23 February 2018

What we cannot imagine

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Daily, the builders come in two trucks and make their way up through the passage to the back of the house and in through the backdoor. For the first two weeks, they weren't in the house, but working in the three small rooms behind the house that had been used for storage for the last fifty years, but are now becoming the bathroom. We didn't see much of the builders then. They tore down and rebuilt the walls, and then one day, broke through the wall into the kitchen. They took out the chimney breast which had needlessly been taking up space in the kitchen and the house smelled like one hundred year-old smoke for a week.

The builders use the two mugs that we have with Union Jacks. Yoko buys a mix of biscuits: Jammy Dodgers and digestives with and without chocolate. Rich tea and Tesco Bourbon Creams Biscuits. They get fish and chips for lunch sometimes, from the shops at the roundabout, and work steadily from 9 to 4:30 every day. More and more we linger to chat about things, about their families and I'm starting to feel like I will miss them when they leave.

The walls went bare one day, and then they were patched and plastered, and then the floor was torn out and then replaced and then the kitchen went in. Last Friday or Thursday, they put in a new boiler, moving it from the bathroom to under the stairs. I thought this would be incredibly difficult, take weeks to do, but just suddenly it was there and I felt stupid for not realising how the whole thing worked. I asked the plumber how much the boiler had cost, but this question made him uncomfortable. He said he had the receipt and would talk to Wayne, and I knew immediately that I had made a mistake. I don't pay the plumber, I pay Wayne the Builder. Wayne the Builder will tell me how much it is. There's a hierarchy.

Every day you pull back the curtain that is feebly trying to hold the dust in the back of the house, and another part of the old plastic kitchen, more of the mouldy particle board and linoleum, has been hauled out to the skip. Now, there's no trace of it and this thing I had imagined, just simply imagined, has become an empirical reality. Look at this, I want to say to everyone, look at these pictures on my phone. You'll never believe what's happening, where my life has brought me. In a presentation this week, I said that I want to be a good immigrant, something  I've said in the past to audiences. It's an unintended laugh line. I'm not joking, but because I'm white and speak English, people think it's a joke. Of course, it is easy for me to adapt, to make sense of this society and do the right thing. But of course, it's also not easy, I want to say, it's been a struggle, this whole thing has been a struggle. I feel silly saying that, so I don't say it. It hasn't really been a struggle, has it. It's been easy, hasn't it.

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