the house that we built – chapter one


It’s been about five months since I’ve been here effectively and I am happy to report that I have not killed a single artisan or manual labourer.

Yet.

Actually, it’s been more like two years that this has been going on, and in that time the only casualty that I can report has been my confidence in the Ugandan labourer. This goes for many of the fellows in between my misguided former askari-turned-handyman (mentioned in an earlier blog involving an early morn boda-boda accident) and a fellow called Ronald Kasozi who is currently holding up my usage of the spanking new dining room table.

Speaking of Kasozi, I strongly recommend the use of the furniture that this guy makes. It is fantastic! This is the humble fellow who made the tables and chairs at Endiro Coffee, so ask no questions about his proficiency.

I am sure that, like me, you also have a strong dislike for those dining room chairs that are lined up in places like Nsambya, all sticky and disgusting to the touch like they’ve been varnished with a mixture of superglue, honey and some loose strands of hair from a waitress in Kalerwe (I don’t eat there, but just imagine…!). We spent weeks upon weeks going round looking for dining room chairs to go with the beautiful table we’d bought from our Wood Guy, Alan Jamani (you will certainly hear more about him later).

It was only after I’d been to Endiro for my fiftieth time that it struck me that I should get the same damn chairs they had.

I considered it too rude to suggest to them that they sell me six of the chairs, so I asked if they’d mind sharing the carpenter’s contact with me.

“No problem,” Gloria said, scrawling the number down on a post-it.

Long story short, Ronald Kasozi readily made himself available and we made our way to the house so he could assess the task.

I’ve worked out over the years that the best way to get these artisans to meet your expectations is by showing them the standards you stick to and challenging them to measure up.

That’s the best way – but it doesn’t always work, as the story of plumber Simon Matheka will illustrate later on.

So after a tour designed to set my expectations, I pressed Ushs200,000 into Ronald Kasozi’s hands and sent him on his way, while he deposited, in return, fervent promises of delivery within seven or eight days.

Foolishly optimistic, I told the family we would be sitting down together to dinner within three weeks – building in inefficiency buffers within reasonable measure.

I can’t explain why I did that.

The last fifteen years or so of my life have been spent in learning how to manage expectations, and if I had been thinking right that evening I would have declared that we would be sitting down together to dinner within seventy to eighty days.

Ten days later, Ronald Kasozi wasn’t ready, and he politely informed me so when I called him in mild irritation since I had guests coming over for the afternoon and would have been pleased to sit down at table with them.

“Give me until Tuesday,” he said.

Naturally, that day being a Saturday, I thought he meant the Tuesday coming, and called him on the Wednesday morning only to discover that he actually had meant Saturday.

When I called him on the Sunday morning, he said again, “Early this week, sir.”

We have danced this bakisimba for two and a half months and tomorrow, the

Dancing like crazy - here, there, everywhere...

last day he promises that for sure he will have the chairs ready, I will be driving over to his workshop in Bweyogerere, somewhere opposite the Total petrol station.

I will be heading there to conduct some preventive murder measures.

My calculation is that rather than sit back and wait for him to fail to deliver on Friday evening, then thrust myself into a murderous rage, I will camp out at his workshop and supervise his completion of the six chairs so that I don’t have to kill him.

Oh, by the way, last week I bought six dining room chairs from Game.

Made in China.