I am always intimidated by builders’ yards.
The people that run builders’ yards have some sort of infallible ESP about you as soon as you walk in, no matter how you act or dress. This time, I cross the threshold with a bullish air, determined to radiate confidence in my abilities to choose building materials. Unfortunately, loud sirens immediately wail out, and a big neon sign with pointy things starts flashing ‘not a builder! not a builder!’ above my head.
I swat at it, irritably.
“Er – how much is that?” I ask the man, waving at some fencing and attempting to look as if I spend my entire life buying and putting up fencing. I give the fence a sneer.
“That’s… about twenty,” he replies, having sized me up. Damn him. I do not have the courage to ask what factors affect the ‘about’ aspect of the cost. I nod sagely, before remembering to shake my head at the ridiculous price he is asking for his fencing when I could get it for half that from any number of my usual fence suppliers.
“Is that including or excluding VAT?” I ask, cleverly.
“Including,” he replies. This is annoying. He should have quoted me excluding, as I am clearly in the trade.
I give a ‘that is inconvenient as now I am going to have to work it out excluding as actually all this stuff is to do with my successful fencing business’ type shrug. “Fine,” I tell him. “Have you got any – ummm – I need some wire like chicken wire,” I ask.
“Well – chicken wire,” I clarify, trying not to give him the impression that I am one more idiot who has decided that by keeping half a dozen hens in his back garden he is suddenly an important part of the stewardship of the countryside.
“What size holes are you after?”
I am stumped by this. I haven’t a clue how big the chickens will be.
“One inch, or two inches?”
I’m fairly sure that even Short Tony and I will be able to get the chickens to the sort of size where they won’t be able to get through either of those gauges. He gives me his price, which I write on my important scrap of paper.
“Thanks,” I say, all my price research complete.
“Yes – I’ll measure up and pop back to order it,” I promise. “With my van.”