Peirene is sitting in the corner of the sofa in her PJs, hugging her legs to her chest. She has one hot water bottle by her feet and another clutched to her tummy. An empty cup of hot chocolate is standing by her side, and a plate with the last crumbs of a Nutella toast on the floor.
She’s talking about the builders. Since the end of September, each morning, Monday to Saturday at 8am on the dot seven of them turn up to work inside our house, outside our house, on top of our house. Privacy has gone out of the window. Everything is covered in dust. We spend our evenings moving the contents of one room into the next and then into the next.
A few months ago the roof of our house began caving in. It quickly became apparent that the entire top had to be taken off and rebuilt. Peirene and I saw our chance. We could convert the attic into the office and finally – after nearly 10 years – move out of the front room. But of course this meant breaking through the ceiling to create a staircase. Once you are doing that you might as well repaint all the rooms and sort out the plumbing and electrics. And then, since the scaffolding is up, we should repoint the outside walls to prevent damp and double-glaze the windows to save energy. The builders are progressing fantastically and are set to leave on schedule by Christmas.
But suddenly it’s all proving too much for an Ancient Greek Nymph.
‘I’m not moving from this sofa corner until the builders have left. Left for good. And I will eat Nutella toast, morning, noon and night. Because it’s the only thing left that makes me feel happy. And I don’t care if it’s healthy or not. Because anyway my life has turned into utter misery.’ Peirene is letting her head hang down in glorious self-pity.
For a moment I’m standing in front of her and don’t know what to do. Then I grab her by the wrist, pulling her with me. We climb the ladder up into the loft. The velux windows are in now and the plastering has been done too. It’s starting to take shape. I explain to her that we will both have desks, but so too will James and the intern. The printer and franking machine will no longer have to live on the floor, and there will be plenty of storage space for the boxes with books.
‘A proper adult office!’ Peirene has perked up again. Half an hour later she is dressed. ‘I’m off to scan the second hand shops for a little round table and chairs. So we can have proper company meetings. There is space for that too in our new office. How exciting!’
‘Wait!’ I hold her back. ‘I’m not sure we have any money left for extras.’
She waves at me. ‘Don’t worry. I sense that from our new office we will conquer the world.’
Image by JD Hancock, creative commons.