It was several weeks ago that Phil and I were woken early by a loud POK. In different circumstances it might have been the beginnings of an intriguing mystery or the subject of idle speculation. Unfortunately, as home owners, it lead to panicked wails of, “What’s gone wrong now?” and, “How much is it going to cost this time?” Houses, unlike Wolverine, don’t heal themselves .
We set off in different directions in search of POK. It sounded to me like a lightbulb going out. I checked the cupboard under the stairs where there’s no room for a boy wizard amongst the embarrassing amount of clutter. One day the stepladder will topple over the Henry hoover and smash the lightbulb. Not that morning. The bulb remained intact. Curiouser and curiouser.
Eventually I opened the front door to find an unsliced wholemeal loaf, a pint of semi-skimmed milk and two halves of a housebrick. Padding out in bare feet I look up to see a brick from the decorative row over the bedroom window has fallen out.
The rest of the bricks are solidly in place but I e-mail our list of retained builders informing them of the urgency of the work that is required. It will be a quick job. Rebond the brick and put it back in place with a bit of repointing. Bish bosh. Less than a morning’s work.
Not one of the builders bothers to reply. It becomes clear that builders, at their busiest during a normal spring and summer, are in even higher demand following lockdown. A quick morning’s work isn’t very attractive when everyone else is clamouring for extensions and new kitchens.
Fresh leads are pursued and rebuffed. Builders tell me they are booked until the end of the year. But it’s not even a morning’s work I want to reply. Barely an hour of your time, I plead. No one cares about my decorative row.
Following a recommendation a builder gets in touch. He will pop around and take a look. Not at Christmas but this week. This week! I can’t believe my good fortune. Could this be the one? No, no, I tell myself. I mustn’t get my hopes up. I’ve been hurt before.
The builder arrives and stands in the middle of the road with his arms crossed, looking up. I follow him and cross my arms. Together we stare at the house. He points and notes the brickwork. Can I see the problem? Yes, I can see the problem. He urges me to look where the flashing is missing. I don’t see any flashing. He warns me that if it isn’t replaced it will leak. He will need to take down the first four rows, replace the perished bricks, repoint the rest and replace the flashing.
I realise he is pointing at the chimney.
“What about the missing brick over the lintel?” I ask, pointing to the gap above the bedroom window.
“Oh,” he says, surprised.
He has only just noticed it.