When you know bugger all about what you are trying to do. Who do you trust to do it? How do you know if you’re getting a good deal?
Well we knew bugger all and we knew no buggers at all. So where do we go for all our property requirements? To Piers.
Me: “Piers do you know any good builders?”
Piers: “Good thing you asked, now I just happen to have some really good guys at the moment. They’ve got to do my place first but they’ll be with you by next Spring.”
Now that was in 2001, the summer we got the house. And just to be sure that they really were as good as Piers made out I trotted along to the place where Pier’s guys were working. At Piers’ house. A yellow brick Victorian fronted farmhouse with pokey old rooms dating back to when the house didn’t have nearly so much pretension. To the sides, old stables and outbuildings, which were now being cleverly joined together on both stories to produce a substantial countryman’s abode. From three bedrooms to six plus three bathrooms, one en-suite plus dressing room and downstairs a playroom, office, massive modern kitchen/diner, dining room and withdrawing room plus a all the usual paraphernalia. When I drove up is was veritable hive of industry and Piers was in a particularly avuncular mood and proudly showing off everything.
Piers striding forth and gesturing expansively: “This will be the office, the downstairs loo, the playroom, the cloakroom, the pantry, the larder – we’re having real slate in here got a good deal from a man I know in Poland.”
I trotted happily after him across planks of wood suspended on slim line brick walls about six inches off the ground. Bouncing about under scaffolding, through plastic sheeted doors, under a skeleton roof.
Piers: “What the F**k! Bloody hell boys what’s this! I don’t want a door here!”
I start and look around to see who is in charge and a very tanned chap straight from a diet coke ad calmly climbs down from the roof where he has been busy fixing some purlins. He dries his hands on his T-shirt, smiles at me and winks.
Him in the broadest Suffolk accent – the first time I ever found it sexy: “You awight buoy? Nah s’awight –the plans sais it should be by ‘ere.”
Piers is clearly not happy and for the next half hour Justin, for that is the name of the demi-godlike builder, and he work out why the architect is wrong and why Piers is right and finally agree to move the door, which will involve the knocking down of one wall and the rebuilding of another. And Justin remains as calm and as cheerful as he was when he climbed down from the roof. I’m impressed.
The next time I visit, the building inspector is imminent and the foundations are gaping - there’s very little time and the concrete hasn’t arrived. Piers is shouting about extra costs if the building inspector has to return at a later date; and not wanting to pay people who won’t be working if that happens. Justin gives me the widest grin his eyes dancing merrily. He’s on the phone and replies to Piers’ demands: “S’awright buoy –it’s ‘ere.”And so it is. The concrete arrives in time and the building inspector gives everything the thumbs up. I notice the door is back in its original position. And I realise that Justin’s the builder for me. If he can put up with Piers then our job will hold no fear….