Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Slave labour

I have been relating various tales of our holiday hideaway in France and the last time I mentioned it I told how the floor upstairs needed to be replaced.  My friend Chris was to help when it came to actually putting in the new floor but before that could be done, the old floor tiles and the sand on which they were laid would have to be cleared.  I was astonished when my neighbour, Tom, expressed interest in coming with me to clear the old material. I did warn him that it would be hard, dirty work, but he was still keen to come – and I wasn’t going to decline the offer of a free slave.

The morning of our departure came round and brought with it a minor panic. Ten minutes before we were due to leave, Tom rushed over to say that he couldn’t find his passport. He was absolutely certain it had been in the top drawer of his desk, but it was not there now. In the nick of time he found it – tucked at the bottom of his sock drawer – and we arrived at Dover as the check-in was about to close. As I settled in my seat for an hour’s rest I wondered what I had let myself in for.

I let Tom have the double bed and threw a mattress on the living room floor for myself.

Up early the next morning, we had a quick breakfast of toast and coffee before cracking on with the work. We moved all the furniture to one side of the room and started lifting tiles. Tom had brought along some masks to prevent us inhaling too much dust, but I found that if I wore one, my glasses steamed up within three minutes and I couldn’t see to do anything. I completely failed to understand Tom’s patient instruction on how to fit the mask to prevent that happening and decided I would have to take my chances on the dust if the job was ever going to be finished.

In no time at all we had two stacks of tiles, one of whole tiles and one of broken ones, and had made a start on digging out the sand. This, unfortunately, could only be done with a trowel so filling a plastic sack with half a hundredweight or more took quite a time. All the same, it didn’t seem long before we had to move the stacks of tiles in order to lift the tiles they were sitting on.

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