I have this theory that normal families have houses full of stuff that doesn't break. I'm convinced that nobody else out there has a fridge that resolutely freezes the milk no matter what we do to it. Nobody else is still using a vacuum cleaner that's been on its last legs for 18 months ever since their toddler used it to hoover up cottage cheese. Nobody else has a washing machine that clanks threateningly every time it's turned on, or a flying ant infestation in the kitchen or two radiators that have never ever worked even when plumbers have tried to fix them. Everybody else can afford curtains in all of their windows, not just the ones at the front of the house, and to go on holiday once a year and to do nice things at the weekends like go to the zoo or the beach. What are we doing wrong? Why doesn't our money even cover the mortgage and bills? Why does every sodding thing break the minute we think we might - just maybe - have a spare 50 quid this month?
I am scene setting here, because I need you to understand exactly how annoyed we were when John From Next Door came round the other night to inform us that we have a wasps nest on our loft. Seriously - as if we need any more household inconveniences. Why can't they just piss off and nest on someone else's house?
"I had wasps a couple of years ago," said John From Next Door, knowledgeably. "Blasted the loft with wasp spray, stuck the hatch back on then knocked down their nest into a bucket the next day. Done." That sounded easy enough. But when Richard went to investigate, he found that it was going to be impossible to tackle the nest from inside the loft and he'd need to get to it from outside, which looked very difficult indeed.
I Googled pest control and showed the page to him.
"SEVENTY BLOODY QUID? I'M NOT PAYING SOMEONE SEVENTY BLOODY QUID JUST TO EVICT SOME WASPS" he shouted and stomped off muttering about "working my backside off for nothing", "no holiday for 5 years" and "living on COCKING beans on toast". He then reappeared downstairs in a self fashioned Wasp Buster outfit (gloves, woolly hat, hooded top with hood up and only his eyes showing), brandishing the ladder and a can of insecticide.
"Do you want me to come and help?" I asked.
"No. No. I'll be fine. If John From Next Door can get rid of a wasps nest then I'm sure I can. He's seventy. how hard can it be?"
I sat inside watching TV and listening to various scufflings and angry sounding buzzing noises from outside. There was the odd crash, but all seemed to be going swimmingly. Then after 20 minutes, he appeared at the front door covered in muddy water with sticks and leaves in his hair.
"Fell off the ladder," he muttered, turning a bit green. "It's OK. Was only four feet up. Definitely haven't broken anything, Fuckers didn't sting me," he said, looking exactly like someone who might have some pretty nasty internal injuries. I lifted up his top to see a great red bruise about 20cm in diameter and a load of bleeding scratches down his arms and chest.
"Shall I call pest control?" I asked.
"No. Just going to go and ask John for some tips."
Five minutes later, Richard was back up the ladder, balancing on the conservatory roof on one leg with John cheerleading from his garden, cup of tea and a biscuit in his hands. "You want a BLOODY GREAT PIPE," he shouted excitedly. And "HIT IT WITH A BIG STICK," neither of which seemed like particularly good pieces of advice to me.
After several nailbiting minutes, Richard had sprayed all the wasps and their nest and blocked the hole up with expanding foam. I'd like to think that this is the end of it, but have a sneaking suspicion that he's just succeeded in blocking the wasps inside the roof and one day they'll erupt out of the loft hatch in a flash mob and seek revenge. My poor, broken husband stood at the bottom of the ladder wiping the sweat from his brow and shaking slightly.
"Was it that difficult when you got rid of your wasps, John?" he asked.
"Me? No lad. I got pest control in to do it for me. Cost me 70 quid," he said, shuffling into his house.
John From Next Door is on very thin ice.