The Builders

The Builders

He was an aromatherapist with a practice in a leafy South London suburb. He had trained at the Robert Tisserand School of Aromatherapy in Hove which had cost 500 in 1980 and for which he had paid with money bequeathed him by an old Aunt. He was only a junior partner in a practice and didn't earn much but he led a simple life and was generally content with his lot.

He lived in a block of flats where he had volunteered to become warden in return for a reduction in his ground rent. His job was to supervise the building and communal gardens. He mainly replaced light bulbs, checked that the gardeners were keeping the grass cut, and circulated the minutes of the infrequent residents' meetings.

Last summer, it was decided that the roof needed renovation and a firm of builders were employed to do the necessary repairs. He had to liaise with the builders. He felt uncomfortable dealing with such men. He was vulnerable to their thoughts. He knew that their opinion of him was low for he had heard them talking outside his window when they thought he was not there. They mimicked his voice and twisted the words he had used when he had had to explain to them the necessity of moderating their language for the sake of two old lady residents who felt strongly about such things. He had lain squirming silently inside his ground-floor flat as they talked about that "pratt of a warden." He felt different to them and he did not know to communicate effectively with such people.

A few days later the foreman slipped a disk whilst working on the roof. He was immobile, his back in spasm. He swore at his mates to help him but they didn't know what to do except look helplessly at each other. The aromatherapist went to his assistance. He forgot about his fear of heights and climbed the scaffold, all he could think of was how to bring relief to a fellow human being. He laid hands on the foreman's spine and began to apply pressure gently. Slowly he massaged the pain away. He could feel the back was brittle. It was calcifying slowly, inexorably. He foresaw years of problems ahead for the poor man.

"You shouldn't be doing this sort of work with your back", he advised. The builder agreed, but explained that he had a mortgage to pay and two kids to feed. Soon, the builder was able to move himself and very gingerly he got down from the roof and into his car. His mates were subdued. For once their caustic banter had ceased and they looked genuinely concerned for their boss - one of them even had some kind words for the aromatherapist.

"Go home and rest now," he advised the foreman as gingerly climbed into his car.
"OK, mate," the foreman paused, "and thanks a lot".

He had done a good job, he was happy and he felt the builders now respected him. He had shown bravery in climbing up the rickety scaffold, he had displayed his skill as an aromatherapist and he had built up a rapport with the biggest and most assertive of the builders.

"Come and see me in a few days and I'll have another go at that back of yours", he called after him.

"No chance you nonce," the foreman muttered to himself as he turned into the busy main road and headed for home.

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