Monday, January 16, 2012

Blue Monday

Well it's mid January, the most depressing month of the year, and today is officially the most depressing day of the year, which for some reason was designated the third Monday in January by someone who knows about these things.

As days go, I have had more depressing ones, particularly as I started today in bright sunshine with an almond croissant and a large full fat latte.

The past ten days, on the other hand, have been deeply depressing mainly due to the lack of honesty from people who say they are going to do a job for you. Back in October, we decided to have our pool renovated over the winter period ready for spring this year. Many back issues of Cote Sud later, I settled on the perfect look....refurbished dry stone walls, green tiles and lining and chalky white travertine terrace, as seen rather stylishly above.

The work was supposed to take a month...and three months later, we still have an empty pool surrounded by cement mixers, muddy trenches and building materials. The scenario seems to go like this. You engage a builder, he looks at the work, gives you a price and a start date. You part with some cash upfront to buy the materials, the start date comes and goes, no-one shows up, the mobile voicemail says, you can leave a message but I can't retrieve them so I can't call you back, and you are left high and dry until said tradesman decides he might put in an appearance after all.

I'm not sure what is so difficult about just turning up with a diary, checking the date you are free and writing it down and then turning up as arranged. My career has run really effectively on this premise for the last 25 years.

The work started, stopped, started, stopped and after a frustrating ten day hiatus a propos of absolutely nothing, finally restarted again on Saturday. Our pool liner man, the next domino in line, had to have a major operation last week. Coming hot on the heels of the builder who rarely showed up, he arrived on Saturday, ten days later than originally planned, in a neck brace and armed with his hospital scans. If this is a scam to complete another job on the side, it's pretty damn convincing.

As you can see from the photo, it's a long way off the contemporary oasis we envisaged last year. At this rate, we'll be lucky to get it finished by next October, and it's not even the fault of the weather. But when it is finished, the idea of sitting down there in warm sunshine on a lounger and looking across the valley with a glass of rose in hand is deeply comforting.

There is always a positive point of view when you flip it, and the upside is whenever Handyman moots the idea of buying a plot of land and building a house from scratch,which he does at least once a week, I simply laugh hysterically and aim a slap at his idealistic butt once I've picked myself up off the floor. I would rather poke rusty pins in my eyes than embark on a building project here unless we did all the work ourselves. Which is unlikely despite us having every back issue of Grand Designs ever published. It also means we won't be doing our usual, and finishing a house and then selling up before the paint is dry to move onto the next shack, I mean project. So maybe the lax, laidback, diary-free builders have done me a favour after all.

As first months of the year go, this one is pretty damn fine. The weather has been phenomenal, with blue skies and warm sunshine pretty much every day for the past six weeks. It's more like April, in fact it's drier and less windy than many Aprils I can remember here. All we need is some snow for Greolieres and January will be just perfect.