‘Right, this is it,’ I said to the builder boyfriend. ‘I am going to knock on the door of next door.’
‘I don’t know why you are bothering,’ he said. ‘Does it really matter who lives next door? You’re going to be so happy here. This move makes absolute sense for you. Just look around. It’s fantastic.’
And so it was. We were standing in front of my new house. If it all goes through I will be in for Christmas. I looked around me: England’s largest village green. And my new house nestling right on the front of it, overlooking the cricket, and the farmers’ market …an idyllic scene.
But this is me we are talking about. ‘This is me we are talking about,’ I said to the builder b, with a grimace. ‘I’ve got to knock on the door of next door and check that there isn’t a mad leftie living there who is going to hate me.’
‘It doesn’t matter if there is,’ said the builder b. ‘No one cares about you. No one is going to care that you’re here.’ I reminded him: ‘How can you say that? After all we have been through, as the only living rightwingers in Lambeth, afraid to stick a Leave poster in the front window for fear of being bludgeoned to death with a copy of Das Kapital.’
A few weeks ago I wrote in this column that it would be just my luck to move into my new home and find I’m living next door to the only green-haired leftie in Surrey. I reminded the builder that this was my greatest fear. I want to escape to the country, not go there and find that it’s as jam-packed as Balham is with people who think Jeremy Corbyn is a nice old man, a cross between Santa Claus and Jesus, and that I’m a wicked subversive for pointing out that one should never trust a vegetarian who eats cold baked beans from the tin.
‘Come on. Get a grip,’ said the builder b. ‘No one here cares about you. No one here knows who you are or gives a damn what you think.’
‘Well, I’m knocking on the door anyway.’ ‘Fine, knock on the door anyway.’ ‘Thank you, I will.’ So I left him standing a little way from the door holding on to the spaniel as I knocked on the door anyway.
And when a lady opened the door and said ‘Hello?’ I smiled and said, ‘Hello! I’m your new neighbour. I’ve come to introduce myself.’
And she said: ‘OO! We know all about you, you’re the talk of the village!’ And then she called up the stairs to someone else to come down, and another lady came down the stairs and the first lady pointed to her and said, ‘There’s your green-haired leftie!’
And so she was. One of my new neighbours did indeed have green hair. ‘What are the chances?’ I said, wondering whether it would be more socially acceptable to ask them for a kitchen knife with which to stab myself hara-kiri style, or request they open an upstairs window so I could throw myself out.
In the end, we had a very nice chat and they were perfectly charming and lovely. I feel bad for them, having to put up with a neurotic conspiracy theorist living next door to them, I really do.
But there’s no backing out now. The sale is going ahead and the BB has big plans for the house.
The survey came back with a question mark over everything, and red traffic-light warnings about every part of it falling to bits, which delighted him considerably.
He is very much looking forward to taking the whole building apart and starting again, because that’s what builders enjoy doing.
Every time I mention something I’m worried about, like the state of the kitchen, or the steepness of the main staircase, or the fact that the living-room fireplace chimney might be blocked, he just says, ‘Don’t worry about that, I’m knocking it out.’
‘You can’t knock everything out,’ I say, thinking this statement is self-evidently reasonable. But he looks at me as though I am deranged.
‘What about the damp in the cellar?’ ‘Forget the cellar, I’ll see to it.’
‘Are you knocking it out?’
‘No, I’m putting in a sump.’
‘Are you sure you don’t mean a pump? I’ve heard of a pump.’
‘No, I mean a sump. A hole in the ground, to absorb water.’
‘What about the bathroom? It’s not big enough for a bath.’
‘Don’t worry about the bathroom. I’m knocking it out.’
‘I’ve been thinking about the windows. We could…’
‘Forget the windows. I’m knocking them out.’
I wish he’d knock me out. And wake me up when it’s all over.