Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Builders’ Banter


You’ve probably read in one of my recent posts, that we are making some alterations to our house.  We’re building an extension to the rear and making some changes to the inside layout, to add a “real” hallway beside the stairs, with access doors to both main rooms, rather than having to walk through the sitting room to reach the dining room, then through the dining room to get to the kitchen!

So, the Builders are here.  They’ve been on-site most days for the past two weeks or so and they have set up a little space in the garage, where there’s a work-bench.  Of course, there is also a radio; no builder can work without the radio on all day (Jeff – the boss – says it’s a security measure, as it makes would-be nosey-parkers believe someone is there, even if everyone is round the back digging holes). 

The radio is set to a local “hits” channel, which plays mainly 1980’s and 1990’s music, with the odd gem from the ‘70’s etc.  Builders seem to like that kind of music best.  I suppose most of it is cheerful, with a good beat and a tune (some “music” isn’t really so musical is it…). 
I could produce a CD of “Builders’ Greatest Hits”, as they sing (or howl) along to their favourites – which they then repeat at intervals throughout the day, making up their own version when they forget the words or tune… 

Classics such as “Layla”, “Tainted Love”, “I Knew You Were Waiting…”, “Baby, Where Did Our Love Go?” etc, etc all become part of the day’s sound-track.  They make silly faces, as they croon a love song to one another.  Their sentences are punctuated by snatches of song. 

It’s quite fun really. They also have a kind-of scripted banter, which they carry on at intervals, in between the chat and even some serious conversation about wives and girlfriends, their children, family and friends, what they watched on tv, the state of the economy… They can be quite serious and thoughtful, these builder-chaps; they may have a mainly manual kind of job, but that doesn’t stop them using their brains too.

They also have some standing jokes, which get trotted out daily:

* * *

“Curly, could you knock those nails in please?”
“What, Jeff, these ones?”
“Yeah, them.”
“Okay…” – bang, bang…
…“Oh, no, Curly, not them ones!”…

* * * 

“Jeff, did you want me to dig out the footings for that wall?”
“Yes please – where the red paint-marks are.”
“Okay then…”
…. “Oh, no, Curly, not that one!”…

* * *

All day… The same joke… “Nah, not that one!”

So I asked if they don’t get bored of that joke.  Apparently they don’t – it seems to be part of the routine; perhaps it’s the oil that keeps them all running smoothly. 

* * *

My favourite though, has to be a conversation I overheard on Monday, while I was working up in the studio.   It gets warm in there, as the room faces south, so I have to open the window.  The builders were working in the hallway, with the front door open, just below where I was:

* * *

Neighbour’s voice – couldn’t hear what he said…

Jeff’s voice, “Nah? Really?  No…..!”

Then Jeff shouted, “Curly! Curly!”

“Yes, Jeff!”

“You know that woman we saw walking by this morning?”

“What, that really good-looking one?”


“She was alright… bit of a smasher…” (can’t remember exact words, but that was the general idea… quite polite, but obviously they had noticed!).

Jeff said, “Yeah, that one…. Well… Apparently…. She was a ‘He’!”

…. long pause….

Curly’s voice, rather shocked & squeaky… “NO! Never!  Really?”

Neighbour’s voice “Yes, really & truly.”

Curly, “No! But… No!”

Laughter, more banter… interspersed with Jeff and Curly saying “Can’t believe it” etc…

Curly – “But Jeff, you was going to ask for her phone number!”

* * *

Really, you just couldn’t make these things up…

And I get this free floor-show every day.  It’s almost worth the dust and hassle, just to have a good laugh.


  1. Sounds like a real cabaret,Lizzie.

  2. Absolutely Jacky! It's very funny.

  3. What lovely entertainment you are having at the moment!

  4. You'll miss them when the the job's done.

    1. Well Celia, they did our bedroom extension back in 2009 (see my blog posts for details ;)
      I must have missed them, cos we've got them back again...

  5. You forgot Jeff's punch line - No Curly, not that one!
    DD's Dad is a roofer and he once admitted to sitting on the roof singing the theme tune to Fifi and The Flower Tots because that's what they had been watching before he took her to nursery.
    Tell them they should audition for DIY SOS.

    1. Our builders are far too classy for DIY SOS... But Curly probably knows Fifi & the Flower Tots - he has a little daughter.

  6. They sound hilarious. Very similar to our house keeping staff in college. It is so much fun to listen to their jokes in strong geordie accents out of my window!

  7. LOL!!! thanks for making me chuckle.

  8. Ah yes, builders can be great fun to listen to - except the ones called 'happy' for some reason.

    Hope it is all going smoothly - a proper hallway sounds good to me.

  9. I'm glad the building is going so well. Whenever I hear about a people having builders I always think of a curse I seem to read often in British mysteries "May you have builders!"

  10. Glad they are reliably amusing ... hope te work goes well too!

  11. Your photo brings so much back about the renovations we had done a couple of years ago! Love the detail of your post about the banter - this could be a regular feature!

  12. Good that you're able to see the lighter side of things amid all the dust and noise! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Wow, it sounds like you have lots going on Lizzie! Can't wait to see the end result :)


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