Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

Stefano the Albanian turned up in a brand new Audi off-roader, cutting quite the dash. He looked older, with some silver flecks in his black hair and beard that were rather distinguished.

How to explain my predicament? It was tricky. I hadn't been in touch since I'd asked him for a quote to renovate the 'dream' cottage. But then the builder boyfriend submitted his tender for the work, and talked me round. I argued vociferously that we would only fall out and that made the stakes too high. But the BB insisted. He made it a matter of his honour. He could not allow another builder to build on what he considered his patch. So I caved in against my better instincts, and of course, three months into the work, I was proved right.

The BB and I had a meltdown under the strain of our various trials and tribulations and he told me to stick my 'dream' cottage where the sun didn't shine.

It was upsetting, of course. But what could I do? I had to finish the house. So I texted Stefano to tell him I was sorry about the delay but I had been having some issues -- true enough -- and was only ready to start now.

He arrived on my doorstep a few days later, reliable as ever, and walked around the half-done house. I held my breath, waiting for him to say how cross he was that I had let someone else start and was now asking him to finish. But he looked at the new plumbing and the new electrics, and the knocked-out walls and the holes in the floor, and the heaps of rubble in the basement, and he ran his hands along the walls that had been plastered by the BB's plastering mates, not him, and then he opened his mouth to speak, as I held my breath.

And in a whisper, as is his way when saying something important, he stroked the newly plastered walls and said: 'This...very... nice... job.'

Turning to Terry the plumber's gleaming rows of copper piping reaching from floor to ceiling through the gaps in the walls, like a cathedral organ, he said: 'This... is... spectacular!'

'Do you really think so?' I said.

Whispering as if imparting state secrets, he said: 'Is... so... good is... shame to cover up!'

'I'm so pleased you like it,' I said, feeling a confusing mixture of relief and guilt. Was he just being gracious? …

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