The Siege

Counting today—which is just now pink-tinged with dawn—I have been “retired” for a baker’s dozen of days. Of those days, nine have been actual working days and six would have been within my truncated work week. And I have been sitting in this flat for three of those days (plus a fourth one back in October) watching workmen complete a job that I was originally told would take one day.
The first visit occurred during one of my days off, when I was semi-skivving, before begin made redundant I decided to retire, but the subsequent visits—today’s included—are on days when normal people work. How do people with 40-hour a week jobs find the time to get things like this done?
This “window project” has been going on since June, and it was supposed to have been finished by the end of August, then September, then November, and now they are telling me it will be well into the new year before they finish. But that was what I expected at the onset, because workmen in Britain are just the same as workmen the world over: they show up, make a great deal of noise and commotion without actually getting a lot done, then disappear for days on end leaving us sitting in a construction site.


Typical work crew. Location: anywhere in the world.

And the insouciance of the workmen is breathtaking. I was told they would be here on a certain day, but they couldn’t make it that day (well, in any case, they didn’t show up) so they came a different day. Then they returned to do the finishing touches. This was scheduled for yesterday but at 1 o’clock they suddenly left, saying, “We’ll be back tomorrow; we can’t do any more until the plaster dries.”
Now, this caused no consternation because, quite frankly, I welcome the diversion, but it left me scratching my head wondering how we would have coped with these sorts of demands on our time if I was still holding down a full-time job.
And this is not simply about inconvenience; every time they visit I have to move everything away from all the windows—bed, sofa, curtains, tables, chairs, exercise bike, knitting projects, old pairs of glasses sitting on the window sill that haven’t been used since 2004—the lot. All of it has to go into the middle of the rooms, then, after the workmen leave and I hoover up the mess, it all has to go back where it was, only to be removed and stacked in the middle of the room the next day.
I must say, however, that with all this reaching and bending and lifting and dragging I’m getting a hell of a workout, and since I’m eating better and working out so much, I am actually losing weight. So now I wonder if it really isn’t the workmen’s fault for being so disorganized; perhaps my wife is behind it.
She’s probably calling the foreman right now from her office, telling him to make sure to arrange for another visit next week to touch up the paint or stress test the new window sills or something, anything to keep me from sitting on my duff all day and getting fatter and lazier than I already am.
I can’t blame her; my capacity for sloth is legendary. And I really don’t mind because, if this keeps up, I might look like this by the time our 11thwedding anniversary rolls around:


Now I ask you, what better gift could I give my wife?