In London I used to waste my money on cocktails – now it goes on trips to Screwfix

Before I can do anything fun around the house, I have to sort out the basic and practical stuff. I’m relieved, even surprised, to find that builders are much less worried about various jobs that seemed urgent in official reports, when they’re sitting in my kitchen. Now they seem more concerned that I only have oat milk for their tea – and no sugar.

Martin, who came ostensibly to help me move in but also to check out the local Grindr action, sends me to Tesco.

The good news is that by the time I’ve established what urgently needs to be done (fixing the roof, sweeping the chimneys, and rewiring the electrical panel), and the things that can wait until I win in the lottery (installing better lights, buying an Aga), I halved my costs and working time.

I hide in the kitchen with Stringerbelle while the masons come and go. It’s a fun way to meet my new neighbors and hear the local gossip – I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

Although some builders automatically call me Ms. Glass (perhaps at 40 that’s what I should expect), others are less cocky but just as curious. ‘Did your husband install this dishwasher then?’ – we ask not so subtly looking at Martin’s work.

Maybe I should be irritated that someone wants to know about my man situation, but actually it comes in handy because when most of them find out I don’t have a guy, they’re more useful – the wet oven shows me how to use my boiler, the nice roofer clears the mice from the traps in the attic, one of the pruners who quotes to cut down a conifer promises to cut it into logs, ‘I wouldn’t bother if you had a husband,’ he jokes.

Maybe I should be worried that I’ve sold my feminism, but frankly, I’m grateful for the help. Only one builder warns me to “be careful, people don’t take advantage of a woman living alone”. I don’t know if this is a warning or advice.

Unlike London, where everyone is too busy to chat, here too traders spend hours giving me advice. A man spends an hour explaining the difference between running an Aga on wood (a lifestyle choice), oil (exorbitant) and electricity (more convenient although refurbished stoves break easily). I am grateful for the mansplaining.

When all the essential work is done, other than the fresh plastering where the wet work has been done and a certificate for the woodworm, there’s not much to show for the thousands I’ve spent. Still, I feel proud.

Compared to the frivolity with which I lived in London, it’s good to feel that the money I earn is spent on a project. I used to waste my salary on restaurants, casinos and cocktail parties. Now, instead, it goes to plumbers and trips to Screwfix.

It’s fun to be at another stage in my life. In the past, I loved to pour out on designer dresses. Now instead, when my stuff arrives from London, I’ll be whipping out the Prada dress I spent £900 on to cover the rewiring.

When the builders leave, there is still a lot to do but I decide – with my usual optimism – to do the rest of the work myself. How difficult can it be to do a bit of plumbing or grouting? So I’m heading to London to collect possessions I haven’t seen in a year, wondering how the remnants of my old life will fit into the one I’m creating.

From next Sunday, find Katie Glass in the Stella supplement of The Telegraph


You can read Katie Glass’ column, What Katie did next, every Saturday from 6am telegraph.co.uk

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