It’s nice to have a piece of work in mind when you call your builder. Or, just invite him to the cinema


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The Independent Online

I haven’t really had any work done on my flat for a while. You just never get round to it do you? Which is a shame, because I used to enjoy having a man waddle around, improving things.

When I first moved in, I got tons done. Someone put me on to this guy called Gregor, who was from Europe, and he was a real diamond. He came in and basically, if I paid him to do it, would do pretty much anything. For a period of about three weeks last year, the guy was parading round my flat like a colossus. Painting the walls, plumbing in ovens, banging in great builder’s nails everywhere, gluing ugly, grey tiles to the floor; the lot. I swear he was doing some stuff I never even asked him to! At one point he ripped the toilet off its moorings and told me it was “old” and “no good”. “Get another toilet!” he said. And I was like “OK”. And I bought a similar one and he popped it in and you couldn’t tell the difference. Amazing. And also a bloody great guy to have a tea with. I could listen to Gregor’s high-pitched voice and views all afternoon.

I’ve been looking at ways of getting Gregor to come back and do some more stuff for a while. Maybe cover the ceilings or something. Varnish the stairs. Just get him involved again. But nothing really struck me as necessary. So I couldn’t really call Gregor. But then I thought, actually, that’s not true. Of course, it’s nice to have a specific piece of work in mind before you call a professional such as Gregor. But it’s not essential. So I phoned Gregor, and asked him if he fancied watching The Selfish Giant.

It was great to see Gregor out and about, in a more social situation. We’d agreed to meet in Angel, because we were going to watch it at The Screen on the Green. He was late and a little flustered and he had his tool belt on because he’d been working in the morning, but he soon relaxed and we had a beer together in the Wetherspoon and he told me a bit about his family. Occasionally he would turn the conversation back on to stuff to do with my flat, but I’d tell him that wasn’t what we were here for and then we’d talk about other stuff. Just like friends really. He’s a massive Sebastian Vettel fan too, so we nattered about that a fair bit. Then we took the short walk to the cinema, a little early because Gregor (or Grigor, as he kept correcting it to) had mentioned that he likes to see the trailers.

The Selfish Giant is an excellent film. It’s based on the story by Oscar Wilde by the same name, but actually that’s really just a jumping-off point. It’s more of a Kes-type thing. A mean-spirited a-hole takes advantage of two young goons, getting them to scavenge scrap for him and exercise his horse and the denouement had us both in tears. Imagine! Me, 37; Gregor, getting on for twice that, and both sobbing at a film at three in the afternoon! We sat, mesmerised, through the credits, then blew our cheeks out and poured on to the street.

Gregor offered to pay me for the tickets and I said that was cool because he’d got more rounds than me in the pub before. He looked mortified and said that he probably still owed me something. I was like, don’t worry, mate – in the back of my mind I wanted to keep the guy sweet. I’m thinking, there’ll come a point when I’ll want you to do a knock-through mate, so I think we can relax about this and then you look after me down the line. He was like, OK but still – and I said we’re cool, buy ’em next time, but he wasn’t happy and he got his work notepad out and totted all the figures up. He reckoned he owed me six quid and I took it.

And then we went our separate ways. He drove his van back to his family. I pulled some money out and cycled to a pub, which specialises in ale.