One of the many, many, let me say again for emphasis, many, bad jobs I had in college was doing promotions. This was “the” gig of the early 90’s. Apparently all you had to do was put on an oversize tshirt, flick your hair a lot, and sneer at the locals like a scene from mean girls in suburban pubs. I say apparently because there was a definite pecking order at play in the promotions world so myself and my sister somehow never got to flick our hair and instead found that crisps and pet foods were our niche. It was for that reason we found ourselves dressed as dogs handing out dog biscuits in the St Patricks Day parade one year. Apart from the obvious immediate mortification, it was a pivotal learning point as it was the first time I realised that Irish people literally lose their mind if there is free stuff to be had. No matter what is on offer, this is completely irrelevant, it is the freeness of the stuff that makes the locals go loco. I know this because as my sister and I reluctantly dragged our canine asses around the parade route, we watched bemused at the hundreds of shamrocked lunatic mna and fir na hEirinn tucking into Rover’s treat-sized bonios. After a while, we just stopped telling them they were doggy biscuits as nobody seemed to care. They were free you see.
On the topic of freeness, the main thing Daragh and I don’t have anymore is free time. Facing into the clean up of the century on the house, we quickly decided that this job was way bigger than the both of us and we may need a hand. Aside from the fact that we were two sentimental old fools who would end up taking weeks wailing and wading our way through all that was left behind, it was also clear to us (and I really mean mainly me) that we were built for comfort and not for a Herculean mucky clear out of this level. It wasn’t just personal possessions in there I argued, there was big heavy things that needed man arms like beds, a cracked sink and interestingly a couple of giant wheelie bins (that ironically were empty) so we very easily talked ourselves into throwing in our tear-sodden paper towels and calling in the professionals.
In our first attempt to not be complete eejits about this project, we decided to get a couple of quotes because you know, that’s what the couples on property programmes on the telly do. Doing this confirmed my worst fears: To this point I had more than a sneaking suspicion that we were sitting ducks for rip off merchants with “Attention all shysters. We haven’t a rashers what we are doing. I repeat. Not a rashers. Here is our wallet. Empty it. ” tattooed across our heads.
I was in charge of selection. More to do with the fact that I’m off work at the moment than any skillset but anyway I was starting to fancy myself as one of those plucky Sarah Beeneyesque welly-wearing jolly women who muck around building sites gently charming the builders in a non sexy way with tea and a sinister smile.
The first couple of fellas rocked up with their spiral notebooks and mini pencils, all winky winky, noddy noddy and gum chewy, saying lots of “ooh missus this is a big job” type things finished off with one or two bits of building lingo that I didn’t understand dropped in to make me think they knew what they were at. I nodded attentively but was obviously just thinking “missus, am I old enough to be missus? Surely not.”
The first two guys told me it would probably take about 3 or 4 days. Considering I thought it would take well over a week, I thought this was grand but decided to get one last quote just because I was such an amazingly thorough property developer. Ah here, lovely man Colin over the phone said he’d be in and out in a day and it would be a couple of hundred quid. See I knew it. I knew it. We are ripe for the fleecing. I don’t know whether this makes me lose my faith in humankind for the ripper-offers or totally restores my faith in the world as nice honest remover man Colin exists and came to our rescue but anyway, we escaped the great Irish rip-off. This time.
Colin was booked on the spot and so the next day, up he rolled in his big giant man van and got stuck in. I wandered over round 11 planning on offering tea and biccies that I was half thinking of pretending I had made myself. Coming in the front door, I walked smack into a big burly bald man, laden down with a gaudy old gold server thing that we had already earmarked for the dump. Apart from the fact that he had no earring and was wearing a pair of track suit bottoms and not stripey harem pants, he was a ringer for Sinbad the sailor.
Suited and booted in my best yummy mummy uniform, I dropped a full love bomb, even trying out a new voice that was warm, caring, potentially even a bit flirty in a lovely wholesome Catherine Fulvio kind of way. Lots of questions came at Sinbad. How’s it all going? Heavy work? Unearthed any priceless heirlooms (titter titter)? Will you have a cup of tea? Are you sure you wont have tea? No response. He gave me a bit of a furtive glance. Then lots of hopping from one foot to the other, and finally a borderline rude “No ta missus” before I gave up and released him from my sacharrine web and skipped inside to find a more receptive target. Once inside, I bumped into some lovely little young fella who I wasn’t entirely convinced could be legally let into gainful employment bar a paper round, going like the clappers ripping up a carpet and did a “Hi, I met Colin outside and he didn’t want tea but maybe you would or would you prefer a Capri sun.” exchange. He looked at me. “Colin left for the tip about 30 minutes ago missus”.
It turns out Sinbad was a random passer by who trotted in off the street, had a rummage around and helped himself to whatever he fancied. Poor little Oliver Twist said he had arrived about 2 hours ago, and asked could he have a look around and was there anything worth taking to which he got a very definite “no”.Sinbad just couldn’t help himself however and came back an hour later, nipped in and did a bit of an aul clear out his good self.
I stayed just to see what happened. Sinbad aside, Colin and Oliver were flying through the place and it was amazing just to see what lay beneath. Not necessarily amazing in a good way: Some of the rooms actually had no floors. There were massive craters in two of the rooms that I still don’t know how far down they go.
If possible, the house was in even worse nick than it had seemed before. The windows were rotting, there was damp everywhere, there was even flowers growing out of the ceiling in one room but weirdly it felt great.
We could actually see the size and height of the place now. The ceilings were high. Like not Victorian red brick high but defo not semi-d low either and it seemed miles bigger. For the first time in a long time, I felt a little flutter of something that I think was excitement and not cold fear.
Over the course of the next two hours, Sinbad came back THREE more times helping himself to amongst other things, a frame, some stools and an aul wooden cabinet. Now, this was fine with me as we had already taken anything we wanted to keep but Sinbad had no way of knowing this. The absolute barefaced cheek. I didn’t know whether to be appalled or just phenomenally impressed as he struggled past me dragging out the cabinet. I was also more than a little insulted he was completely immune to my various attempts at building site seductions. I suppose he couldn’t help it though. Its the Freebieitis you see. It makes you cuckoo. Anyone locked in its grip is powerless to resist. Who was I to stand in his way? So I smiled, said nothing and held the door for him. Of course, what he didn’t know was that both the frame and cabinet were riddled with wood worm. There is, after all,no such thing as a free lunch. Unless of course, its St Patricks Day:)