Some section of my back-garden fence blows down each year with the inevitability of a February storm. It is such a regular occurrence that I should have a standing order established with a local fencing company but, sadly, I have not been so prescient. And, so, begins the tedious task of ringing around a long list of Checkatrade-vouched for strangers, knowing that there will be the same predictable response from each one: “We’re very busy, you realise, sir. There was a storm yesterday.” Yes. I know. Why do you think that I am ringing?
This year has been the worst I have ever known for trying to arrange a fencer to repair my fence. Storm Eunice blew through my back garden on 18 February, and it is now April and my fence remains the same distressing, wind-blown mess.
It may seem like a minor annoyance, but I have previously written about the amount of store I place on maintaining a secure barrier between me and my neighbours.
At the first fencer I called, I was put on a waiting list for a call-back in order to go on another waiting list for someone to come around to give me a quote before being put on another waiting list for someone to actually do the work.
“We’ll ring you next Monday about it.”
Monday passed without a phone call, and so I rang them again.
“Thursday, sir. We’ll call you.”
Thursday passed without a phone call, and so I rang them again.
Saturday passed without a phone call, and I didn’t ring them again.
Since then I have rung a dozen different fencers. In most cases, it has only been to be met by the depressing ring-tone of an unanswered telephone; in several cases, I was invited to leave a message, none of which were responded to; and once, just once, I managed to speak to an actual human being: “We might fit you in in June.” Might! June!
And then a miracle. Just as I was beginning to give up all hope; had come to believe that the sighting of a fencer in my garden was as unlikely as spotting a Dartford warbler, a breakthrough. An innocuous mobile number; an answered call; a friendly, reassuring voice: “Your lucky day, sir. I’m in your area now. I can be with you in fifteen minutes.”
It was eleven minutes by my watch when there was a knock on my front door.
I ushered him directly into the garden, where he assessed the damage and gave me a quote there and then, on the spot.
“And when can you fit me in to do the actual work?” I asked suspiciously, fearing the worst.
He glanced through a large appointments’ book, before replying: “Wednesday do for you, sir?”
Do you know, I could have sworn that a small brown bird flew past at that moment, warbling chirpily.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree awaits Wednesday with equal degrees of optimism and pessimism.
Simon Turner-Tree is the author of This Pedestrian Life and Watching Life Pass Me By