Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lucy, she's here to help*

The soles of my feet look as though I've hacked at the hard skin with a cheese grater. My back, if it could talk, would be saying "why did you make me lift 3 tons of rubble today?". My hands feel like Velcro.

I fell asleep this evening between the hours of  8pm and 10pm, never a good slot for an impromptu nap.

"I'll help you strip some walls, Charmaine". That had been a very genuine offer to my running partner and school friend last week. Having finally sold her cramped house, Charmaine is now faced with the task of gutting and renovating her new house, as quickly as possible. 

I assumed her new house was on Berw Road (pronounced 'Ber - roo'). Whenever it was discussed, Berw Road was mentioned.

"I'll see you over there Luce, I've got to rush back to meet the skip man"

I was slightly late getting the boys to school, we walked. Sonny insisted on climbing every wall on the way, and there were various heated debates over who should press the button for the green man (at all FOUR crossings).

I had hoped Charmaine would accompany me on the walk to her new house. Directions were shouted to me over the school wall. "Police station side, Berw Road, you can't miss it".

I walked almost a mile out of my way. Thank goodness for mobile phones. The new house is BEHIND Berw Road. I also received a text from my friend Rosa asking if I could  look after her daughter, I felt awful saying no.

I changed into 'work clothes' (it's been a while) and found myself in labourer mode for a couple of hours.
We lugged huge pieces of wood, smashed up a bath, snapped, sawed, heaved, lobbed, and dragged all manner of detritus into the skip.

It was getting hotter, and with no running water, we were forced to work without a toilet or refreshment break.

I soon realised some of the rubbish destined for the skip, would fit in the car and could be taken to the tip  instead. I offered to drive there in Charmaine's  sister's (tiny) car.

Bags stuffed into the car, just enough room for the driver. Off I went. I've been to the tip loads of times. This time, I couldn't find it.
Happens to me a LOT.

"Hmm", I thought. "I can't go back with all this stuff". I dumped it at my house to save the embarrassment of explaining myself.
"Rob will have to take it".

Annoyed once again at my poor navigational skills, back to the house I went.
Another hour of manual labour, lots of dry-heaving from Charmaine upon discovering soiled underpants, washing-up bowls housing thick pools of dark green fetid slime, and myriad molluscs, worms and spiders.

There was slight sadness too - the old lady who had lived at this house before dying two years ago had children - why couldn't they be bothered to clear her home?. Holiday snaps, toys, clothes, all manner of possessions -  just left for a stranger to discard.

Soon after midday, I was most relived to hear Charmaine suggest we 'call it a day'. I had to fit in having a bath (no shower in my house) cooking dinner, and organising snacks, gym kits and drinks for the boys' Monday evening gymnastics class.

I hobbled the 15 minute walk home, pulsating blisters smarting. I took a route along a street which has numerous solicitors offices, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, housing charity offices and leads to the bus station. The worst examples of human nature can be found along this road, rather like a zombie-apocalypse catwalk.

A couple zig-zagged towards me.  Underweight, yellow-toned skin, vacant, staring eyes. They were arguing over who had the most tobacco in their rolled-up cigarette. I wonder if they went on to argue about the green man?

A girl approached me, pink hoodie with a light sheen of grime, off-white tracksuit bottoms, trainers and the expression of  someone severely constipated.

"'scuse me love, can you lend me a quid? I need £4.50 to get to Aberdare, I only got £3.50"

I felt sorry for her. She looked around 18, and her teeth looked 118 - as though they'd been daubed with a coat of mahogany varnish, and etched with a pointed tool in a freestyle fashion.

I gave her £!, and, rather patronisingly, said "you should say please when you ask someone a favour".

I resisted the urge to say "I want it back, with interest!" and "It's not can you lend me, it's could I borrow"

I came home to a house full of someone else's junk, and slumped.

 Gymnastics class was chaos - the waiting room is tiny, boiling hot, and packed with parents, older siblings, tired babies, people eating smelly food and people talking too  loud. This is where I feel most sympathy for children with Autism who are noise-sensitive, I cannot bear the sensory overload, so goodness knows how they feel.

Anyone else need a favour?

Please, don't ask me

*title taken from a film I like - "Harry, he's here to help"


  1. "We lugged huge pieces of wood" - You know what that reminds me of? http://youtu.be/Cm-ZrkFap94

  2. Bet you're glad that day is over.

  3. Hello Lucy:
    But, surely, through the blisters, the aches, the pains, the headaches and the exhaustion there is a huge sense of satisfaction in doing a friend a favour......well, that is the theory isn't it?!!!

