On living and working on a construction site

Nearly a year ago, I sold my lovely house in Ferntower Road – which also contained the Analytica offices in which I and my assistants worked – because it was arranged on four floors and I could no longer manage the stairs in periods when my haemoglobin levels were low (this happens three or four times a year – when they dip to life-threatening levels the NHS top me up with intravenous iron which takes a while to kick in but then gives me 2-3 months when I can function more or less normally before dipping again).
After two years of searching I finally found a house in Dalston that had the potential to instal a lift (see http://www.awev80.dsl.pipex.com/moving%20east.html for the back story) and I moved at the end of November 2009, putting all my stuff in store (apart from a very uncomfortable sofa-bed, two desks, three office chairs, some clothes and some minimal kitchen supplies) but it took three months to get planning permission and the building work didn’t start until March and is still nowhere near completed. So (with my long-suffering assistants, first Kathryn, then Jenny) I have been living and working for over 6 months surrounded by drilling and hammering and the even more annoying sound of the radio stations that cater to the needs of Polish construction workers.
On Saturday, when I realised I had only 24 hours before the deadline to write an article for a conference In Bordeaux in October, I found myself with no choice but to sit at my desk with one radio station upstairs, playing what sounded like ‘rap music to encourage synchronised hammering across Europe’ and another downstairs playing what sounded like ‘football anthems for the aurally challenged’ whilst an electrician on the same floor as me cut the power supply without warning so often that one paragraph had to be recomposed four times.
Actually I am not so much bothered by the noise (or the ubiquitous dust or the birdshit-like residue from the plastering that even gets into the suitcases where I am storing my underwear) as by the routine appropriation of certain articles. From previous experience, I know that there are certain things that builders always regard as collective property, to be taken – and ruined – when needed: mugs, glasses, pens, lavatory paper, kettles, radios, stepladders, dustpans, brushes, any container that holds water. And I have, I think, been pretty tolerant about it. But last week the patience suddenly snapped when (after great difficulty, involving unplugging the various power tools that were recharging in all the available sockets and plugging in the single electric hob that is my only means of cooking) I managed to boil myself an egg in my only saucepan, only to discover that every single teaspoon in the house had disappeared, and I had nothing to eat it with!
I am writing this, in the moment of calm after they have all gone home but when I am too exhausted for any serious work and knowing that I will have to be up and bathed and dressed before they arrive at 6.30 tomorrow morning. The following day, I have to go to Italy to speak at an event in Cortona and whilst I am away, my temporary office and temporary bedroom will be moved upstairs, to enable floorboards to be laid with who knows what irrevocable disturbance of paperwork. Of course it will be lovely when all the work is finished and I at last have some privacy and the company of my books and friends again (although I will also be absolutely skint, because everything has cost much more than anticipated and the bankers, may they rot in hell, will not extend me any credit).
But isn’t it ironic that, in order to gain some independence, a disabled person has to put herself through such bodily punishment? In Freudian terms it’s a very extreme case of deferred gratification; in Weberian ones, the Protestant work ethic gone mad! Will my social life ever recover? Watch this space.

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