Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

On the face of it, giving my house keys to an Albanian builder I bumped into on the street might be deemed a silly thing to do.

But to those traditionalists who quibble with such a sally, I would make certain points in defence of giving a strange man called Stefano unlimited access to all areas of my life seconds after meeting him when he was repairing the windowsills of my next-door neighbour.

Stefano is special. Stefano is fixing everything. After I admired his handiwork, he offered me 'good price' and got to work on my sills and frames. Then he branched out. After taking a quick look at the outside of the building, he surveyed the interior, went home that evening and emailed me a quote for everything.

He itemised every single job that needed to be done, room by room, inside and out, with prices, all very reasonable, on a handy 'how to fix your life in 35 easy stages' type of itinerary.

I'm ecstatic.

I'm floating on cloud nine. My wildest dreams are coming true.

I've been meaning to get everything fixed for about ten years.

The jobs have been piling up and I've been putting them off thinking 'any day now a nice man will marry me and either take me away from all this or get his tool box out and fix it'. As each year passes and the husband does not arrive, the jobs grow ever more challenging.

I'm now staring at the very real possibility that I will have to sort out a lot of this peeling wallpaper without recourse to the honourable estate of matrimony. Which is why I gave Stefano a set of keys.

He explained that a certain amount of cloak and dagger was needed for practical reasons. He can only offer me 'good price' by moonlighting from the company he works for. Consequently, he comes and goes at all hours of the day and night as he's fitting in the refurbishment of my life around his other plastering jobs.

He's often there when I get home in the evening. He's sometimes there when I get up in the morning.

I'm so pleased to see him I'm almost as polite to him as I am to my cat. No human being in my life before has elicited a cheery 'Good morning!' at 8 a.m., nor a caring 'How was your day?' at 8 p.m.

I've never been that pleased to see anyone. But Stefano is always a sight for sore eyes. …

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