Saturday, the 26th September, was a busy day in the land of Laytonia.
Peter the Builder was due at 8am. I do know Peter’s proper name of course, I’ve known him for over 15 years, but ‘Peter the Builder’ is how he was named in my contacts on the day that I met him and I have never changed it. I’ll return to that day in a paragraph or two.
Anyway, Peter the Builder had been booked for Saturday to carry out some ‘home improvements’ devised by the Life President of Laytonia, the Queen of Laytonia, the Benevolent Dictator, the beating heart, the engine, My Darling Wife, call her what you like.
It has been well documented that if it were not for Moya’s creativity and clever ideas, our home would be a shrine to the 80’s and I would be content living in it.
Moya’s hard work and vision to make our home even more pleasant to live in is made considerably harder, when at any mention of change or improvement, my shoulders sag, together with my lack of enthusiasm.
It is not just because of my parsimonious, ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ nature, I simply don’t like disruption. Especially on a Saturday morning!
The pattern is always the same:
Moya: (out of the blue) Can we book Peter for a day? I want to re-design the larder.
Re-design the larder? It’s a larder! You put stuff in there, you take stuff out. How can you re-design a larder?
Moya: And I want to change the cupboard in the utility room!
Change the cupboard in the utility room!! How can you change a cupboard in a utility room??
You cram stuff in, you take it out. If it all falls out when you take it out, you cram it back in and close the door as best you can. That’s how utility room cupboards work.
Moya: (enthusiastically) Do you want to see my ideas?
George: (unenthusiastically) Yeah…
Shoulders sagging, I follow her round the house and try my best to show interest.
Moya’s prattling on; something about putting shelves on the back of the larder door, removing other shelves to replace with better shelves. I stand there with a fake smile, nodding like those dogs one used to see on the back shelf of cars.
Moya: You haven’t a clue what I’m talking about have you?
As always, it was my trademark glazed look that gave it away.
George: I’ll call Peter…(mustering enthusiasm)…let’s hope he’s free,’ I lied.
Wearing his HandyMan rather than his Builder’s hat, Peter arrived on the dot of 8 and his cuppa was waiting for him.
Sipping it, he followed Moya as she briefed him on the schedule of works. I trailed behind disconsolately. This is not my idea of how to start the weekend.
Woody, bewildered that he wasn’t out sniffing the usual Saturday smells of Hampstead Heath, trailed further behind, equally disconsolately. He becomes discombobulated by disruption and upheaval even more than I do.
Back to the day that Peter the Builder entered my life.
15 years ago, our younger son bought his first flat and moved out of Laytonia. I cried for a week – I missed his cooking.
Works needed to be carried out at Chez Bachelor Pad; a new kitchen, the bathroom turned in shower room, wooden flooring, down-lighters, decorating throughout, etc.
A builder called Arik was recommended. We (our son, Moya and myself) met Arik and discussed the works. A price was agreed, a start date was set, hands were shaken and all was confirmed in writing.
Since our son was at work all day and I embraced any distraction from writing, I was appointed Project Manager.
On Monday, the whatever of Whatever, I sat in our son’s flat waiting for Arik to arrive.
On the dot of 8 o’clock, the entry phone buzzed. Hmm, this boded well.
Impressed by Arik’s timekeeping, in full Project Manager mode, I went to let him in.
On the doorstep I found myself looking at a total stranger who would become my friend, ‘Peter the Builder’.
Or, to be more accurate, ‘Piotr the Budowniczy’.
‘I come do flat’.
‘Arik not coming. I do job.’
I don’t mind admitting that the Project Manager was somewhat taken aback.
‘But I don’t know you.’
‘How well you know Arik?’
‘Hardly at all.’
‘I better than Arik. I do better job. Don’t worry.’
Within what seemed like minutes, the bath was out and on the pavement and work was underway at a terrific speed.
This could, of course, been one of those disastrous Builder from Hell stories frequently featured on BBC’s Rogue Traders.
Peter, however, turned out to be the Mary Poppins of the builder world, sent from Heaven.
Back to last Saturday.
You may recall that I said that there is always a pattern to Moya’s home improvement bursts of creative energy.
For dinner that evening, as per the pattern, I had my customary dish of humble pie. I had to put my hands up, whilst not exactly life changing, Moya’s ideas really worked.
We now have a walk-in larder! I’ve never been able to walk into the larder because of the piles of whatever was in there. And what a pleasure to open the cupboard in the utility room without everything falling on your head.
‘How is it, darling, that you are always right?’ I ingratiated, as I held out my plate for a second helping of humble pie.
You may be forgiven for thinking that that’s it for this week. A gentle, reminiscing story, with a ‘will George never learn?’ ending.
All the above is merely a preamble leading to something we’ve not had in a while – a good old ‘Life in Laytonia’ rant!
