A prolonged, rude ringing of the doorbell this morning. I hurriedly unlock the front door and swing it open. A man in a fussy tailored suit smoking a Gauloises leans almost horizontally against the stone doorframe, apparently unconcerned by my agitation. He says nothing.
“Yes, can I help you?”, I ask, now clearly annoyed.
He chooses not to speak; instead, gesturing over his shoulder to an expensive-looking van with blacked-out windows, the writing on the side in carefully selected font reading ‘Eaves Saint Laurent’.
I look at him in puzzlement.
He sighs a gallic sigh before drawling: “We are couvreurs: we ‘ave come to sculpt your roof.” He ignores my furrowing brow and involuntary, wordless shake of the head, instead pushing past me spraying scent from a cut-glass bottle, announcing: “We begin”.
As I’m about to turn to pursue him into the house, two similarly attired men emerge from the van with gold-plated ladders and pristine work tools, barely acknowledging me as they, too, swagger past me.
I realise now that they are roofers. I ask whether my wife had called them. “Non”, they shrug. Baffled, I sarcastically suggest that they ‘simply knew we needed roofing work doing’, to which they respond, quite plainly: “Oui. Naturallment.”
They work near silently and sneer at my offers of instant coffee and tea. They consider the idea of loose leaf tea for a moment before insisting that this will not do; instead demanding that I fetch them freshly ground deli coffee and iced creme de menthe. I go.
By the time I return, they have created a space in the loft reminiscent of a modern sculpture gallery; airy, bright, sterile and impersonal; the expected rubble and chaos nowhere to be seen. I ask how long they anticipate the work will take. Dismissively, the man that rang the door bell with such impudence replies with equal insolence: “I do not know. One week, perhaps. Maybe ten.” Dumfounded, I watch as they continue as though I’m not there, their work tools glinting as they manipulate the space around them.