This story is for Allen and it’s a story I never intended to write. However, after regaling Allen with my ‘loo misadventures’ he roared with laughter and urged me to tell the tale. How could I not oblige him? With apologies for the long wait between blog posts, here it is per Allen’s request
Mr. Bill and I had stopped to bid our first landlords, Allen and Mara, a fond farewell on the morning we left Ohope for Florida. Allen and Mara were also pulling up sticks; they had sold their home on Pohutukawa Avenue and were busy sorting and packing when we dropped in to say goodbye. “Why haven’t you written anything new lately”? Allen demanded. My answer to his query was a groan. Moaning more, I explained that I had found it impossible to write my blog while living in a construction site and besides; I didn’t wish to write a snarky blog. We love living at Beachpoint and it was unfortunate and unavoidable, that our recent stay there happened to coincide with renovations. Construction, like the stuff that bears leave in the woods, happens. I had complained ad nauseam to poor Mr. Bill and my friends; I didn’t wish to bore the pants off my readers, as well. Yet life on site wasn’t all doom and gloom, there were moments of hilarity and with a little distance, one can always see the humor in a trying situation.
All was fine and dandy up on the fourth floor, when we were cocooned in our winter headquarters, otherwise known as Flat 39. We had returned to Ohope in late July, surprised to discover the front section of Beachpoint sheathed in plastic and surrounded by scaffolding. Our apartment lay inaccessible beyond the barricades. Renovations were well underway, the tradies were hard at work but an exceptionally wet winter had delayed the project’s completion. Temporarily displaced, we moved into number 39 and waited for the big reveal. High above the fray, we were not impacted by the bustle beneath us and we resumed our morning routine undisturbed. Mr. Bill left for the hospital promptly at a quarter to eight and after waving goodbye from the balcony, I would settle myself with a cup of coffee at the computer and begin writing. Construction which commenced by 7:30 a.m., filled the air with a rhythmic background track. A gentle rat, tat, tat, in synch with the tap, tap, tap on the keyboard, produced a productive tune. Words flowed, stories were posted and Allen was happy.
All good things come to an end and eventually the first phase was completed, with the exception of the roof. Health and Safety signed off and the refuges were allowed to return home, as work on the roof continued. When told that construction would be on going, while we were living beneath, I shrugged unconcerned and said that wouldn’t be a problem. After all, it wasn’t my first rodeo. It certainly had not been a big deal, when we had our roof replaced back in Connecticut. Honestly, how bad could it be? I found out the next morning, when I sat on the toilet.
We had shifted apartments on a Sunday and right on schedule that first Monday morning, Mr. Bill left for work. When I stepped onto the balcony to wave goodbye as usual, I waved good morning to the tradies as well. For some strange reason never explained, work began later at the beginning of the week, which is why Mr. Bill’s morning ablutions, on that fateful day were undisturbed and may I add with envy, private ; whereas I had company. Sitting on the loo, I was startled to hear loud male voices directly overhead. Looking up through the skylight above the toilet, I spied a pair of roofers setting up for the day. Their shadows fell across me as they walked around the skylight, which was slated for removal. Instead of blue sky above, my view was of men wearing short-shorts and construction boots (standard Kiwi work attire for tradies), kneeling around the opening. They commenced drilling. Living in The Commonwealth made me wonder, what would the Queen do? Should the privacy of her throne be breeched, no doubt her knights in shining armor, would rush in to defend her honor but sadly, my chivalrous Mr. Bill was long gone. With no hope of a rescue from the awkward situation, there was nothing to do but pretend that I was one of Her Majesty’s subjects and “Keep Calm and Carry On”. At least there was music. The tradies blasted their radio, all the better to hear above the whine of their power drills and as I stepped into the shower, I was serenaded by Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’. Who says there are no co-incidences in life?
