Saturday, December 14, 2013

Maverick Mr Fix -it

So much for the art blog,  I didn't have a minute to concentrate on it last week.   I was watching over a big project that needed to get done asap.

Apparently how you fill degraded stucco

the steps are going in

almost finished, we just need to burn off the ivy roots and paint the wall

 There seems to be an archetypal maverick handyman out there who works most often alone and with little equipment.  I have found them in every town I have ever lived in: London, Milan, San Francisco, L.A. ,Carmel, Nice.   

   If you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head you will need one of these fellows sooner or later. The names of the good ones are carefully guarded and only swapped about like family recipes.

Many of these fix-it men are loners, rebels, and misfits.  Some of the ones I have met don't do well in the real world, often lacking the knack for getting on with others , managing money, or finding love.  

 Some of them are good at engineering-type-thinking…can solve complicated spatial or mathematical problems…but mostly intuitively without "book learning".  The good ones have a"knack" …what we call a "bricoleur" in this country. 

  I have never met one handyman who was not nervous that he wouldn't be paid at the end of the work.  Most of them will ask for money as they go along even though the agreement is one-third up front.    Perhaps this is because the fix it man often ends up doing some damage to something of yours during his project or the work on an old house may introduce a whole new set of problems.   I have never had a straight forward job…there always seems to be some complication that arises. 

One of the many stories I can tell about my experience with mavericks is the time we hired two lads to paint the interior of an apartment when we were living in a walkup in London.  Since we were new to the country, we asked for names from a friend who was in the decorating business.  She sent us a pair: a short and a tall one.  It was just a straight forward painting job. 

On the first day of their work, I happened to mention that we would eventually take out the carpet and we could use them for that too when the time came.   When we got home that day the walls were painted and the carpet ripped up so that tiny hairs of the under carpet padding were stuck in the fresh paint!   To top it off the tall chap had walked out on the little one.  ( Luckily he had already painted the ceiling). 

The kitchen was the following day's work.   The solo painter asked what we proposed to do there and I said that we needed to paint the green cupboards ,  that I would be finding someone to put wallpaper on the wall and then maybe I would look for some hand painted tiles to put among the white ones.  Then I directed him to paint the cupboards thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong. 

Because of the tiny dimensions of the flat, monsieur and I didn't come back until late that day.    I immediately noticed :   The cupboards had been painted but the breakfast table had been moved to the center of the room and there were five or six holes in the back-splash where tiles had BEEN KNOCKED OUT!  

After I finished exclaiming about the missing tiles I asked why he had knocked them out without a clear directive and he said, "  I wanted to surprise you".  He had.    

 After he was gone, I picked up the circular table to put it back where it had been and BEHOLD under the floor length table cloth: a huge puddle of white paint on the floor.  I don't know if he intended to leave it like that or not or I had just surprised him and he whisked the table over it.  

What was really naive of us though , was letting him bring his friend the "wallpaper guy" after he had replaced the tiles and finished the kitchen.  

 He was so surprised when we fired them soon after they had ruined the second role of expensive Designer Guild paper, on the third day.  

   The friend who had sent the boys admitted that she was trying them out and had not worked with them.   In the end she sent us another handyman, this one did wonders while wearing the same odoriferous shirt all week…. another misfit, but a great worker. 

 There always seems to be a catch if you hire Maverick Mr Fix it.   In fact the only reason to take on a handyman rather than an "artisan" is that they will give a fair price and will often deliver a fair job.  

 One needs to be present and check on the work frequently to make sure it is what you want each step of the way.   Often too, you need to have rags, small brushes, wet sponges and paper towels handy if you want a clean result.  The idea of cleaning as you go is not always the maverick's best quality.

The name Misfit may sound pejorative to some but it just means an "individualist".  I sometimes consider myself one as there are definitely women mavericks too.   Misfits just don't see it the way others do.   But we need them and they need us so I am so pleased I have found Monsieur L. 

 He started by trimming the trees in my yard but said that he could do the masonry jobs of repairing a degraded wall and building new steps to my studio also.    I wanted to get it done as a surprise before Monsieur got home so I agreed, signed and away we went.   

 PS.  The work was finished as of two days ago and the steps look fine and so does the wall.  He even burned off the old ivy roots and painted the wall by the steps for me with paint I had on hand.  

  There are only a few bits of damage to the frieze and lower paint trim but maybe I can repair those myself.  And the price was right.  Thank you Mr L.  but….


  For now,  please go away and have your holiday,  I need to lie down……for a week. 

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