Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Hamster wheels again

I set off thinking about writing about the eternal hamster wheel that I inhabit in my mind, repetitive thoughts and arguments cycling round and round and round. Never ending, never concluding, never progressing, only an infinite loop of the same conversations where I supply both halves and somehow still lose the argument.

And then I looked back through old posts and discovered I have use the phrase "hamster wheel" to describe my endless, sleep-destroying, anxiety-inducing thoughts on at least four other occasions. So not only are my thoughts trapped in perpetual loops, returning to the same point with monotonous regularity, but so are my similes. I can't even manage to be original in my repetitiveness.

So what is it that my poor brain is doing to me?

It's still banging on about the windows.

Not the fact that the windows crashed (doesn't Windows always crash?)

Not even the fact that the window company someone managed to cancel the order to make the replacement windows without telling anyone.


I'm still pointlessly fretting about the change in size of the windows.

I read and re-read emails where there is no hint that the specification is subject to change; emails where there is no suggestion of an apology or acknowledgement that anyone other than me is at fault.

I stare at the "finished" wall into which the bifold doors will be installed. I see all the spare wall that could be busy being window if it hadn't been turned into wall.

I study the diagrams I drew for the builders, and the 50 point text showing a 4000mm opening for bifold doors.

And I still cannot fathom why they changed the size of the doors when there is demonstrably space for the doors to be the size I specified.

I still cannot fathom why they would think it was OK to change the size of the doors without confirming it in writing with me first.

I still cannot fathom why they would ignore seven emails asking about the change in size, and then tell me it was what I wanted.

And so I have endless conversations in my head in which I point out that the builders are either unprofessional, incompetent or untruthful*. I explain why in nauseating detail, determined to demonstrate the rightness of my way of seeing things**.

I don't even know what response I would like in my head when I'm the one providing both sides of the conversation, let alone if I had the guts to actually try and express any of these thoughts and feelings out loud. Which I'm too much of a confrontation-averse munchkin to ever think about. Would an apology suffice? I don't know. Would I feel better if they simply said, "you're right, we screwed up, the bifolds should have been bigger?" What is it that I want?***

The true absurdity is that we're going to have massive bifold doors, through which sunlight will stream in all its unfettered glory. An extra thirty centimetres is unlikely to make one iota of difference.

So why can't my mind let go?

Why can't it shut up?

Why can't I be more like BigBear, with his phlegmatic shrug?

Is it because it feels like unfinished business? Is it because it is, literally, unfinished? Is it because after nearly four months living in a building site, I'm simply so stressed that there has to be a release valve for the stress, and my mind has latched onto the only thing that's demonstrably wrong on site and is venting through that?

One day I will go to bed without lying awake thinking about window sizes and the permutations of events that could lead to them being anything other than 4m. One day I will drive to work without explaining out loud, to nobody, what the problem with 3.7m windows is. One day I will sit in my new room, gazing through my new bifold doors and I won't care any more. One day.

* All, undoubtedly, massive over-reactions.

** This effect is not dissimilar to a situation identified by the cartoon xkcd, in which someone on the internet is wrong.

*** What I actually want is for someone to wave a magic wand and make both the hole and the windows that are on order 4m wide, as requested. This is clearly not going to happen, but I find magical thinking so helpful when trying to find practical solutions to my mental contortions.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

In which disbelief reigns

Our building works have passed from comedy, through tragedy and straight into farce.

For those who are familiar with the oeuvre of Kevin McCloud, and his "Grand Designs", it is always the windows. Always. 

Our windows and doors were due on Monday, but did not arrive.

Then they were due on Tuesday, but did not arrive.

LittleBear, in what I initially dismissed as a histrionic fit, declared, "That's it! If they're not here today, they're never coming!" He even put in a full-blown, lip-trembling half sob to complete the dramatic performance.

Being a mature, sensible adult, with a firm grasp on how the real world operates, I told him that this was not a sensible stance, and that of course they would arrive, it was only a matter of 'when'.

And then, today, MrsBuilder contacted me.

After the previously mentioned tragedy, in which the lorry carrying the windows crashed, naturally the windows were re-ordered. We were given an estimated delivery date. MrsBuilder pursued the manufacturers as the delivery date approached, and was assured that all was in order. Until now.

It turns out that the left hand and the right hand of the window company are not on speaking terms. I'm not convinced that Right Hand even knows Left Hand exists. Because Left Hand happily acknowledged that the original delivery had failed and that they needed to make replacements. Meanwhile, when Right Hand received this information they appear to have shrugged and said, "Pah! This is just a copy of that order we've just finished, what a silly mistake, we'll chuck the order in the bin."