    Charmaine's house sounds very familiar to us as our Budapest apartment had not been touched for 50 years prior to our moving in apart from witnessing the ravages of the multiple occupancy of five families, a dog and several bicycles. However, we have lived to see the phoenix rise from the ashes and so we are certain will Charmaine!

  4. I loved reading this, Lucy.
    I think I'm living with your alter ego, Jon's always offering to help people with restorations, clearances and odd jobs, he gets lost on the way to B&Q, nurses hideous injuries and our house remains in the same unfinished state it's been in for years whilst our friends live in show homes!
    Hoping the good karma from lending that girl a quid pays dividends and you have a fantastic rest of the week. at least the sun's shining. xxx

  5. I hope the sun's shining in south Wales so you can relax and soak up some warmth for a bit. Sounds a bit like Wycombe where you are

  6. Um,I wouldn't DREAM of asking a favor!! OMG,you poor chook! So sweet fo you to help,but what a mission!!!
    You need a REST!
    .......and an enormous drinkie-poo!

  7. I wouldn't ask a favour darling - I'd ask YOU if there's anything I can do to help! What a poop day - but I did get a giggle at you taking your friend's rubbish home!

    Sarah xxx

  8. Sounds horrible. You perfectly conveyed that whole experience ,from beginning to end. Your writing is fabulous Lucy - so descriptive and so concise.

    I think people leave dead relatives houses in bad states because they just don't know where to begin. Must be overwhelming to have to deal with the mess so they don't. Or maybe they are just plain lazy?

    When we were house-hunting nearly 4 years ago, we went into a lot of houses of deceased people. Bexhill being the retirement mecca of the South East there are thousands of old people here and they die with alarming frequency and so a lot of the houses on the market are dead people's homes.

    It was depressing and a lot of the homes were really smelly (wee patches on carpets and beds) and dingy and dirty. My neighbour is 87 and her house is filthy but she won't let me clean it for her - she is too proud. But she can barely walk, let alone wield a vacuum cleaner. So it just gets dirtier and dirtier.

  9. Oh Luce, what a day! What a fabulous friend you are, I'd love to have you living near me, but for chazzing trips and coffees and chat, no labouring, honest.
    I did laugh at the getting lost stories, I do that too - I think I know where something is but then it isn't where I thought, and then I'm lost... Has Rob taken the crap to the tip yet?
    Oh I know the people you describe, we used to have a couple who lived near us who were always pissed up and rowing in the street, neither seemed mentally well and the booze certainly didn't help matters...
    Your writing is so spot-on, I can see and smell and hear what you describe as though it were in front of me. You are truly talented. Hope you feel less achey and overwhelmed and hot'n'bothered today.
    Is there a favour I can do for YOU, love? Just ask. xxxxxx

  10. We have what is known as a 'double press' for all pedestrian crossings and lift buttons - all machinery works better if prodded by two chubby fingers rather than one.

    'Can you borrow me a quid' is what used to get said in my Ponty - surely that's even worse?

    I have a shit sense of direction too, and hate driving anywhere I don't basically go every day.

  11. I hope you are fine now!!
    Did you rest a little? I love the way you write, sometimes when my day is shitty I try to mentally re-write the story in your style, even if I can't, adding up a humorous point of view really cheers me up!

  12. This is a day I'd say better spent in bed:). When one thing piles on top of another like the neglected piles of shit in my backyard! I thinks it's hilarious that you brought all that crap home, you crack me up! You are a dear friend though and that is admirable!

  13. You're worth your weight in gold for helping out like that, Lucy :-) Really hope you're not to sore after all that wandering, lifting and hefting. So incredibly sad that the old lady's family couldn't be bothered to take care of her possessions and clear out the house :-( I'm sat here dying to ask whether there were old black and white photos, I'd have asked if I could take them off her hands if I lived round the corner!! Love them!

    Jem xXx

  14. Both myself and my daughter are guilty of saying 'yes' far too often when asked for favours, even when we don't want to and haven't got time. Though it does sound like your friend really needed your help. Maybe a few bottles of water, a CD player and a few bars of chocolate might help next time!

  15. You sound like one hardworking pal to have! And you definitely deserve to take it easy on the favours for a while xx

  16. oh you are too kind! i would never have offered coz i am mean like that....


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