihi what a funny story! I'm glad it worked out! Sometimes mommies know best. xD

The Clandestine Samurai said...

So Michael worked out for you after all. Some scheme.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Jenny/Samurai - looking back it is quite funny, though i felt like an idiot at the time! I still think they should have taught me useful skills like plastering and DIY at school - 2 years of messing about with techno-leggo has done little to forward my career prospects!

Michael said...

When I started reading this, I thought it would be like the lady in Brazil: "I've got complications on my complications."

gemandal said...

bless, we all live and learn; i agree though what did school mess around with algebra and geography for? I never remembered anthing from it. Now plastering would have been mighty handy...
funny though, mothers know best! ;)

raccoonlover1963 said...

Our house was a bit of a mess when we moved in. It had been completely remodeled and finished in May of 2006. My stepdad, Lyle bought it for us when we decided to move back here from Florida. He made the mistake of buying it as is, instead of having it inspected first. Some rooms had no or minimal electric, none of the walls are squared. My kitchen cabinets at one end have about a 1-inch gap between cabinet and ceiling. But when you get to the other end of the cabinets, the idiots cut a hole into the ceiling to make the cabinets fit! No outside water or electric, not even in the garage! If I ever have to have any major work done on this or any other house, I am hiring Amish workers. They are excellent craftsmen and would never dream of cheating anybody! I think the guy who flipped this house must have had several out-of-work in-laws that he hired!
Lisa

Lydia said...

O, this was a good one! I enjoyed it all the more because today was day one of our windows replacement project. Knock wood, the installer and his helper appeared to know what they were doing. The retailer, on the other hand, ordered the wrong windows for my office and reordered today. The sagas we have of old houses! BTW, anything built in the 1950's has to be better quality than the ticky-tacky places being built of pressboard these days! Wallpaper you can change. The "bones" of the place is what really matters ;)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

michael - that sounds familiar, but i can't think where from

gemandal - was wondering how long it would take you to leave a message. Wait till you see my next posting about maths - but when it comes to parents i'm with Philip Larkin.

Lisa - sounds too familiar! It's all half-finished DIY jobs in my house...like the other day i stripped a wall and found a massive hole behind the paper. No idea why it's there

lydia - good workers are so hard to find. We should start a website - the public recommends...

Honour said...

DFTP - sorry to say, but this story reminded me exactly WHY i opted for a condo instead of a house.

because I can't tell the difference between 400X 600 and 600X 400. That's why.

Talk about kismet though - Michael did a superb job, eh? Did you tell your mother that she was right and on top of that brilliant?

(p.s. yes school is full of useless information, but you ever go back to an agrarian lifestyle you'll be glad you know how to rotate yams ...)

Honour said...

DFTP - sorry to say, but this story reminded me exactly WHY i opted for a condo instead of a house.

because I can't tell the difference between 400X 600 and 600X 400. That's why.

Talk about kismet though - Michael did a superb job, eh? Did you tell your mother that she was right and on top of that brilliant?

(p.s. yes school is full of useless information, but you ever go back to an agrarian lifestyle you'll be glad you know how to rotate yams ...)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

honour - i've told this story to pretty much everyone now, including my mum. It's a small world, that's all i can say. If i ever need my yams rotating it's clear that i'll know who to call... :)

Lydia said...

Re: starting a website about home workers, this just came to my attention (although I guess it's been around for a bit). Paste into browser:
http://www.angieslist.com/AngiesList/

Evidently this is only in the U.S. but it can serve as a template for others...