Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

The Albanian builders have started a turf war in my kitchen. The hostilities broke out suddenly. One minute the builders were building and the plumber was plumbing and the next minute the builders were shouting at the plumber and the plumber was looking helplessly at me to intervene, only I couldn't intervene because a) the builders were shouting in Albanian, and b) I would have no idea what they were on about if they were speaking English because it was something to do with the floor and the radiators and the gap for the patio doors in millimetres -- about which I know precisely nothing.

I've watched those Grand Designs shows a thousand times and cursed at the screen whenever a woman has declared herself project manager of her own build. 'Ludicrous!' I always shout at the TV set.

And now that I've been forced to project-manage the renovation of my own house, since the builder boyfriend left, I can confirm that my prejudice was absolutely bang on.

I know nothing about ordering bifold doors and making decisions about the size of gaps in back walls. All I know is: 'Please, please put a door in, it's windy!' And that doesn't cut it. That leads to the builders in the bombsite kitchen area screaming at Terry the plumber, who has only come to help me figure out, before I pay for kitchen units, where the sink and dishwasher are going, but who now faces accusations, I think, that he is plotting with me to undermine them by changing the position ofthe doors.

Part of the problem is that Stefano is so big now that he can't come to my job. He brought me a team of men and left them to bang and crash. They have been knocking out my kitchen for a period of time I cannot quantify, I am so disorientated. It could be two weeks, it could be 3,000 years.

Stefano gave them a pep talk when he first brought them. He warned them what will happen if they get something wrong. 'She shout?' asked one of them.

'No,' said Stefano, sighing heavily. 'She don't shout. She cry.'

The men gasped. 'Cry?' said one, looking as though he might turn around and leave without further ado.

Every day since then, the men have arrived in a black van to bang and crash, and shout incomprehensible questions up the stairs to where I am hiding in the bedroom with the spaniels. …

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