Telegraph e-paper

I’m proud of how much my life has changed

Katie’s swapped her designer dresses for work boots as she gets stuck into DIY

BEFORE I CAN do anything fun to the house I have to get basic, practical stuff sorted. I’m relieved, if surprised, to discover that the builders are far less worried about various work that sounded urgent in official reports, when they’re sitting in my kitchen. Now they seem more concerned about the fact that I only have oat milk for their tea – and no sugar.

Martin, who has come down 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 doing (getting the roof fixed, the chimneys swept, and the electric switchboard rewired), and the things that can wait until I win the lottery (installing prettier light fittings, buying an Aga), I’ve halved my costs and the time the work will take.

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

Although some builders call me Mrs Glass automatically (maybe at 40 it’s what I should expect), others are less presumptuous but equally curious. ‘Did your husband fit this dishwasher then?’ – one not-so-subtly asks, eyeing up Martin’s handiwork.

Perhaps I should be irritated anyone wants to know my man situation, but actually it turns out to be useful, because when most of them find out I don’t have a bloke they’re more helpful – the damp proofer shows me how to use my boiler, the nice roofer clears the mice out the traps in the loft, one of the tree surgeons who quotes to take down a conifer promises to chop it into logs, ‘I wouldn’t bother if you had a husband,’ he jokes.

Perhaps I should worry that I’ve sold out my feminism, but frankly I’m grateful for the help. Only one builder warns to me to ‘be careful people don’t take advantage of a woman living alone.’ I’m unsure if it’s a warning or advice.

Unlike London, where everyone is too busy to chat, here tradesmen also spend hours giving me advice. One man spends an hour explaining the difference between running an Aga on wood (a lifestyle choice), oil (exorbitant) and electric (more practical although reconditioned stoves can break easily). I’m grateful for the mansplaining.

When all the essential work is complete, other than the fresh plastering where the damp work was 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 how frivolously I lived in London, it’s good to feel now the money I’m earning is going on a project. I used to waste my wages in restaurants, casinos and on rounds of cocktails. Now instead, it’s going on plumbers and trips to Screwfix.

It’s fun to be in a different stage of my life. I once loved splashing out on designer dresses. Now, instead, when my things come down from London, I’ll flog the Prada dress I once spent £900 on to cover the rewiring.

When the builders leave there is still plenty to do but I decide – with my usual optimism – that I’ll do the rest of the work myself. How hard can it be to do a little plumbing or grouting? So, I drive up to London to get the possessions I haven’t seen in a year out of storage, wondering how the remnants of my old life are going to fit into the one I’m making.„ From next Sunday, find Katie Glass in The Telegraph’s Stella supplement

I used to waste my wages in

restaurants and casinos. Now instead, it’s going on plumbers and trips to Screwfix

Book-it List




Daily Telegraph