The Corona Chronicles: Week 28: Building good relations?

With nights drawing in and little to look forward to, people are hunkering down and making the best of it. On our street this has translated itself into a flurry of home improvements and an army of builders invading the area. Our friendly WhatsApp group has been pinging with messages from various neighbours. They’re terribly apologetic and hope we don’t mind but they’ll be ‘having a bit of work done’ and taking the chance to visit far-flung relatives whilst they still can.

We’re awoken at 6am by the sound of heavy machinery under our bedroom window.

‘Bloody bin men!’ groans the Nearly Beloved, jamming a pillow over his head.

But it’s too early for the refuse lorry and, what’s more, it’s a Saturday. It’s only when the loud clunking of metal hits the road, that I realise a skip has just been delivered.

The skip remains blissfully empty until Monday morning when all hell breaks loose and a team of workmen invade number 12 with drills, wrecking hammers, saws and blaring commercial radio. After two hours I give up trying to work from home and head to the local café with my laptop.

On my return I see the skip is already half-full and console myself with the fact that the worst may be over. But just like promises and politics, hope and reality are very different, and the next morning a second skip is delivered outside number 36, along with a rival gang of builders with their rival radio station on at full blast.

By Friday, number 71 is covered in scaffolding and more music is booming out from the rooftops. It’s alright for the Nearly-Beloved who can escape to the quiet of his office. And Grunting Teen just plugs into his own PS4 soundtrack when he comes home. But out of self-defence, my office has now transferred to the café, which is doing a roaring trade in disgruntled forced-to-work-at-home-by-Covid neighbours.

On the plus side we are all united in our despair at both the constrictions and the construction. The sharp-suited neighbour at number 44 nods sympathetically at me over a latte. ‘Such disruption. As if life isn’t stressful enough in these difficult times.’

‘Well, hopefully there’s an end in sight,’ I reply. And as I walk past a workman filling yet another skip, he gives me a thumbs-up and tells me they should be finished soon. I smile and head up the passageway – too late to hear his warning. ‘Watch out for that hole we’ve dug for the drain…’

But, just like the pandemic, the construction work goes on and on and the relentless banging and drilling has resulted in a continuous headache for me and an escalation of bad temper in the Nearly Beloved. ‘Bloody skips’, he complains, ‘there’s hardly enough room for the car as it is, without those monsters taking up half the space.’

It’s mid-week and I’m limping back from the café with Number 44 who is some kind of lawyer. ‘You could sue them for personal injury,’ he suggests. ‘We’re exhausted by it all too. Thank goodness, we’re off for an extended visit to the grandchildren tomorrow.’

But I’m just happy to know it’ll all soon be over and that the Nearly Beloved will, once again, be able to park in front of our house. He’s been spitting feathers all week.

‘Bloody vans now as well as skips,’ he chunters. ‘How many more workmen can this street take?’

It’s 6 am on Saturday morning and we’re awoken by the sound of heavy machinery under our bedroom window.

‘Bloody skip lorries,’ mutters the Beloved.

‘Well at least that’s the end of it,’ I sigh.

And later that day, the neighbours at number 12 return, delighted to discover the kitchen of their dreams, whilst number 36 wax lyrical about their new ensuite. As for number 71, she’s oblivious to the haggard looks of those she left behind. ‘That was such a stress-free way of having work done,’ she tells me, ‘I just hope that extension they’re starting next week at number 44 isn’t going to be too disruptive…’

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