And thus it is that Left Hand has been happily confirming things with MrsBuilder, while Right Hand have been happily not making any windows and doors at all.

And thus it is that four months after paying a quite considerable sum of money for some quite considerable doors and windows, not only do we not have any doors and windows, but nobody has even started making them.

I think I would probably be more angry and upset about this if I weren't in a state of utterly bewildered shock. I find it hard to imagine how a company can operate in this way. I have occasionally had cause to be disparaging about my own company, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot imagine one half of the company acknowledging and confirming an order, while the other half unilaterally abandons it.

To her great credit, MrsBuilder has been right on it from the moment she discovered this situation, and already has a quote through for an alternative supplier, and is pursuing others as I type.

The original window company have, apparently, offered a £500 refund as some form of apology for their incompetence. I am pressing for this to be the case even if (when) we don't get them to attempt to make the windows for a third time. I have no idea whether I will succeed in this quest, as I don't actually have a contract with the original window company, I have a contract with my builders.

To be honest, the thought of arguing about compensation with my builders makes me feel more stressed and anxious than the thought of weeks and weeks of waiting for more bloody windows. Waiting doesn't involved interacting with other human beings. Arguing that four months without a trace of a window is unacceptable does involved interacting with other human beings. I don't like other human beings. I don't like interacting with other human beings. I think I feel slightly sick now...

Friday, 1 February 2019

A lightening of the mood

The last forty-eight hours have been even more fraught than the rest of the trauma of having building work done.

Having launched not one, but two, intemperate rants at the builders about two different issues on Wednesday, I then spent a discomfited night wondering whether this time I had Gone Too Far. Thursday morning dawned, and there was no sign of any builders arriving for the day. Relatively early on Thursday, however, MrsBuilder emailed me back...

"I am just about to head into a meeting but as soon as I am out I shall reply to your other emails."

Which made me feel a bit better. For a couple of hours. After three hours I was a little twitchy; once six hours had passed I began to feel a trifle anxious; by bedtime I felt sick and scared by the lack of response. Had I finally managed to piss them off so much they'd given up on me? Suffice to say, I did not sleep well last night. When there was still no sign of anyone arriving on site today, my sense of doom deepened and I drove to work in tears. I finally cracked at lunchtime today, and sent a friendly message including the line,

"I'm hoping the absence of diligent all-weather builders for the past two days is because of the weather and not because you've all got the hump with me for being a stroppy cow!"

Several hours passed with no response.

I even psyched myself up to phoning MrsBuilder. No answer on her mobile or landline.

I drove home from work in tears.

I was genuinely convinced that they were downing tools and refusing to complete the job.

And then MrsBuilder emailed with comprehensive replies to all my questions, a plan to meet on Monday, details of when the carpet-man would be coming to measure up, reassurances about various issues, and the timings of when work would be starting again. And apologies because she'd had to go to an HMRC training course straight after her meeting.

A weight was lifted from my shoulders.

And once the weight was lifted, I gained some clarity on life again. I even gained enough clarity to suddenly see a way to solve the issue of The Thing That Is Built Wrong. Stress and anger and fear had stopped me seeing a solution. A deep breathe and it all seemed obvious.

More importantly, I was able to realise how lucky I am that after my last blog post multiple different friends texted and emailed me to check I was OK, to reassure me, to offer me a shoulder to cry on or a pub to meet in.

And I realised how lucky I am to have a friend how has insisted that she will babysit for LittleBear on Monday night so that BigBear and I can go out together.

And how lucky I am that my colleagues tolerate my arriving at work and ranting with the aid of diagrams on a whiteboard.

And how lucky I am that BigBear is considerably calmer than me.

And how lucky I am that for no reason other than we were all tired, and we all deserved a treat, me and my little family went to our local Indian restaurant for dinner tonight. (Yes, LittleBear only ate rice, naan and poppadom, but he loved it, and he loves coming out with us.)

And I finally dare to whisper that I am extra specially lucky that PoorPuss's world has been revolutionised by the addition of tablecloth to the floor, and for the past five days and nights, he has confined his output to his litter tray.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Rationality has left the building

I may, in passing, have mentioned that I'm finding this building work lark a bit stressful.

It's also possible that I am prone, every now and then, to a soupcon of anxiety.

It should, probably, come as no surprise that the stresses of getting the building work done is proving rather anxiety-inducing.

