I employed him to repair the skirting board – the unsightly patch near the corner – but having removed the first piece, Mark called me across to look at the floorboard. It looked to me like all of the others.
– You don’t want to leave it like that, he said.
– Don’t I?
– Well, it’s your call, but it’s practically falling apart.
– Is it?
He took a claw hammer to the floor near the corner. Quite fiercely, I thought.
– Oh, I said. Yes. I suppose it is.
– There’s no suppose about it, mate.
– No. Well. Not now, anyway.
– Tell you what, I know you’re a busy man, I’ll take a couple of floorboards up this afternoon and we can have a think about this tomorrow.
When I returned from work, I was surprised to see that the bathroom floor had been removed, leaving the wooden joists exposed.
– Health and safety, he told me the following morning.
– The floorboards looked alright to me, I ventured, tentatively.
– Exactly, he said. Lethal.
– Oh… Right.
I expected to see a new floor in place that evening, but as I made my way upstairs, I saw that the bath had been removed and was resting upright against the landing wall. When I looked inside, three of the joists were missing as well. I picked up the phone.
– You’re lucky I caught it early, he said.
– Caught what?
– The leak under the bath.
– There was absolutely no sign of a leak, I said, emphatically, attempting to assert some authority.
– Spot on, mate. Spot on. That’s why it was such a problem. Anyway, I’ve got rid of the rotten wood and capped the pipe for you.
– I thought you were a joiner?
– No worries. My cousin Aaron is a plumber. He did it. He’ll send you a separate invoice. I’ll make sure you get invoiced directly for the electrical work too.
– What electrical work?
– Well, I had to make it safe. Electricity and water don’t mix, do they? Plus, I’ve got responsibilities to my workers.
– Workers? What workers?
– My son, Darren. He does the heavy lifting for me. I’ve got a bad back.
– So who did the electrical work?
– John. No bother. He’s fully qualified. Very reliable. You’ve got nothing to worry about there, son. He’s my wife’s uncle.
– Look, I only wanted the skirting board sorted out.
– Understood. We’ll aim to get the job back on track tomorrow.
I took the following day off in order to keep an eye on the work.
To be fair, they were keen.
Mark and Darren arrived at nine thirty. Aaron joined them shortly thereafter, and John turned up in time for their first tea break at ten.
Then Pete arrived.
– Who are you? I asked when I opened the front door.
– I’m the plasterer, he said.
– I don’t need a plasterer.
– Well, it’s up to you, of course, but someone will have to make good the new channels.
– What new channels?
– The ones that John has dug out for re-wiring the bathroom.
I went upstairs to check.
– Regulations, John told me. I wouldn’t be covered if I left you with an unsafe electrical system. Don’t worry, you should be able to claim it against your buildings insurance. I can send you a separate invoice.
Pete cut in.
– We can issue you with a single invoice for the electrics and plastering, if that helps. We’re both in the same VAT group anyway. It’s a family business. I’m John’s brother, by-the-way.
We shook hands.
– I’ve heard a lot about you, he said.