After being presented with a long list from Dad, the first order of business was getting the builders in.  So I called the builder.  This is the same guy I have used for all the repairs here.  He is a nice guy, on time, reliable and he gets the work done when he says he is going to, in the time frame he promised and for the price originally quoted – which isn’t outlandish.  As far as I am concerned you cannot ask for more from your builder.    Frankly, good builders are so hard to find that most people settle for two out of the six things I have mentioned.  I mean this guy practically has a superhero cape for goodness sake. 

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He is Greek, his name is Stellios (not his real name) and he works with his cousin, Little Stellios (also not his real name).  They are genuinely good guys, and I am so relieved to have found them, I can’t even express how much.  I hand out their number to anyone who asks, confident that they won’t let them down.  Ok, enough about the guys, you get where I am coming from.  They’re good.

I emailed him during the week between Christmas and New Year expecting to hear from him in the New Year.  He got back to me almost immediately and we arranged for him to come over on the 2nd.  After much negotiating with my Dad who wants all of these things repaired immediately but isn’t prepared to get out of bed any earlier to help make it happen, we arranged a time for his visit.  In the email, I outlined some of the problems, and also warned them about/apologised for what was to come.

When I told Dad of the appointment, he then went around the house cataloguing everything else he felt should have been done better.  So now as well as my list, we also had his.  New Year festivities over, one trip to my uncle’s for a massive New Year lunch followed by a trip to Heathrow Terminal 4 to pick up my sister, her husband and their two angels who I missed so much while they were away sojourning in Australia, and the 2nd came around and with it, the harsh reality of the end of the holidays.

Precisely at 1pm as arranged, the doorbell rings and the Stellioses walk in.  Introductions are made, lists are extracted and items are being checked off.  I must admit that for the first 45 minutes they took everything in their stride.  And there was a lot to take in.  But just when they thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous/over the top/unbelievable, my Dad starts explaining to them to his theories about women and their low centre of gravity and what the problem with the bathrooms was and why hadn’t they noticed when they were painting the place.

Stellios (I refrain from calling him Big Stellios because the truth is they are both diminutive) balked at this.

“I was asked to paint the place, not critique it.” he said, defensively.  I stood behind Dad trying to communicate with my eyes that he shouldn’t worry, no one blames him really, but that he should just go with it and nod.  Clearly my eyes are not as eloquent as I imagine, because he still looked hunted and uncomfortable and I suppose I just looked as if I was trying to dislodge dust from my eyes by waggling my eyebrows and opening my eyes wide.  The conversation continued, and I began to despair that they would ever come back.   Finally, Dad said he was finished, and with a quick word to me about how they would be in touch when stuff was ordered and ready, they made a swift exit.

I have to admit that the next few days were tense for me.  I couldn’t help wondering if they would be back in touch or if they had decided to run for the hills while they had the chance, and were busy changing their identities and moving to deepest darkest New Zealand.  A few days later, I got a call and breathed a sigh of relief.  They would be there on the Wednesday new taps permitting.

On the Wednesday I get a call saying that the taps weren’t ready and could they come Thursday.  No problem I said, and went to tell my folks.  Dad reacted as one would imagine a person whose whole world had crumbled around them would react.  There was thumping on the table, dropped shoulders, laments about why these things always happened to him and especially after all of his efforts to get the room ready for them (he’d moved his toiletries off the counter).

“I thought you said they were reliable!” he said.

“They are Dad, they really are, but they can’t come to replace your taps if they don’t have the taps.  They will be here tomorrow.  I told them not to come too early so that you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn…”

Eventually, he calmed down, although that, combined with another plan that had gone awry that day made the Wednesday a trying day for us all.

The next day, we were all expecting them at 11.  They came at 12.  For the whole hour Dad was twitchy.

“Is that them?  What if the taps didn’t come?  I’ll have to go into the office soon and I won’t get to see them and tell them what I want. I thought you said they were reliable!”

I refrained from mentioning that we were perfectly able to tell them what he wanted and that they certainly wouldn’t appreciate him looking over their shoulders.  This would have fallen on deaf and unappreciative ears.  I also had a ‘why me?’ moment as I realised that they had never been more than 2 minutes late, and here they were almost an hour late, while Dad was waiting for them.  I mean how unlucky is that? As I was at this low point other things started to occur to me.

Every time Mum and Dad would be coming to visit me at my old place, the roof would leak into their bathroom.  The first night we left them alone here at the flat and went off to yoga, there was a storm and Dad couldn’t watch the arsenal game.  When Dad tried to close his door, the handle came off in his hand and we had never had this problem before.  As soon as Mum & Dad got here, the pump in their bathroom blew, and there was no water pressure in their bathroom, not to mention the smell of burning and fireworks every time we went to turn the fuse back on.   There was a power cut which knocked out the heating and hot water for an entire night and morning here.  These are all incidents that occurred only in their presence.  The rest of the time, we are all living our lives without drama.  It occurred to me that there were two things possibly at play here:  Number one and the less likely option, is that my parents are cursed.  They are damned unlucky and everywhere they go, things happen to test them and those around them to see how quickly they/we can rectify the situation.  Secondly and more likely, (with hindsight and the added bonus of not being at a low when considering it) – these things happen all the time, but they are only a disaster when Mum and Dad are here.  Either way, these were all things that were running through my mind as we were waiting for Big and Little Stellios.

Finally, FINALLY the doorbell rang and it was them.  I opened the door and we started going over the list of what needed to be done.  Dad hovered and then as we walked into their bathroom, completely took over.  With a helpless look at the guys I left them with Dad.  About 45 minutes later, I went in and my Dad was giving them a potted history of the bathroom and they were wearing twin expressions of hopeless despair.  Eventually, Dad went off out, and they got on with it.  They realised fairly quickly that they wouldn’t be able to finish everything in one day and we made arrangements for them to come back the following day.

Dad came back, assessed all their handiwork, compiled another list and waited for their return eagerly to debrief them on everything that was wrong…

It was two days last week and another day this week and I think we are done here until after Dad leaves when they come back to do something that would have been too noisy and disruptive to do while my parents were here.  I hope they are still returning my calls by then.  I am so friendly to over-compensate for the complaints from Dad that I am beginning to think that they think I fancy one or both of them.  I’ll be able to tone it down soon, but they might have disappeared by then.

I gather New Zealand is nice this time of year.

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