Building snags and rattled reveries

Monday

A desultory morning that was largely spent warding off a catalogue of facetious remarks from Donny McIntyre, one of my fourth year pupils who lives in uncomfortably close proximity.

You would think that I could get some peace during the school holidays, but no! I was waiting for some tradesmen and every time I put my head outside the front porch to check for them, I had to witness McIntyre and a bunch of his ill-assorted cronies in feral grouping around a lamppost, trading insults with each other - and then comments with me.

"Haw, surr!" bawled McIntyre the first time he saw me. "Enjoyin' yurr hoallidays?"

I viewed his newly acquired triangular Mohican haircut - a desolate remnant of the FIFA World Cup - with thinly veiled distaste. I swiftly decided it was best to ignore his entreaties lest I encourage him.

The tradesmen I was expecting were the "snagging team" from our housebuilders, due for the six-monthly check-up visit after we moved in. I had a list of faults that was (literally) as long as my arm with which to confront them, but I didn't get the chance.

After a morning wasted repeatedly checking outside the front door to make sure I hadn't missed the doorbell, a telephone call from their head office explained that the team had got held up on their morning call, so could they hold off my remedial work until tomorrow?

I didn't really have much choice in the matter except to tell the telephonist that it didn't surprise me they'd been held up: "If the house they're at just now has got as many problems as ours, then I'll be surprised if they're here by the end of the week!"

As things transpired, my remark turned out to be rather a foolish hostage to fortune.

Tuesday

Another wasted morning on the look-out for my snagging team, although I did try to turn some of it to good use by exhorting Donny McIntyre to make some moves towards deciding on the text that he is going to study for his specialist study of literature next year.

Why I bothered, I don't really know. The boy's in my Higher class (the two-year version) and the prospect of him actually finishing a book, let alone making some kind of spurious literary judgment on it, is one that is open to some ridicule.

But I thought it best to offer the hand of friendship, as I am likely to be seeing a lot of him through the holidays. He seems to enjoy taking various friends and acquaintances on a tour of our new estate, the high-spot of which appears to be his "English teacher's hoose - therr, that wan wi' the stains on the wall". I overheard him today making disparaging remarks about our poorly applied roughcast, which is one of the many items on our repair list.

"Started preparing for your SSL yet, Donald?" I asked him as I scanned the horizon in vain for the builders. "Who are you thinking of doing? Janice Galloway, maybe, or Christoper Brookmyre?"

He thrust both hands deeply into his pockets, then pulled a baseball cap from one of them and proceeded to place it (backwards, of course) atop his fashionably-savaged scalp. "Naww, surr. No' yet. Ahm just finishin' last month's FHM magazine. It's goat huge spreads o' Anna Kournikova. Phwoarrr!," placing a left hand across his right bicep and making a vigorous thrusting gesture.

I sighed and wondered whether the Scottish Qualifications Authority would accept a dissertation based on a semi-pornographic magazine.

Wednesday

The builders telephoned this morning to rearrange their visit for Friday, so I was able to spend some leisure time surfing the Internet and fulfilling one of my summer holiday resolutions to access the Friends Reunited website.

The initial search found my school remarkably quickly, but I had to register in order to see who else from my vintage had joined up. The temptation was enormous, so I overcame my hesitation about revealing personal details and even agreed to include my nickname - a secret known only to a select few in my present incarnation - on the registration form, as well as a brief, perhaps overly modest, account of my achievements to date.

I have to admit that the list of former classmates that came up was impressive. Exactly 73 middle-aged alumni had registered and it was fascinating to see what had become of those who had inserted personal details over and above their names alone: two doctors, several sales people, a number of engineers and even a few other teachers. And there was my own name, a red flash saying "New!" beside it.

I could hardly wait to start hearing from old friends, but it rapidly struck me that it could be a while before this happens as my own attempts to email my comrades were immediately blocked by a screen that demanded a "full membership fee" of pound;5 before I could send them an electronic communication, let alone engage in the exciting possibilities of sending a voice message or arranging a reunion.

Talk about extortion! I logged off pretty quickly. If my former classmates are as wise as me, I don't think there'll be much electronic exchange among the class of '79!

Thursday

Margaret was staying at Gail's parents last night, which gave us the chance of a long lie-in. Unfortunately, it was interrupted at 8.30am by the persistent ringing of our doorbell and the unexpected arrival of our snagging team, one day early. Or four days late, depending on your point of view.

There were an awkward few moments as I tried to cover my modesty at the front door, clad in my shortie pyjamas and dressing gown, but I managed to muster an air of greater imperial command than my garments might have suggested.

"This is quite ridiculous," I insisted as I tightened my dressing gown cord more firmly. "First, you don't arrive when you say you will. Then you tell me you'll arrive on Friday, but you arrive on Thursday. What am I supposed to I oh, you'd better come in," I waved them across the threshold as I noticed Donny McIntyre peering around the lamppost outside. "Just wait here while I get the list of the things that need doing."

They took their shoes off and ambled into the hallway. I was grateful for the consideration to our carpets, but from the appallingly stale and malodorous scents that began to waft around me, I reckoned that the floor coverings stood more chance of damage from sock dampness than from anything their shoes might have trod on.

Coming back downstairs, I proferred the list of outstanding items.

The foreman, Sandy, looked long and hard, scratched his chin, drew in his breath, then scratched his chin again. "We kin dae some o' these things, Mr Simpson," he explained slowly, "but there's haffae them not oan wur line."

"What d'you mean?"

"They're not on wur line," he repeated pointlessly. "Head oaffice gie us a listae joabs ye've reported efter movin' in, an' wur timed tae dae them. But no' a' this!" he held up my list. "Ye'll need tae make another appointment fur these!

"An' some o' them areny covered oanywey. An' some ye need tae get the sub-coantractors oan the job I "We've goat a couplae creakin' floorboards here and the front door needs a touch-up wi' white paint. OK by you?" he smiled gormlessly.

I sighed, then told him to get on with it. But it won't be the last the ruddy builders hear from me.

Friday

I have penned a furious letter to our builders and threatened to contact Watchdog if they don't do something about our problems. That should put the fear of God into them.

Meanwhile, I have been inundated with email messages from those of my former classmates who are clearly willing to shell out a fiver for the privilege of trumpeting their high-flying achievements in the faces of those of us whose successes have been less material. One from Michael Dunn was a case in point.

"Hello there, Googly Balls," it began. (The nickname referred to my prowess on the cricket field, rather than any abnormalities that people like the appalling Mikey Dunn chose to recall.) "How's it all hanging out these days?" the impertinent communication continued.

"I see from your notes that you ended up as a teacher. Well done.

"Me? I'm running my own business now, based in Los Angeles with a staff of 300 and a personal assistant that you'd have died to snog when we were back in school. Fortunately, I get that privilege a little more easily, being the head of a $20 million company.

"I hope you enjoy teaching. How much do you guys earn these days?"

I was almost sick and decided not to answer. This Friends Reunited business has some plus points. But there are definite minuses as well.

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