The amount of times I’ve had a plumber over to do a simple job and I’ve mentioned that the water pressure isn’t great in my top floor flat. “I could take out those old taps in your bath, and replace them with nice mixers,” they invariably say. Because the taps are lovely, and valuable, and they want them. One plumber said “Watch out, people will be after your taps.” “Will changing them affect the pressure?” “No, not really.” He’s the one I use.
When I cleared out the bounteous storage locker I said “Some of this stuff is worth money. I’ll likely sell some, keep some and put some in theatre. Are you sure that’s okay?” The family I was working for accepted, understood and even encouraged that. I’ll give them tickets to Christmas Carol this year and they’ll eat off their mum’s plates. Good on them for supporting the arts. It’s okay if it’s all in the open and their only other option was the dump, where they’d pay for weight and everything would be broken.
Stuart the drunk plumber rinsed me for whatever he could pull out, charged me for weight and sold it. Bulfords swapped my windows for breezy balsa wood and nicked the period weights into the bargain. I’m much more aware now as a result of these guys. But I’m not going to operate like them.
I get the sense that Ryan from Oxford is operating a bit like that though. I met him today. He’s been changing doors. He’s taken out a steel Crittel door and probably replaced it with some plywood. It’s a hell of a thing, and it weighs a ton. He’s probably said “ooh this is heavy but I’ll dispose of it for you for an extra fifty quid.” He’s listed it on eBay. Someone who is refurbishing a house in Walthamstow has bought it for over £800. These things go for thousands new. But they need to be moved around in a van. It’s a friend of a friend. I am sent off to Oxford with over £800 cash in my jacket pocket, to get this monstrously heavy door. I like to dress smartly when I’m working. I’ve got a suit for loading and unloading. I wear it. I put the money in the inside pocket and don’t stop. I’m not taking any risks.
Ryan takes one look at me in my suit and hat and sees money. Suddenly he’s got a dicky back and a limp and “ooh I’m going to feel this in the morning”. I don’t think he realises I’m not the person that bought his door. His whole being is focused on showing me that this is hard work for him, and letting me know the value of the door. “Careful of that key! That key’s £500 right there!” “We’d best lay this carefully, these things retail for 6 grand new.”
Once we’ve worked up a sweat and it’s almost done I casually say “I bet you got these for free, didn’t you?” “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah I did.” *Pause* “But I … I gave the guy a discount on the job. Yeah. I took £500 off the value of the job. £500 off I gave him, off. £500.”
I give him his sheaf of cash. He doesn’t count it. I never do either but it surprises me.
At the other end there’s a lot more ground to cover. These doors are just SO HEAVY. It’s incredible. Eventually two smiling women and I get the things into the house. They are visibly thrilled with the doors. While I have my traditional workman’s tea, one of them is already measuring whilst the other – (familiar face, have I seen her in something?) – charms me utterly with small talk. I’ve got a “striking face” apparently. It “makes sense I’m an actor”. Yes. It does. I think she is too. She’s certainly good at it, and good at doors too by the sound of it. “This is my thing. I’m going to strip them right back, clean them, make them black I think. They’re going to be beautiful.”
I’ve learnt a little more about doors today. There really is a market for everything if you have the knowledge. It’s the knowledge that’s hard to come by.