Thus began my winter of coping. I would last a few hours in the apartment in the morning doing my daily chores, before the din would set my teeth on edge. I tried but found it impossible to write and I sought refuge outdoors. Fleeing the premises on the granny bike, I took longer and longer rides, taking the time to stop and talk to all the sheep and cows, along my route. I tried timing my rides to end, when the crew stopped for their tea or lunch breaks, in order to get a little writing done. That brilliant plan was thwarted however, when they began staggering their breaks. As they say, timing is everything. On one unfortunate day, I returned too late to rescue my clean laundry, which I had left drying outside on the balcony. As I peddled past the apartment homeward bound, I was aghast to discover that a worker was power washing the roof. Sheets of filthy water were cascading over the roof’s edge, onto my smalls below. Following that incident, I gave up on solar power and used the dryer, never knowing when dirt and debris would be blown off the roof.
After cycling, with the mornings behind me but hours yet to go before quitting time, I devised various ways to escape the afternoon’s barrage of noise. My getaway plans included long walks on the beach, capped by a hike over the hill to Otarawaiere Cove, where I would chat with ‘Lobster Man’, to delay my return. I went for coffee at The Quay and Moxie’s, staying until their winter closing time of 3pm. On one such afternoon, I wiled away the final hours of sunlight, sitting at a picnic table in Mahy Reserve, working on my laptop. That went well until the gulls shat on the keyboard. When the Whakatane Writers met, Keturah was my rescue ranger, giving me a lift into town. Desperate to attend the meeting but unable to write something new, I shamelessly submitted a story, that was penned long before I joined the group. I even went to doctors appointments that weren’t mine. I gladly tagged along on Gavin’s trip to the dentist in Tauranga and to Linda’s GP visits in town. It was heavenly- at least for me.
By far the best diversion was ‘Lunch with Linda’. Once a week, Linda would pick me up in her flash car and off we’d go to lunch, the further afield the better. Naturally, there was shopping afterwards (Poor Mr. Bill!). When Cathy and Julie were free to join us, the Great Escape became a Hen Party and I forgot all about the racket back home.
I did my best to be a good sort and not complain but fell far short of the mark. Returning home each evening, Mr. Bill would thrown caution to the wind when he asked, “How bad was the noise today”? On the worst day (there always is a breaking point) the construction noise was deafening, as it reverberated around the building in stereo. Workers were pounding and drilling overhead, while simultaneously the cement walkways across from our apartment, were being jack hammered. At day’s end, Mr. Bill was alarmed to discover, not a wife but a hot mess waiting for him. He gently asked, “Do you want me to book you an early flight home”? I blurted out, “Yes”! Shocked into silence, we stood there stunned, looking miserably at one another. Had I really said that? In a flash, sanity returned. The mere thought of being separated from Mr. Bill was too much to bear. Bucking up, I shook my head and announced, “No. I’m staying. I can’t go back early. Who would cook for you? Who would do your laundry”? To that Mr. Bill put on a brave face and said that he would manage. No, I simply could not leave Mr. Bill, not ever. No matter how besieged I felt, no decibel-shattering disturbance could part us, for I travel with Mr. Bill, not without.
Now all is glorious again, bright, shinny and fresh at Beachpoint. We left in November, three week’s shy of the completion of the project’s first phase. Although we didn’t get a chance to cheer the sound of silenced power tools, we were none the less glad to leave the mess and stress of construction behind. Little did we know that it wasn’t the end of our construction woes but merely a brief reprieve. After enjoyed a fleeting idyll in Florida, we headed north to Connecticut and straight into a construction zone!
Our street was a disaster. Ripped open from end to end, a huge construction project to separate storm run off water from the sewer lines, made the road nearly impassable. Closed to through traffic, Mr. Bill drove around the police barricades to reach our home, managing to avoid the worst of the potholes. Surveying our street, at first glance it seemed that we had gone from the frying pan into the fire. Soon we realized, that however frustrating the daily detours and delays were, it was blessedly quiet. In the absence of passing cars, the only road noise was the sound of the diggers rumbling down the street, heralding the beginning and end of each work day. Extremely bearable. There were no men stomping on the roof and only the sun and the stars, were visible through the bathroom skylight. Ah, pure bliss. Alone at last. Undisturbed we resumed our morning routine, sleeping in after staying up late.
Did I begin writing again, now that there were no impediments to the creative process? No, not a chance. Christmas was coming and in the words of our five year old grandson Billy, there was a lot to do. Now all Mr. Bill and I needed to get cracking, was a little noise- Christmas carols!