I telephone the Cheerful Builder.

There is some awkward small talk. I am not much good at small talk, and worry about this. I am constantly concerned that people will think me rude if I do not do small talk properly. A typical conversation of mine might go like this:

Person answering telephone: “Hello? Emer…”

Me (JonnyB): “Hullo!!! How are you these days?”

PaT (Person answering telephone (see above)): “Er – I’m quite well, thank you.”

Me: “Good.” (Pauses for thought). “It’s absolutely chucking it down here in Norfolk – has been for hours.”

PaT: “Really?”

Me: “Yes – although they say it will clear up later.”

PaT: “Look – do you want fire, police or ambulance?”

Me: “Oh. Ambulance please. And fire.”

The Cheerful Builder engages in my small talk dutifully. But he knows very well why I have rung. I ask if he is generally free to do any building work in the near future. He hummms and hawwws and sounds generally regretful that he is busy until April 2035.

“Oh that’s a shame,” I hear myself saying. “I just thought I’d give you a call first – thought it would be fun working together again, you know – drinking coffee together… talking about music…”

I tail off. In a minute I will be asking him if we can still be friends, or if we can continue to sleep together with no commitment on either side. More small talk and the conversation is over. The lads on site continue their work; the project plods on like a glacier with depression.