Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Great British Rip Off

Having moved house recently, there were a few bits that needed doing.  Nothing mega.  The house is a new-build after all.  But little things – like getting an electrician to put up outside lights (it’s pitch black at night), and finding a chippie to put up some shelves, were essential. Regrettably my husband thinks a jigsaw is something that slots together, and a spur is only applicable to riding boots, so outside help is essential.
          The old adage of obtaining three quotes is a good one.  So on three different days, three electricians and three carpenters came to the house.  Well actually that’s not strictly true.  The first electrician and the first carpenter didn’t bother to show up.  The second electrician paced about, hummed and hawed, removed a pencil from behind his ear and assured me he’d do the job as cheaply as possible.  For cash. Naturally.  As we walked around the outside of the house, he told me all about his thirteen-year-old daughter’s dream to be an Olympic water skier and how expensive is was funding it all.  I wasn’t surprised when his bill to put up five lights totalled £1,045.  A bargain, he assured.  I thanked him and waited for the third electrician.  He quoted me £150.  You don’t need to be Einstein to work out who got the job.
          The second carpenter strode in, listened to me talking about putting up an MDF shelving unit in the hallway so there was a library area.  Nothing flash, simply functional.
          ‘I’ll do my best for you,’ he said.  ‘For cash.’
          I wonder what my husband’s boss would say if he went to work and said, ‘I’ll do my best for you today, Mr X, but it has to be for cash.’  I have a feeling Mr V would be clutching his P45 within seconds.  What is it that makes some people think they are doing you a massive favour “for cash” when, frankly, their prices are beyond astronomical?
          The third carpenter sucked on his pencil, spent ages fiddling with his tape measure, and drew a “complicated” sketch to illustrate the “complications” of the job.  When we compared drawings, his “detailed” sketch looked exactly like mine.  Frankly I was at the point of going to Homebase, asking them to cut the MDF pieces, and having a stab at putting the wretched thing together myself.
          And their prices?
          Carpenter Number Two:  £1,345.  For cash.  Naturally.
          Carpenter Number Three: £2,845.  For cash.  Naturally.
          Something struck me here.  Do tradesmen think that by sticking forty-five quid into the mix it makes their cash quote look more realistic?
          Anyway, I turned to eBay.  Triumph!  As we speak, some kind soul is beavering away making a custom-built oak bookcase six feet wide and seven feet tall for five hundred pounds. Meanwhile, I’m now sourcing a handyman to do some wardrobe rails.  For cash.  Naturally.  Which reminds me.
          A man went to prison for three years.  During that time he was a model prisoner.  He studied carpentry and accordingly had his sentence reduced.  On the day of leaving jail, the governor – impressed with the guy’s work – asked him to design and make his wife a new kitchen.
          ‘Sorry, Sir,’ the ex-con replied. ‘But that’s how I ended up in prison.’
          ‘What do you mean?’ asked the Governor.
          ‘I went to prison for counter fitting…’ 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Molly Muddles (Loves Cuddles)

After all the frantic activity of packing up the old house and unpacking in the new one, I haven’t properly written about the arrival of my little pup from Crete.  I greeted Molly with much enthusiasm, even though she was covered in vomit and stank to high heaven.
            ‘She’s not a good traveller,’ said her escort, leading her out of the car.  ‘She began puking within three minutes of setting off and hasn’t stopped since.’
            ‘Oh dear.  Well I’m sure she’ll feel much better when she’s had a nice bath.’
            The escort gave me a look.  ‘This is a dog.  Not a human.  Forget the bath idea.  She’s endured fourteen hours of travelling hell.  Right now she is very stressed.’
            I looked at Molly, a mixture of tan and white blobs with a green face.  She wagged her tail at me and gagged. Waving off the escort, I led the new family member into the house.  She stood in the hallway and shivered.  England in mid-November is nothing like Crete.  Within seconds the entire house whiffed of vomit.  Mr V chose that precise moment to arrive home from work.
            ‘What in God’s name is that smell?’ he asked.  His eyes fell upon the pooch trembling at my feet.  Now it has to be said Molly was a sore subject between me and my husband.  After saying a tearful good-bye to our old pooch three days before Christmas 2014, Mr V was emphatic he would never love another dog again.  I’d forced his hand with Molly.  Spotting a tiny puppy on a Cretan beach that looked a dead ringer for a beagle, I’d had fanciful ideas Molly was our old pooch reincarnated.  Needless to say, the dog now at my feet looked nothing like a beagle and more like a leggy whippet.
