“Isn’t the tiler supposed to be here today?” I ask. “Igor is busy,” explains the broken-hearted Russian.
Well, I am ready to explode. My lovely little cottage is in bits. Bricks, wires, drills, concrete, tiles, pebbles, granite, chainsaws, grinders are piled up in the middle of what I can only call the domestic disintegration of my sitting room.
What’s going on, you may ask. A new bathroom is being constructed.
Who is doing it? The Russian.
Where were we on Monday? Everywhere. After a whole day scouring industrial units in Terenure, Greystones and Dún Laoghaire with the Russian, I realised I was becoming the project manager. Let’s put it like this, I am going to be juggling a lot of balls in the next two weeks.
When a sweet, smiling girl in National Tiles asked the Russian where he was from, he nearly lost it.
“She was only being friendly,” I say, as we waited for the boxes of white metro tiles to be taken off the forklift in the collection depot.
“People just annoy me,” he groans, throwing his hands into the air. “The currency of their conversation drives me crazy. Constantly, constantly asking me questions. Where do you come from? Blah. Are you from Poland? Blah, blah blah. Oh, you are Russian? Blah.”
“Jesus, you’re fierce stroppy this morning. I know you are antisocial by nature but you are just going to have to calm down,”
I say, sensing a nightmare ahead of me.
On Tuesday, there was no sign of the Russian when four bags of Japanese pink pebbles for the bathroom floor arrived from Midland Stone in Athlone. There was no answer when I phoned him. The little boll***s was off-radar and certainly overdoing the spirit of irresponsibility.
No sign of him on Wednesday either. On Thursday, his grey canvas haversack landed with a thud over the half door onto the wooden floor of the cottage.
I had been rolling shortcrust pastry for an apple tart in the kitchen, so I washed my hands to see what was going on. Rolling pin in hand, I was ready to kill him.
“I am sorry I have been missing,” he said, looking sheepish.
“Well, you might be,” said I. “You did feck all work on the new bathroom.”
“It was Masha’s birthday, she needed me to install an air conditioning unit in the massage parlour.”
Now, the last thing I needed to hear was about his girlfriend and her massages.
“I don’t give a feck,” I said. “Sure, I’m tired myself.”
“I have got something for you,” he said. “I saw it online and took a train to Drogheda to get it.”
“I am much more interested in when you are going to get those pink pebbles on the bathroom floor.”
I watched impatiently as he cleared the kitchen table. First, he spread newspapers over the table. My curiosity was mounting as he carefully unrolled an old green blanket with what can only be called reverence.
“Now, this is called No 26,” he said grimacing as he lifted a beautiful 5.5 quart orange Le Creuset pot onto the table.
Well, my blood pressure went down fierce quick. You see, I have a longstanding obsession with Le Creuset. And he remembered that. It’s the quality of the pots that I love. And not only was this pot exquisite, it was also vintage, with the original-style integrated loop handles instead of the more modern knobs, also the enamel was slightly matte and smooth after years of use. There wasn’t a chip in sight. And the broken-hearted Russian had lugged it all the way from Drogheda.
I felt rotten for giving out to him. I am such a wagon.
Next came a 12-inch skillet and a 4.5 quarts French Oven, followed by a 12-inch Bistro pan, an oblong, paté terrine pan. Well, I went from a briar to a lamb.
“Masha would love these, you must keep them for her,” I said, hoping to Jesus, that he wouldn’t.
“Nyet, nyet, my girlfriend no cook, she’s only interested in cooking up a storm. You take. In Russia you never refuse a gift.”
Honest to God, the broken-hearted Russian is like an onion. Just when you think, you know him, another layer reveals itself. The last thing I expected was an expert on Le Creuset in the cottage. He wasn’t quite finished either.
“They are all original,” he added. “I checked the correct marks were on each piece. There are a lot of counterfeit Le Creuset. They usually have one word, ‘France,’ printed on them but an original will always have ‘Made in France’ embossed on the bottom.”
“Only you could buy such a beautiful collection,” I said, realising the price of the bathroom was going up in spades.
But let me digress. I find the history of Le Creuset mighty interesting. If you ever wondered why most of its pieces are bright orange: two Belgian industrialists founded the factory in 1925 and decided on this particular colour because it imitated the intense, volcanic hue of molten cast iron. However, they eventually used many other colours.
“Did you know,” said himself, “ that Marilyn Monroe owned the prettiest set and the most expensive?”
I did not. I watched the expert search Google. He looked ever so happy.
“Da, da, here it is,. Look, Biddy, a pale yellow, a creamy kind of yellow.”
I stared at the photo and imagined Marilyn caressing the casserole pot in her kitchen.
“The whole set, called ‘Elysees Yellow’, was auctioned in Sothebys for $25,300.” Imagine.
“It takes 120 hours to create one pot,” he continued.
I uncorked a bottle of Refosco to celebrate his fantastic find.
“Even in your cottage there are connections to Le Creuset that you would never imagine,” he said, savouring his glass of wine.
“This,” he said, removing a book from my shelf. “A Book of Mediterranean Food, by your hero, Elizabeth David, who I hear you speak about many times. Did you know that she was a heavy smoker? She loved the Gauloises cigarette packet, and her love of Gauloises inspired Le Creuset to create the Le Creuset Blue selection.”
“And there,” he said, pointing to my picture of JFK by the fireside. “A man called Raymond Loewy, who designed the interior of John F Kennedy’s Air Force One, restyled the traditional Le Creuset round dish to fit in with post-war tastes. This company never missed a trick.”
Suddenly there was a knock on the half-door. And there, like a glory in our midst stood a pretty blonde woman in her late 30s with bright pink lipstick. I immediately twigged who she was. Masha.
“Is my boyfriend here?”
“Yes,” I said, somewhat nervously.
“Oh, I see you have a big collection,” she said, peering over the half-door, her eyes lighting up. “I so adore Le Creuset.”
Gulp. Gulp. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks.