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 – 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.