There have been a few incidents that are not world-shattering, and in the bigger picture, well, they're not really in the "bigger" picture, because they're small. But they've been vexing, and frustrating, and have caused me to become somewhat agitated. There've been a few occasions when the diligent, all-weather builders have either misunderstood, misinterpreted, or re-interpreted my designs/sketches, and I've come home from work to find an unexpected surprise has been constructed. I don't like surprises of that sort. Twice I've insisted they change what they've built. The third time I've shrugged off as not worth fighting over. The fourth time (today) caused me to launch a major broadside, that was perhaps a trifle intemperate. The word "ranty" was used by BigBear, in a very gentle and loving way. He's been remarkably tolerant of my irrationality.

There's also been The Question Of The Doors. There's not really much point going into it, but the brief version is that a failure in communications means the massive bifold doors that I asked for are not as massive as I had asked for. I wouldn't even really mind this, if something like this had happened:

Builder: Those doors you wanted?
PhysicsBear: Yes?
Builder: If you have that cupboard you mentioned in passing, there's no room for that size door. Do you want a smaller cupboard or smaller doors?
PhysicsBear: Good question, let me have a think.

Instead, what happened was this:


And then I measured where the doors are going, found it was smaller than I was expecting, and asked why. I asked why seven times by email, over the course of a week and a half before getting an answer. And then the answer was, "it's your own fault for wanting a cupboard."

The finished room will be lovely. The not-quite-so-massive doors are still going to be massive, and still be lovely. The slightly-surprising constructions will only ever be surprising to me, and though surprising, they are beautifully built. I cannot fault the workmanship of the diligent, all-weather builders.


I feel sick with anxiety. I am afraid that my intemperate ranting will mean the builders will refuse to finish the job. My hands shake as I drive home from work, as I hope that I won't have to speak to them in person. I wonder what terrible things the builders are saying about me to their friends. Some of my friends are their friends. It's not that big a village. How many people that I know now think I'm rude and angry? How many people that I don't know now think I'm rude and angry? Will I move from being "the weird woman who cries outside school" through "crazy cape-wearing lady" and straight into "psycho customer that nobody wants to deal with"?

I am tired of being tired. Tired of lying awake at night having arguments in my head. Tired of thinking and over-thinking every decision and conversation. I want my sleep back, my peace-of-mind back and most of all my home back.

I want to cry.

I want to hide.

I want it all to just go away.

I want it to be over.

Monday, 28 January 2019

A false dawn

Needless to say, along with commenting on your baby sleeping well, it would appear that commenting on the cat not weeing is tempting Fate. And Fate is a cruel mistress.

The details of what PoorPuss did and when he did it have already blurred in my mind, so I shall regale you instead with the highlights, happening in an unspecified order over the past few days...

... PoorPuss diligently dug at the carpet, until he'd lifted it from the edges, so he could pee on the floorboards and then let the carpet cover it over again. 

... I woke somewhat earlier than usual, when LittleBear trotted to the bathroom at 6:30. Working on the principle that PoorPuss is panic-weeing when he hears us moving around but can't find us, I scampered downstairs and found a contented cat on the sofa. I stroked him and turned the light on and, feeling dangerously smug that we were getting somewhere, I returned to bed. Imagine my delight half and hour later to find both wee and poo on the carpet behind the door.

... BigBear worked from home one day. PoorPuss is generally quite content when he has one of his people in the house, and he did indeed spend most of the morning snoozing by the radiator in BigBear's study (formerly known as the spare bedroom). In the afternoon, however, he became agitated, and prowled the house. BigBear heard him yowling in the vicinity of the Doorway of Doom, so headed downstairs to reassure him. PoorPuss was duly reassured. BigBear returned to his desk. PoorPuss returned to his yowling. BigBear returned to PoorPuss. PoorPuss had wet the carpet.

... Mild weather and extreme vexation led us to leave PoorPuss (with bed, food, etc) in the building site. He was fine. The carpet was fine.

... Cold weather led us to take pity on PoorPuss, and not shut him in the building site. BigBear decided to try sleeping on the sofa with PoorPuss to keep him calm. This lasted about half an hour, before BigBear couldn't take the combination of being stared at from close range, and having his feet attacked. The following morning, all was relatively well, until I heard the sound of carpet being scratched, but didn't get downstairs in time, finding only fresh cat wee dripping down the skirting board and soaking through the carpet.

... Yesterday, I spent some time carefully cutting to size an old PVC tablecloth to size, so it wraps under the edges of the carpet, and extends into the room far enough to disappear under the furniture. The carpet and the tablecloth both survived the night, and PoorPuss is currently in his new favourite place, beside the radiator in the spare room/study.

This may or may not be the solution to our woes, but at least it gave me one day without having to wash the carpet though. And given I've been awake with a feverish LittleBear since 3:30 am, I'm grateful for small mercies.

