Save me from this noisome pestilence

I WATCHED a fat builder burst, this morning. Well; not quite burst, but, from the spectator's point of view, about as close to bursting as you could go without having to turn up at the inquest, which is always a bore.

The fat builder was the governor working for Rambino, a grizzle-haired doofus who has paid an inflated price for the near-derelict first floor of the tatty, shuddering house in which I "live", and is now Doing It Up.

There's been a vile epidemic of Doing Up all this year, complete with drills and jackhammers and orbital sanders and hammering, hammering, hammering. And shouts; those special builders' shouts, hoarse, alarmed and inarticulate, as though they are forcing warm fat at high pressure through their clogged builders' larynxes. "Grrrooooagh!" goes the Fat Builder. "Wuurff!" comes the call from the crew of barking hobbledehoys and stoney-faced religious minority groups tumbling out of their rusty blue van. "Ack! Rorf! Rorf" answers the flat-eyed lunatic turning the basement into a couturier's, complete with banging.

At any moment, I expect some runny-nosed anthropologist, some whispering relativist on rubber-soled shoes, to come creeping through the spindrift of sawdust and plasterboard, clutching a microphone, eyes shining with awe. Raw material, do you see? A fascinating glimpse of a primitive speech- system stretching right back to the mighty baboon: an oral tradition subject to precise rules known only to initiates, and woe upon the chippie who shouts "Aw spwarft?" when it's the spark's turn to cry "Nwaooh!"

This is stuff of great cultural importance, do you hear what I am saying? We are all sophisticated people here. We have been following the arguments raging in the newspapers about Contemporary Music, and we know which side we are on. Don't we? Quite. We are on the side of civilisation, structure, that delicacy of cadence which speaks of a society at its zenith. A glass of old Madeira, the warm glow of the candlelight, Orlando Gibbons's The Street Cries of London on the trusty hi-fi.

Well; we're wrong, and Contemporary Music is right, and Sir Harrison Jokewhistle is a damned sight closer to the spirit of Gibbons than any of that pipe-sucking crew who think the late 20th century has any room for (pfooh!) tunes. I went to hear Gawain at the Coliseum and its shouting, its clangour, its interminable honking longeurs and inexplicable hoarse cries of alarm were but a carefully-codified and orchestrated version of the Street Cries you can hear any day you like from my study window: the immemorial call of builder to builder across the primeval rooftops.

Gibbons would have recognised it at once. On the other hand, Gibbons didn't have to live with it, damn him. I do, and it is all beginning to get me down.

No; actually, as of this week, it has got me down, flat prone on the tear-sodden carpet, hammering my little fists and squealing with frustration. Not only can I not work during the day, but I lie awake at night, clenched into a ball of anger and frustration, dreading what fresh assault the morning will bring, and knowing that I am utterly, completely powerless to do anything about it.

I am, in short, no longer a force, and it's all Rambino's fault. I explained that nine months of building noise had driven me to the edge, and asked if he would give me plenty of warning of his own dismal travails. "I will indeed," he said, tossing his grizzled locks; "I promise."

Today he kept his promise. I went out for the papers and there he was on the doorstep, clutching what looked suspiciously like a last straw and ushering in his fourth consecutive set of builders. "It'll be noisy," he said. "How noisy? How long for?" I said. "Dunno," he said.

I dug out the Fat Builder and asked him the same question. "Dunno how long. Dunno how much noise. Could be hours at a stretch. Building works," he said. "Building works. BUILDING WORKS." I explained things to him. "Not MY problem," he said. "I've heard this sort of pharkin shit before and the law says I can make as much noise as I want between eight am and six pm". "I'm afraid that by now," I said, "I know what the law says. Can you just tell me if -"

And then he blew. He went. He lost it. He dun his ed in. All of a sudden, all on his own, he got even shorter and fatter and went puce. It was almost worth the nine months' misery. An instantaneous slick of sweat started out on his face. His glasses slipped down his nose. He started bouncing up and down on his little feet like one of those Wobbly Men, shouting "Phark OFF just phark OFF just phark OFF just phark OFF."

"Aah," I thought. "Poor little chap. It's really rather sweet..." but then I realised that I was in the presence of something rather more awful and majestic than a mere fat git throwing a tantrum. It suddenly struck me that the Fat Builder was in truth the spirit of the age, our very own genius loci, personifying our very own, up-yours, so-what, pig-off, out- of-my-pharking-way Zeitgeist. If the word for the Eighties was crass, then the Nineties are cross. But are we cross enough? Will there come a moment, like there was in that film - Network, wasn't it? - when we are all going to lean out of our windows and shout, "We're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it any more"?

I wonder. The law says that builders can sod up our lives between eight and six on weekdays, and politicians and profiteers can sod it up any time they bloody well like, but on the other hand we have got the scratch-cards to keep us quiet (which, at a quid a go, offers a better chance of riches than spending the same money on buying Red Star Parcels). We may indeed be mad as hell, and maybe hatters too; but we are going to take it, and go on taking it, until one day, just like the Fat Builder, our Nineties' Zeitgeist, we all shout: "Phark!" and fall over, burst. !

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor