Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Builders

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Builders

Article excerpt

I have a friend who is perhaps best described by that old-fashioned phrase 'ladies' man'. He's not a cad or a bounder -- quite the opposite, in fact. He'd never leave a lady in the lurch, or lie to her, he simply enjoys the company of women -- quite a lot of women -- and they seem to enjoy him too. He knows all the hottest spots in town, and somehow all the barmen and doormen too. More important, he's a listener, and as any girl will tell you, a man who listens is a rare and miraculous thing.

But of all the cards up his sleeve, there's one that trumps the rest: he's friends with Artur, one of the best head builder/decorators in London, and for any home-owning thirtysomething woman, that's catnip. Artur, like my pal, is a perfectionist -- which is perhaps why they get on -- and he's not someone I'd normally have the nous to employ, but he appeared one bright autumn morning last year, sent to me and my husband by the ladies' man to fix up my wreck of a new house, and his arrival has been a revelation.

My normal life is one of punctuated idleness: days of lazing followed by a scramble to get stuff done, and as a result I'm a magnet for shysters. Handymen, painters, plumbers, I find them online, then end up in the same inevitable conversation: 'Well, the thing is love, it's a bit more complicated than we first thought... so it's going to cost you. ' Artur, by contrast, said straight away: we'll make this simple and cheap. And though I've done my best to frustrate him -- changing my mind and my plans -- he's been as good as his word. …

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