No sooner had the builder boyfriend finished digging for no good reason in the basement than his attention turned to the old but perfectly good downstairs loo.
I don’t know why he does this. I didn’t want the basement dug and I certainly did not want anything done to my downstairs loo. It is, or should I say was, a rough but functional affair just off the kitchen, accessed via a small step down into the utility and larder area — turn right at the fridge, et voilà. Well, we all love an en suite.
The idea that you can move seamlessly from one enterprise to another, perhaps taking out the milk to make a cup of tea with the sound of the flush ringing in your ears, ought not to be seen as a problem in my view. In fact, I call it flow.
And the flow didn’t end there. The downstairs loo led seamlessly into the coal hole. Behind, or more accurately beyond, the loo, like Narnia, there was a small hatch door which, if you could squeeze past the bowl, led into a part of the cellar where the logs and coal are stored.
Again, I don’t see this as a bad thing. I found it appealing that one could be sat there on a chilly winter evening and suddenly be reminded that the fire needed lighting.
And remembering this, one could simply step from the loo through the hatch into the coal hole to fill a bucket with coal and it was then just about possible to crawl back through the hatch and round the loo to get out carrying the coal bucket, stopping only at the fridge, perhaps, to take out the mince to make dinner.
This was open-plan living at its very best.
But the builder boyfriend thought otherwise and I came home one day to find the loo in the front garden and him banging and crashing.
‘It had to come out!’ he shouted irritably, as I stood in the doorway by the fridge complaining that he had destroyed a perfectly good loo. ‘It was leaking,’ he claimed, improbably. ‘I think I would know if the loo was leaking,’ I said.
But never mind that, what was he doing to the hatch behind the loo, which was now not a hatch at all. He had half bricked it up. He informed me the loo should not be sideways on. ‘I like the loo sideways on.’ ‘It’s ludicrous.’ ‘It’s feng shui!’
But he was bricking up the hatch to fit a new loo backwards to the wall. No climbing past it to the coal hole. That would now be accessed via the main cellar entrance. ‘I liked my Narnia loo coal hole,’ I told him. He told me he didn’t care. A leaking loo fitted sideways next to a hatch to a coal store was ridiculous.
‘Whereas not having a downstairs loo in a house with four floors and the nearest available convenience two floors away from the kitchen is not ridiculous?’ I asked.
‘You’ll get a new loo by the end of the week,’ he claimed. And a small part of me — the part that remains girlishly optimistic, naive, trusting and full of optimism about the world (in other words, a nanoparticle of me) — believed him.
It took him three days to finish bricking up the hole. And then it took him three more days to tile the floor, after ripping out the nice worn lino.
Then it took a further week to bring home various loos that made me scream, including one with a plastic seat and one with a button flush. Eventually, he brought home a loo that looked inoffensive and had a flush handle.
Then it took him another week to work out that this loo did not fit the complex sanitary pipe situation, which he now realised was a decades-old botch that came out of the floor wrong.
The two of us then spent a week arguing so badly that we ended up not speaking. I went up and down the two flights of stairs to the main bathroom swearing increasingly foul-mouthedly, then I crawled ostentatiously, then I staged a childish protest with a bucket.
And when he still didn’t fit a loo, I waited until he had gone out and got the plumber round. The plumber looked at the piles of toilets heaped up in the garden and promised to come back.
The builder b and I are in such bad odour with each other I have told him our relationship feels perilously close to going down the pan. And if it does, it will be a busted flush for good this time. Whether or not you want to call any of that toilet humour is all the same to me.