Roses round the door

Whenever I was asked as a child to draw a picture of my ideal home, I’d get out my wax crayon and sketch a flat fronted two up two down cottage with a door and a crooked chimney with corkscrew smoke puffing out of the top of it. Then I’d swap colours and, with flair, add a rose flower winding over the porch. I’d never heard of the word, quintessential (let alone spell it), but even back then I knew what I wanted.

I’ve spent five nights alone at the new cafe premises in Denmark Hill. I use the description, cafe, in its loosest possible terms. Let’s just say it’s no longer a kebab shop. It’s hard to describe what it is, because it’s just a shell. A few weeks ago I took the decision that Guido and I should make the living space upstairs habitable first. I could stay there and oversee the work downstairs. That way I’d be on site to deal with emergencies.

If I ever come up with such a hare brained idea ever again in my entire life – shoot me.

Our builders are from Romania. There are lots of them. They travel in a pack. They arrive at six o’clock in the morning in a caravan of trucks. Regular readers will know I consider six o’clock in the morning still to be the middle of the night. They dig with shovels. Unfortunately I’m unable to speak fluent Romanian which, in current circumstances, would be advantageous. The head builder is called Roman. I’m not making that up. In my opinion he has the biggest “builders bum” crack I’ve ever seen. Those of you unfamiliar with this anatomical term may want to Google it. You’ve been warned. I try very hard not to get too close to Roman’s. It’s like some horrible cosmic black hole. I fear I may inadvertently be sucked into it like quick sand and be unable to escape; never to be seen or heard of again this side of the universe.

On the language front Roman isn’t that brilliant with English but he does understand the words yes and no. He definitely uses the word, no, more than he uses the word, yes. Which when you ask him the question – ย is your construction plan on schedule? – and the answer is no, it’s pretty disappointing considering the number of shovels involved. However, if I ever ask Roman if he’d like coffee and sandwiches, the answer is always, yes.

“What do you mean the construction plan isn’t on schedule?” said Guido when I called him in the middle of a very busy lunch service at The Spanish Onion to tell him the construction plan wasn’t on schedule.

“The lasagna’s for table 3!” I heard him yell.

I could almost smell the cream sauce.

“Are you a complete idiot? Stop making coffee and sandwiches immediately,” he said.

His rationale was that this may be making it impossible for Roman and his team of completely professional builders to focus on our looming deadline.

Personally I’m not sure this approach will go down too well with so many men with shovels.

By the way, there’s a climbing pink rose around the cafe back door. I’m hoping that’s a good sign. It’s certainly as close as I’m going to get to quintessential in Denmark Hill.

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40 thoughts on “Roses round the door

  1. Shovels? I’m not super handy so I might not be the best person to ask, but I feel like if you had to choose a tool for renovations, I would go with something different. Like maybe screw gun. You can never go wrong with a good screw! (or am I just digging myself into a hole here? …good grief I need more sleep)

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  2. This could be source of your next best selling book, just channel Pete Mayle from a Year in Provence, a month in Denmark Hill, a classic in the making.

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  3. You could always find a Romanian who is bi-lingual and speaks English well enough. And then just have him observe and teach you the language too. That said, I seem to recall Romanian is a Vulgar Latin base so probably not that hard to pick up.

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  4. Romanian you say! I think Professor Higgins would disapprove. Are there no nice Polish workers available? I do hope it all goes well and yes please follow Guido’s advice NO food or coffee they are there to work, you may want to quote their great leader to them, that nice Mr Ceausescu on the virtue of hard work.

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  5. Renovations suck. Coffee and sandwiches or not, nothing ever goes according to schedule. It takes longer and costs more than you ever thought it would, but…it does end. And you and Guido will have a wonderful cafe with roses round the door ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. LOL! Here in the States, we have Plumber’s Crack. It’s the American cousin of Builder’s Bum Crack.

    I’m with Aimer. Renovations suck. My father once got taken by a contractor for about $40k nearly two decades ago when not only was he behind schedule but he seemed like he didn’t want to do the work once he had the materials.

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  7. My goodness, what with all the recent hot, humid weather, I hope those builders were not taking clothes off to cool down. I hope there are no jackhammers involved, and that you got your hard hat on when looking at Roman’s builders’ crack.

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  8. I saw this article about the differences between what an American and someone from the UK or Europe expects in the way of amenities in a house. I realize that neither of you are American expats, but I immediately thought of you, the designer, redoing the living space at the new place to make it habitable and I thought of the choices and the trade offs you were having to make to keep things within budget so Guido doesn’t kill you. I hope you get a chuckle out of it like I did.

    PDQ (An American who loves my conveniences, even though my 1923 era kitchen has neither the cabinetry nor electrical hookups to allow for all of them)

    https://www.curbed.com/2017/7/19/15915268/using-us-uk-electrical-appliances-american-home-tech

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    • I liked that a lot! I have to say we do have a separate drier (couldn’t live without it…) and I much prefer a top sheet to a duvet, totally agree about Ikea – but no electric kettle and a drinks fridge in the bedroom??
      I do have an American friend who lives in London and went home to her sister’s place on holiday. Her sister was having a new oven fitted. “She never cooks but she was having an oven fitted which was big enough to roast an ox.”
      I find that idea appealing!
      JP

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