Grand designs

An architect and his wife are currently building a very small house next door to my flat. It will be over two floors, but sunk into the ground so the windows of their top floor will sit at ground level.

The building process has been rumbling on for quite a while, and we have been intrigued by what could be occurring behind the scaffolding. My neighbours on the top floor offered just the other day to email me over some photos (‘Two words about that basement,’ said one of them: ‘No. Light.’) but as luck would have it I came home the other day to find the architect himself, a cheerful, artistic sort in his 40s, standing shivering in the rain by the gate, his collar pulled tight and his long hair soaked to his face.

‘Has it been a total nightmare?’ he asked, as he showed me round the mass of sodden concrete, twisted iron spars and other detritus that in a matter of weeks will apparently be a functional home. It hasn’t really. It will be nice to have a bit more light and space in my back garden when the hoarding comes down, and the odd quiet afternoon would be good, but there are greater traumas in life. Buildings have to be built and all.

Having said that, the prolonged proximity of large groups of workmen does make for the odd interesting episode. Yesterday, while I was working from home, there were two power surges that caused the electrics in my flat to fuse. During one of them, as I was sitting eating my lunch and watching TV, the sudden loss of power coincided with a shout of ‘WOAH!’ from the site next door.

I sidled quietly up to the window and listened.

‘Do it again mate,’ urged a jocular voice, ‘but wait until I’m standing a bit further away.’

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