Skip to Content

Real life

The builder boyfriend is an endangered species

Men who can rip up a basement floor with their bare hands have ceased to exist inside the M25

20 May 2017

9:00 AM

20 May 2017

9:00 AM

The builder boyfriend has dug himself a hole. I don’t mean he’s in trouble with me. I mean he has literally dug himself a hole, in our new backyard.

Since we moved in he has been digging there, sinking deeper into the earth on the lower ground floor level until he has almost disappeared. At first he dug happily, then diligently, then like a man possessed.

Sweat dripping from his brow, swearwords from his lips, he dug and dug, piling up earth, rock, brick and crazy paving in a huge pile in my cottage garden. Any time I dared to ask what he was doing, he yelled for tea with sugar. As I unpacked boxes, he dug away, becoming ever more Neanderthal.

‘Why don’t you take a break?’ I suggested, tiptoeing down to him with cake.

‘Because I’ve got to shift this floor.’

And he duly moved from digging up the patio to digging up the inside of the house. Clumps of tiling flew and he started yelling in builder speak: ‘Ring the skip company. I’ll need an eight.’

‘An eight?’ I said to the skip hire. ‘Ri’-o,’ said the girl. ‘M’husband’ll be there in ’arf ’aaaaa.’

This was always a do-up, but I envisaged a lick of paint and a new kitchen.

The day after we got the keys the BB smashed through a stud wall making a tiny bathroom and boxroom into a big second bedroom. ‘What about the other second bedroom?’ ‘You mean the new bathroom,’ he said, ‘with a bit walled off to make a corridor to the staircase to the loft room.’ And he disappeared, then reappeared above me through a hatch, then ripped open a larger hatch to expose a vast dramatic skylight going all the way to the roof through the stairwell. ‘Fair enough,’ I said.


What fun it was, too, to bath that night in a battered old tub standing marooned in the middle of the newly made room. And I had stuff to do. Yeah, I had some moves. I spent an hour changing the address on my driving licence because using the DVLA website was like cracking the Enigma code.

They should tell you what you need before you start, like Blue Peter. Only instead of sticky-back plastic, it’s passport, NI number, memory of every childhood pet’s middle name, and heroin for mainlining.

I registered us to vote, I tried to call ‘Affinity Water’, and most of all I spent a long time not getting through to Sky to set up Wi-Fi and TV.

And still the builder boyfriend dug. He filled the skip and demanded a second skip.

And after three days he yelled: ‘Come down here!’ Standing amid the rubble, he began talking about pipes and drains. ‘All I can hear is white noise,’ I complained. ‘I can’t find anywhere that sells a dustpan. How about that? I went to the hardware store and even though he had brushes he said he couldn’t stock dustpans because he had to draw the line somewhere…’

‘This is important. Look, this was your damp course.’ And he held up a flap of plastic. Even I could see that wasn’t right.

The next day he came home with a frightening demolition tool and went into a masculine drilling trance.

As the house shook, I surveyed the one bag of Silver Spoon in the cupboard above the kettle and thought, ‘We’re going to need more sugar.’

I didn’t dare go down there for several hours but when I did I found him coated in sand and sweat, his white Selco builders’ merchant T-shirt yellow with grime. The effect was oddly, disturbingly attractive.

‘How about we get an early night?’ And I put my arms round his clammy sides.

‘Get off, will you!’ And he pulled the trigger and erupted in a haze of vibration.

The builder b has a fan base but I also get letters from concerned readers querying whether I might prefer someone more urbane.

This is to miss the point of the builder boyfriend: this is a man who can rip up a basement floor with his bare hands.

This is a man who, faced with a woman asking when she can have a washing machine, growls, ‘You’ll get your washing machine tomorrow, now where’s my cup of tea?’

This is a man who has ceased to exist inside the M25 and who is disappearing as fast as certain species of skylark in most other parts of Britain too. For someone with my level of practical incompetence, to have found him was a miracle.

Something tells me we are going to be very happy as he renovates with shock and awe and I argue with shops that don’t sell dustpans.

‘More tea, love?’ I call down to the basement.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close