Seeping through the bricks in the chimney, worming its smoky way into the very fibre of my happy home!!!

I give up. I admit that I should have done things properly in the first place and installed a chimney flue liner. After a couple of months of bodging repairs and patching up, there is nothing for it but to bite the bullet and to get in a professional to deal with it.

I engage the Cheerful Builder.

The materials arrive as ordered, which is a good sign. The Cheerful Builder climbs up to the chimney stack. To do this, he appears to balance one ladder on top of another ladder, then tie himself to the stack with a longish bit of dressing gown cord.

I watch him, a nagging concern forming about safety.

It starts to snow.

By now, I am extremely worried about his welfare. I leap into action, and send an email to a friend querying my legal liability should he fall off the roof.

Coffee break. I make the Cheerful Builder a mug of his favourite, and feed him mince pies. He pooh-poohs the danger. I suggest that he fills his left-hand pockets with some really heavy things, so that if he loses his footing he’ll slide down the pitched roof on the side of the soft bushes in the front garden.

The Cheerful Builder resumes his ascent.

An email from my friend. She is confident that I am not personally responsible. Whether she means ‘in the event of an accident’ or ‘just in my general life’ she does not make clear.

Short Tony appears. “You’re a couple of days early, and I don’t think much of your costume!” he shouts. He has no idea of Health and Safety. The next time he is clinging precariously to his own chimney stack, I will dress up as a clown and leap out behind him shouting ‘bang!!!’. Then he will see how dangerous misplaced humour can be.

Another email from my friend, admitting that she’s not really sure about the basis of her legal advice. I send her a stroppy reply. She responds by saying that I would be better off consulting a lawyer, rather than a recruitment consultant.

By now the snow is easing off and has turned into a sort of swirling sleety rain. I gaze up at the Cheerful Builder, plying his lonely trade up in the stratosphere, and regret including the penalty clause in our agreement (death, if he doesn’t finish by Christmas Eve).

I retire inside, to the warmth of a roaring fan heater.