Feeling guilty for my less than half-hearted support for the Saturday project, in a lame effort to redeem myself in Moya’s (lovely blue) eyes, I whizzed round with the trusty Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner.
The trusty Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner was not at all trusty.
When it came to emptying it, the release action that opens the compartment to dispose of the sucked up detritus wouldn’t work.
Peter tried. I tried. Moya tried. The bloomin’ thing was well and truly jammed.
‘Oh no, I’ll have to call Dyson on Monday’, I moaned.
Moya told me off for being so dramatic.
‘Have you ever called Dyson…?
* * * * * * * *
Monday 28th September 10am
Using the trusty landline, more trusty than the relatively new not so trusty Dyson, I am dialing Dyson Customer Service…
‘Due to the current crisis, answering your call may take longer than normal. Your wait time is currently 60 minutes. Dyson apologise for any inconvenience…’
This ‘due to the current crisis’ mantra is employed by a multitude of companies who are using the current pandemic as an excuse for customer service deficiencies that always existed. Leaving their customers on interminable hold being a prime example. It was ever thus.
Being our second Dyson, over time I have made innumerable pre-pandemic calls to the company and ‘crisis or no crisis’ it’s always taken an age to get through. Hence my moaning about having to telephone them.
I’m listening to the same light classical music as I did last time. And the time before that. And the time before…Oh no, the same refrain, going round and round on a loop.
I know that piece! What is it…?
‘Due to the current crisis, answering your call may take longer than normal. Your wait time is currently 59 minutes. Dyson apologise for any inconvenience…’
How curious it is that during lockdown, the weeks just seem to fly by. I am not alone, many of my friends think the same.
How then, can one minute last so long?
‘Your wait time is currently 58 minutes. Dyson apologise for any inconvenience…’
58 minutes! This is a nightmare. And what the hell is that music? It’s doing my head in!
I put the ‘phone on speaker and do my Pilates whilst waiting. If I’m sounding virtuous, don’t be fooled. I have been extremely lax of late.
‘Your wait time is currently 55 minutes. Dyson apologise for any inconvenience…’
As I am activating my core, I decide I have to know what that music is. I know it, but I don’t know it.
Using my mobile, I call Classic FM’s Composer in Residence, my lovely friend, the hugely talented composer and conductor, Debbie Wiseman whom I affectionately call ‘Maestra’.
Holding the Dyson call next to the mobile, after 3 seconds of the looping music, she tells me.
‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Georgie. Spring.’
‘I thought it was,’ I bluff. ‘Just wanted to make sure. Thanks Maestra. Hope they answer before Winter. Ha, ha, ha…’
I resume the Pilates concentrating on my clams…
‘Your wait time is currently 45 minutes. Dyson apologise for any inconvenience…’
I get the first of several calls on my mobile from friends telling me that our landline must be off the hook, it’s constantly engaged.
‘No, our vacuum cleaner’s packed up, I’m on hold to Dyson.’
From the empathetic ‘Say no more’ sighs, it was obvious which of my friends were fellow Dyson owners .
* * * * * * *
‘Ah yes, Mr Layton, you purchased your Dyson V7 Motorhead cordless almost a year ago. It’s still under warranty…’
I had finally got through after listening to the relentless snatch of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Spring) for exactly 1 hour, 10 minutes and 17 seconds.
‘The earliest our courier can pick it up is this coming Friday. But I must advise you, Mr Layton, that due to the current crisis…’ -I braced myself – ‘…that due to the current crisis, it may take up to 3 weeks before we can get it back to you.’
The Dyson V7 Motorhead cordless was not collected on Friday as arranged.
Before you exhale a group sigh of frustration, please note there was no ‘Sadly’ or ‘Regrettably’ prefacing the news that the Dyson V7 Motorhead cordless was not collected. Dyson redeemed themselves.
On the Thursday morning, my mobile rang. The caller had such a thick, what I thought was a foreign accent, I assumed it was another spam call. I was about to hang up when I caught the word “Dyson”.
‘Excuse me, did you say ‘Dyson’?
After apologetically saying ‘Sorry, didn’t catch that’ several times and asking the caller to speak more slowly, I gathered it was Eric, a Dyson engineer, working from home in Glasgow. On behalf of Dyson, he was calling to see if he could fix my vacuum cleaner remotely.
I called him back on WhatsApp video. With Eric’s expertise and a sharp knife, I was talked through the repair process.
Within 10 minutes, the Dyson V7 Motorhead cordless was back in full working order and I successfully managed to conceal from Eric that I had cut my thumb with the sharp knife.
Credit where credit is due. Thanks to Dyson and Eric, the week had ended more happily than it had begun.
Sucking my thumb, I called to Moya upstairs.
‘Darling, where are the sticking plasters?’
‘In the first-aid box.’
‘Yes, but where is it, I can’t find the first-aid box?’
‘It’s in the larder.’
Of course. Where else would it be…?