Walking down a country lane near Bath the other day, I came across a stunning Georgian mansion. There was something familiar about it, with its ha-ha and rolling lawns. And then I remembered. About thirty years ago members of Bath Arts Workshop made ends meet by running an odd jobs agency. It was called King Kong Workforce.
Our motto was never refuse a job. We even pretended to have a van, a fib which led to us having to push a huge slate slab intended for a billiard table all the way up to Bear Flat on a trolley. When we eventually got a van, we painted it ice cream pink and lime green, with a silhouette of a gorilla on the bonnet. One lady asked us to park it round the corner when delivering stuff to her house because, as she put it, I don’t want people thinking I can’t afford Pickfords.
Once, we had to drive a house full of stuff to Southampton docks. The family was emigrating. They must have done a lot of shopping over the years in our second-hand emporium in Walcot, for many of the items of furniture in their home still had the prices on them in indelible felt pen in my handwriting. The fridge bore the slogan ‘Works! £5’. We proudly parked our little King Kong van right next to the QE2.
Anyway, one of the jobs was to redecorate the vast lounge of the aforementioned mansion. The owner couldn’t decide which of countless shades of cream she preferred so we spent days painting and repainting the mouldings.
One hot afternoon, a dapper old gentleman climbed in the window and, unaware of us on our ladders, scuttled over to the grand piano. Throwing back the dust sheet, he launched into a joyful concerto. Suddenly aware of his audience, he explained that he often did this when the owners were out, and smiling mischievously he left whence he came.
Someone famous lives in the house today. I imagine that anyone nipping in for an illicit tinkle on the ivories would be seized by several slavering Dobermans and rapidly carted off to the nick, that is if he got past the batteries of high-tech surveillance cameras that probably lurk in the topiary.