Vinyl tablecloth is a stylish addition to any home

(I would like to point out that my carpets are not all a rather off-putting shade of brown... the lighting hasn't done my slate grey/blue carpet any favours!)

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Progress, of a sort

I believe I may have mentioned, once or twice, just in passing, the tendency that IdiotCat PoorPuss currently has to wee on the carpet. I have more-or-less given up on the carpet - it is quite literally clinging to life by a thread, but while that thread still holds, the carpet stays.

When I say I have given up on the carpet, naturally I don't mean I've given up on the tedious process of cleaning the wee out of it. I'm becoming something of an expert at it now. Obviously the underlay has been removed from the offending area for the foreseeable future, which leaves the perfect space for sliding a sacrificial towel underneath to absorb the worst of the effluent. Then comes the oven tray, allowing a concentrated solution of biological detergent to be poured into the carpet and rubbed in. A sequence of scrubbing, rinsing, squeezing, rinsing, scrubbing, squeezing etc then follows until the water coming out is mostly clean and mostly soap-free. Then we're back to the sacrificial towels to be packed under and over the wet carpet to soak up the bulk of the water. Oh, and don't forget to scrub the floorboards too.

I have a conveniently located pile of sacrificial towels to hand these days.

It would be fair to say that I'm pretty tired of washing the carpet every day. And tired of the residual odour that no amount of scrubbing and washing seems to remove. I have a dark suspicion that there is some area of carpet that PoorPuss has made use of that I have not yet found. And yes, I have crawled around the floor with my nose to the carpet inhaling deeply. I have also come to associate the smell of Persil Biological detergent with the smell of cat urine. Which is why, when I got dressed this morning, I gave a start and sniffed my newly-laundered bra, convinced that it smelt of cat wee. My life is so glamorous.

We have tried a variety of techniques to keep PoorPuss calm and happy, and none of them have consistently worked. Occasionally we have a night when the carpet remains unsullied and we foolishly start to hope for a New Dawn.

We are gradually, achingly slowly, homing on the things that make PoorPuss happy, and the things that make him sad. We have moved from Weird Herbal Calming Spray to the Feliway pheromone spray. We have applied a liberal sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda to the carpet. (It may not help the cat, but it helps absorb odours.) We make sure he gets his favourite meal in the evening. We make sure he's snuggled up in "his" corner of the sofa as we go to bed. We leave the door from the living room to the rest of the house open, so he doesn't feel trapped. And twice now, the carpet has remained dry.

We do indeed have a New Dawn. A dawn that cracked at 4am, when PoorPuss came up to our bedroom to tell us that he was bored/scared/lonely. I escorted him downstairs, settled him back in "his" corner, and returned to bed*.

I then lay awake for two hours, until I heard the telltale sound of claw on carpet, and, leaping out of bed, I scampered down to find him digging up the poor, beleaguered patch of carpet. Whether he was about to relieve himself, I'll never know, but once I was there he didn't do so. The thought of what he might be doing made the next half hour in bed even more stressful than the previous two hours had been. Eventually at 6:30 I pottered downstairs to read my book on the sofa. Being too lazy/stupid (your choice) I didn't bother to turn the central heating on, despite sub-zero temperatures outside. Which is how I came to be wearing BigBear's fleece, two scarves and three cushions on the sofa at half past six on a Tuesday morning.

But at least the carpet was dry.

Progress. Of a sort.

* Early in my relationship with PoorPuss, I discovered our sleeping habits are incompatible. He is very talkative at about 4 or 5 am. I am not. To avoid me swearing and throwing things, it has always been better for both of us if we sleep on different floors. It's worked perfectly well for thirteen years. I don't intend to encourage conversation at 4am, hence escorting him back to his own sleeping domain.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Another poem

I Am Angry

I am angry.
Angry, angry.
Rage oozes through the cracks in my mind,
Dripping acid,
Splattering condemnation across the room.
Running across the floor in rivulets of vituperation,
Seeping into the walls,
Drenching my home with poison.
Reacting with the sweetness and love it meets
To explode into eye-watering fumes.
Anguish and worry on my baby's face,
Tears and self-recrimination on mine.

Can I stop the cracks with chocolate?
With cake? With wine?
The cracks are too broad,
The anger inchoate and unreasoning.
I snap, I shout, I seethe.
I am not me,
I cannot find me,
I can only find anger.
I am angry.
Angry, angry.


I suggested to LittleBear that as I was so bad-tempered and feeling so angry, maybe I should write a poem like he did, and maybe if I got all the anger out into words, I'd feel better. He looked at me solemnly, "I don't think it works like that Mummy." I think he may be right.