Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'Liz Taylor married a senator, a Hilton heir, Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton, but it was a builder who really broke her heart'


Let me set the scene...

INTERIOR: Camera pans up to reveal a house in a state of total disarray. There are paint pots on the floor, ladders are strewn all over the staircase and spindly yellow pine floorboards are being sanded manically in the background. Through a mist of dust and chaos steps a handsome, strapping man with a tool belt swung low on his hips. He's got a thin sheen of sweat glistening all over his torso and he is wearing a vest. Yup, a vest.

BUILDER: "Wotcha Claud. You know you said you fancied a bookcase being built on that wall upstairs? Well I whipped one up straight after lunch. Now come on Treacle, let's talk about your closet space..."

ME: "Oh goodness. Yes. Um. Great. Can I carry your saw for you? Or can I just, uh, get you a damp cloth?"

It's true. I am in love with my builder. He's called Peter and I breathe that little bit faster when he calls. True, he's not ringing to find out if I fancy a movie and a curry but because he wants to know how my husband and I are getting on with the chrome vs brass debate. I hate it when he uses that word. Husband.

In my weird fantasy world Peter and I are living in a loft conversion somewhere sunny. He walks around in nothing more than a tight, slightly stained singlet and he carries a power drill. After a robust yet tender kiss on my neck he lays down a bit of sisal flooring before stopping to measure an area for a hand-crafted console table. He occasionally mutters something about Capital not being as good as Heart and then he manfully erects a power shower. This is my perfect world. Peter doesn't ask for much - just a hot cup of tea and the odd wad of cash.

When I visit the building site which will one day be my home, I find myself perturbed by my appearance. Having recently had a baby, it's safe to say I'm not looking my best. I'm pale, hairy and wobbly. I turn up covered in regurgitated milk and I last washed my hair in March. My postpartum diet consists of bowls of roast potatoes and Nutella straight from the jar. On our second meeting Peter took me into the bathroom and I was so heavy I managed to crack one of the newly fitted floor tiles. I am not making this up.

Thing is, Peter doesn't really mind. He laughs (which makes his eyes sparkle even more by the way) and he talks intensely about light fittings. He wants to know how I feel about door handles and will bring brochures of mirrors that we pore over for hours. He even once took me to Homebase to look at sinks. As far as I was concerned it was a date. I laughed a bit too loudly when he told me a joke about his van (hilariously a friend of his calls it a lorry) and I kept touching his arm when he talked about taps.

Unfortunately my daydreaming has to stop when my husband walks round the house with us. My husband is perfectly nice, don't get me wrong, but he couldn't fix a plug if his life depended on it. Modern men, the metro sexuals, seem to have missed those all-important lessons. Sure, they're happy to buy bumper packs of Tampax for their partners and they want to talk about relationships. They probably went behind the bike sheds to talk about how to make girls tick when their young soon-to-be painting and decorating friends attended metalwork with gusto. My husband likes nothing better than throwing on a pink Lacoste and grilling me a tuna steak - but he doesn't know what to do with a hammer.

I am not alone in my need for a man who can hang a picture in less than an afternoon. Like the Jedi, the pull of the builders is strong. Elizabeth Taylor married a senator, a Hilton heir, Eddie Fisher and Oscar-winner Richard Burton (twice), but it was the builder Larry Fortensky who really broke her heart. After him, she never got married again. Well it was either that or the brain tumour, but you know what I'm saying.

I do know that this story will not finish well as every relationship with a builder has an unhappy ending. There's the matter of money owed. A builder will suddenly ask for a vast hunk of cash for fixing something you never asked to be fixed. I'm not naïve enough to think that Peter won't throw in a late request for a random couple of grand. And then something will fall apart two days after moving in. When I bought my first studio flat I panted over Mark the plasterer until the plaster fell off the wall a week after he'd gone. And when I did up the next place, Simon, a dashing chiselled man with a chisel, promised me that the skylight was safe. Hmmm. Tell that to my little brother who was sitting under it at the same time as a pigeon sat on it.

The worst thing of all is that two weeks from now, when I'm still looking at the tap catalogues remembering the good times, Peter will have moved on. He'll be in another home laughing at some desperate new mother's jokes. He'll say the right thing about a speedily painted lilac room that her husband hates and he'll be with someone else. I will be left with my (chrome) light switches and my memories. So there's only one thing for it. I've ordered my husband a workbench. I've told him he doesn't need to actually do anything but stand there, head cocked to one side asking if I'd like a flush finish. That'll be a yes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent