Stefano the Albanian was delighted to hear from me. He was really cross when I got myself a builder boyfriend, which he regarded as a terrible sort of betrayal. He knew something was up when I rang to cancel the spare room renovations. The builder boyfriend had promised to do it for free. On no account was I to commission my beloved Stefano to do the job. The boyfriend insisted that he would take charge of all my interior design and DIY needs from the moment we started dating last November.
And to prove he was serious, he set about ripping out my kitchen units in his spare time and installing new doors and drawers, including several that didn’t open or shut properly and one that was totally wonky because he did it at ten o’clock at night after a hard day on a roof. He was like a man possessed. It was hard to argue with him.
But I felt like a traitor. Shortly after cancelling the spare room, I ran into Stefano in the street. He was putting the finishing touches to a brick wall. I was walking the spaniel with the boyfriend, who was wearing his builder’s boots so there was no hiding what was going on in my life and why I had abandoned my commitment to eastern European migrant labour.
Stefano looked at me with visceral hurt in his black, deep-set eyes. We nodded to each other awkwardly. I smiled. Stefano smiled. We had a moment. The boyfriend sensed it.
‘Awight?’ said the boyfriend in his best chippy south London patois. The two squared up to each other. For a split second it looked as though there was going to be a confrontation leading to a full-blown diplomatic crisis and possibly the need for armed intervention by British troops backed by Nato in Tirana.