            ‘Hasn’t she grown!’ I attempted light banter whilst inwardly quaking.  Just how big was this puppy going to get?  I’d already had recurring nightmares about greeting a six-foot high dog that had to stoop to get into the house.
            ‘I’m going out,’ my husband promptly announced.
            ‘But what about your dinner?’
            ‘Give it to the dog,’ Mr V snapped.  I let my husband stomp off.  As every woman will know, there are times when it’s best to keep quiet.  This was one of them.
            I turned to Molly.  ‘I’m very sorry, little girl.  I know you’ve had a terrible day but we might as well go all out and make it horrendous.’  Ignoring the escort’s words, I ran Molly a bath.
            Mr V ignored the new arrival for three whole weeks. In order to keep domestic peace, I didn’t make any comment and pretended this was completely normal. My husband’s refusal to interact with Molly actually achieved a well-mannered pup intent on befriending this aloof human being.  Every evening she would quietly greet him, stand back when rebuffed, then walk with him to the table where he ate his dinner.  She’d sit politely, all the time trying to catch his eye, undeterred by being steadfastly ignored.  When my husband moved to the sofa, Molly would move with him, sitting at his feet and gazing at him beseechingly.  Night after night this was the pattern.  When my husband did accidentally make eye-contact with her, she wagged her tail joyfully.  Out of my peripheral vision I saw my husband’s expression soften.  Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief.  The icy heart was thawing.  Since then she’s enjoyed walks with her master, belly rubs and the occasional pat.  When I heard my husband accidentally call her Trudy, I knew that the last hurdle had been overcome.
            The requests for cuddles on Molly’s part sometimes backfire.  Recently I took her with me into a public loo at the local woodland park.  The wobbly dividing partitions were about six inches off the floor and big enough for Molly to stick her head underneath.  Within seconds of closing the toilet door, I was aware of another person going into the cubicle next to me.  Trying to deal with both a dog lead and my trousers at half-mast meant my hands were full, so when Molly stuck her head under the neighbouring partition, naturally a scream went up.
            ‘Hellooooo!’ Molly effusively greeted the person trying to quietly relieve themselves.
            ‘So sorry,’ I bleated grabbing hold of toilet paper, hoisting up my pants and trying to reel in the leash.  The lead promptly tangled with the spinning toilet roll.  Within seconds yards and yards of tissue began to ribbon back and forth across the floor.
            ‘Get your ruddy mutt out of my toilet!’ said an outraged voice.
            ‘Heel!’ I commanded. Yanking up my trousers, I crouched down and grabbed hold of Molly’s back legs, which were all that remained of her in my cubicle.
            ‘This is preposterous,’ the voice spluttered.
            ‘She’s just a friendly puppy,’ I gasped, hauling on my hound’s tail for good measure.  Molly promptly shot backwards banging her head on the bottom of the flimsy partition.  The partition reverberated causing the industrial-sized toilet dispenser to clank alarmingly.  Seconds later it fell off the dividing wall with a crash causing another scream to go up from next door.  This was one occasion where I didn’t wash my hands.  I simply opened the cubicle door and fled.
            Two months later it is as though Molly has been a part of our family forever.  It is a joy to have another four-legged friend, especially when my husband is away on business.  Living out in the middle of nowhere, I feel totally safe with my loyal hound curled up at the bottom of the bed.  She’s a quick learner, keen to please and incredibly loving.  Although I haven’t ventured back into any public toilets with her.  Which reminds me.
            A friend was in a public toilet and had just sat down, when a voice from the next cubicle said, ‘Hi!  How are you?’
            Embarrassed, my friend said, ‘I’m doing fine.’
            The voice said, ‘So, what are you up to?’
            My friend said, ‘The same as you.  Just sitting here.’
            From next door, ‘Can I come over?’
            Annoyed, my friend said, ‘Well I’m rather busy right now.’
            The voice said, ‘Listen, I’ll have to call you back.  There’s an idiot next door answering all my questions…’