I have been waiting six months for a man to come and build some book shelves. I normally prefer to use French artisans, but since the wait for M. Gaboriou, the French carpenter, would have been twice as long, I had booked an anglais to do the job. He arrived with his sweet but timid wife last summer. I made them coffee and we had a nice long chat at the kitchen table before showing them what needed to be done. They logged down the details meticulously and took lots of measurements. Then a week or so later, they sent me an equally meticulous devis [estimate] and booked me in for six months hence. And that is how long I had been looking forward to those book shelves and the unpacking of all my books from their plastic crates in the spare room.
Today, as planned, he arrived to do the job, again with his wife in tow. I made them
coffee and then we realised that between us - and I am not sure how this happened -
we did not have enough wood to build the shelves. It was so long since our initial
meeting, that we had both forgotten what had been discussed and there was no sign of the meticulous notes. He then suggested building ‘end-panels’ (of which there had been no mention last summer). After he explained what they were, I said I thought this would look too built-in for a French country cottage and would prefer him just to make shelves supported by batons. ‘OK, if that’s what you want...’ he said, after some discussion on the subject, looking very reluctant.
The Man, who has enough problems to deal with over at his B&B, did not want to get involved. But when Mr and Mrs Barclay went off to buy the wood, he said: ‘They are not coming back.
‘What makes you say that?’
‘They both looked terrified of you.’
‘But I was nice to them.’
‘They thought you were scary. I could tell.’
Sure enough, the phone went 20 minutes later. ‘Miss Pompom? We’re in Sobomat and I’m afraid we cannot find the right wood...’
‘....and unfortunately, we are booked out now for quite a while ...we are looking at the end of June now, at least.’