Saturday, 12 April 2014

Workmen in the house

Our terrace/construction site

We have workmen in the house….yet again.  As I have mentioned previously our house is a work in progress, and in addition like any property needs constant maintenance.  As a result of our living so close to the sea the humidity and probably also the salty sea air can wreak havoc with the outside of the house and eat away at the cement and, more importantly, the metal rods inserted within the walls and floors which are supposed to strengthen the walls, but if eroded could actually weaken the structure.  So finally after putting it off and then not being able to find someone with an affordable quote to come and do it for us, we found someone who started work during the last week of December.  This entailed knocking down and rebuilding non-supporting walls on the terrace and on one balcony for a start.

We have neighbours on either side of us and one is absolutely wonderful and helpful and always has been from the day we moved in, and the other one…isn’t. As the walls that needed rebuilding adjoin the latter’s house, my husband, in the interests of good neighbourliness (in other words to avoid the endless whining and nagging he knows would result otherwise) decided to build another wall against the existing one so as not to have any rubble (or even a pebble, and this is no exaggeration) falling onto the person’s property.  The next stage of the work was to put a protective surface on all the outside walls that would protect them from the elements.  There are various ways of doing this but the best, according to my husband who did his research, is to put a thin surface of pebble sand, from the beach, onto the wall, and this can be done with a decorative effect.
Beach....on the wall!
Work started off very promisingly as often does here in Algeria and then came to a shuddering halt.  First it was because it was extremely windy, then it was because of the rain.  Then one day the sun was shining and there wasn’t even so much as a breeze rustling through the leaves of the trees… and still no workmen.  But there were the heaps of sand and cement, stacks of bricks and bags of beach sand stacked up all over the place to remind us of them.

After about a week they returned, full of apologies, and said they had been called back to another painting job they had done for the army and who weren’t happy with the colour so they had to redo it.  No harm done, off they started again, only for it to rain the following Saturday, the first day of the week for them and then they didn’t return for a few days.  This time it was another small inside job they had undertaken thinking it wouldn’t take them long and they would finish by the time the weather improved.  They worked for a few days and then started coming in much later in the morning and leaving early, because one of them had a workman of his own in HIS house.  Then OUR workman said that he needed to do a quicker job, one for which he would get paid, so HE could pay the workman in HIS house.  This is where I started to feel like I was bang in the middle of a set of falling dominoes
To give them their due and to be absolutely fair, they did keep coming back and when they did turn up they worked very hard, even to the point of doing extra things that the job threw at them at times.  They have also done a superb job so far and the finish is even better than I expected, and they have put finishing touches that weren’t in the original plan.  They have said that they like working for my husband because he doesn’t nag them, hang over them while they work, and is easy going when things don’t always go to plan – qualities I’ve been criticising my husband for because I’m afraid they are taking advantage of his patience.  In my mind it’s ok for ME to take advantage of his patience…after all he acquired it in the first place after years of living with me, so I think it’s my right at this stage!
The 'before' picture.....
The whole experience has brought out the split personality which I never knew existed within myself.  On one hand I want to absolutely murder them once and for all and bury them IN the wall, and on the other I want to placate them and treat them well so they will finish the job and clear up the mess.  I feel like an abandoned child when they don’t turn up and then so gleeful when I hear the work going on when they do.  At other times,  I feel like a hostage to their whims and wonder if this is a bit like the Stockholm syndrome:  I want them to stay and finish the work and I want them to go so I can be FREE!!!! On second thoughts it looks like I have more than one split personality.

To make the whole experience even more interesting, we have had our water cut off 4 times in the past few months with no warning whatsoever, due to the fact that the powers that be are putting in new underground pipes in our area and someone somewhere keeps breaking or bursting a pipe so the whole area is without water for a few days.  We have a water cistern on the terrace for such eventualities, but the first time the water went it was empty because the workmen had to move it to do the wall behind it.  The second time it was full but we had to use the water sparingly because although, everyone knows where I shop, what I buy and how much I pay for it,  nobody seems to know anything as important as when the water might return.  The third time it went we had water in the cistern but it only lasted less than two days as there must have been air in it so it wasn’t full to begin with.  My husband brought plastic barrels of water to the house to keep us going and especially for the workmen.  At one stage we had that surreal moment when we had no water in the taps but the living room was flooded….from the workmen pouring water down the walls outside it.  Only in Algeria could you have drought and flooding at the same time.  What with workmen outside the house cutting off the water, and workmen inside the house making the mother of all messes, I’m trying my very level best not to become paranoid and think someone is out to get me….or at least the last vestiges of my sanity.
The Algerian version of the mafia 'cement shoes' perhaps?  I promise......there was no leg attached to this shoe!
At this moment in time the balcony outside my bedroom, the front courtyard and the rooftop terrace are a white cement hell with heaps of rubble, cement, sand, rubbish etc.  But the good news is that they have finished the middle courtyard and have actually cleaned up after themselves and done a really good job mashaAllah! Now they are going to start on the back courtyard which entails going back and forth through the kitchen which makes me think that the worst is still to come…….

I am extremely conscious that I am very fortunate to have a roof over my head to worry about in the first place Alhamdulilah, and although I am happy that we are finally getting around to doing this work, I know also, that nothing lasts forever, so I have to keep it all in perspective...a bit difficult at times when you're picking flecks of white cement out of your hair.

....and 'After;

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