They say that 'every cloud has a silver lining' and 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' and so on, and I believe this is true, for as I considered the Incident Henceforth Referred To As 'The Great Building Saga of 2007' I realised that I have learned quite a lot from it, and I feel I should share this, for the general enightenment of all.
And so I present the official WhyNotSmile Guide To Builders. This should be of use to anyone who ever decides to hire anyone to do things to their house, and I hope it will guide you through the process and help you to prepare for what is to come. Note: if there is enough demand, I may produce a printable version which can be stuck on your fridge for easy reference.
The WhyNotSmile Guide to Builders
Section 1. The People You Will Meet
We begin by considering the people you are likely to find in your home during the building process; it is useful to have a rough idea of what they are there for, and how to identify them. On a typical 'job', there will be quite a cast of characters, who will come and go seemingly at random. The Director is known as the 'Chief Builder', and he is the one who orders everyone about and makes excuses for why they haven't turned up. He also steadfastly refuses to answer his phone, or to give you contact details for any of the rest of the cast.
Other people you may find swanning around in your living room are:
The Builder (usually called Joe) - not to be confused with the Chief Builder, the simple Builder is the one who does most of the work. He will always operate at a 'careful' pace, and requires frequent cups of tea. His tools are plaster and bacon butties. Generally looks like Barney Rubble.
The Plumber - to be honest, I wouldn't know. Not a frequent visitor.
The Electrician (invariably nicknamed 'Sparky' or 'The Spark') - the electrician is there, ostensibly, to do the electrical work. However, he is often prevented from doing this by the others, who inevitably haven't finished whatever needs to be done - the work of the electrician depends quite critically on having just the right conditions. For this reason, he often turns his hand to other things, just to get them done, and proves to be quite good at most tasks, as long as they don't involve lifting heavy or dirty things, for the electrician is always a rather skinny bloke, and tends to be the only one with clean clothes. You can spot the electrician by his spiked hair and slightly shocked look.
The Carpenter (sometimes called 'Jesus') - generally a quiet sort, who enjoys messing with bits of wood. Normally works hard, but can get distracted if he sees an opportunity for a bit of creativity: his belief is, why fit a skirting board when you can build a cupboard? Easily identifiable, as he is always covered in sawdust.
Tommy - there's always a bloke called Tommy, who seems to be there mainly in an advisory capacity, and to make tea. The others spend their time telling Tommy what to do, while he steadfastly ignores them and maintains a conversation with your next neighbour who's having a nosy over the garden fence to see what you're doing (this is where Tommy is quite useful; he will do all the explaining so you don't have to). Tommy is the most reliable member of the team, and will turn up every day to see if you've got any new biscuits in yet. He's not often spotted, but leaves a trail of Penguin wrappers so you know he's been.
Now that we have introduced the cast, the next step is to understand the things they say, and this will be dealt with in Section 2. In the meantime, please take the time to familiarise yourself with the information above and to commit it to memory, because we'll come back to it.