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Saltburn By The Sea

The entrance to my home is through a poky little kitchen. It was always a poor first impression of what is a charming 18th century fisherman's cottage. The floor was the worst aspect. It had been my intention for years to have terracotta quarry tiles, but suddenly in my mind's eye I 'saw' black and white chessboard ceramic tiles and decided that was what I wanted. I applied to My Builder and shortly after, Mike Gibson appeared. I liked him immediately and felt that I'd known him for years. It was a promising start. He gently pointed out the problems of laying 10 sq cm ceramic tiles on this old, uneven concrete floor, but at the same time only communicated enthusiasm for the project (which, I should add, never wavered throughout all the problems he subsequently encountered). He took me step by step through what the job would entail, gave me a very reasonable price, and agreed to start straightaway. I couldn't find what I wanted in the large sample catalogues he left with me, but when I did find what I wanted on-line, he followed the link I sent him and was as excited as I was about what I had chosen. Then followed a chain of problems that a lesser man would have given up on. Needless to say, Mike kept going.

Staithes, the village I live in, makes life difficult for anyone connected with it, especially builders. There is no parking anywhere, let alone near my house, so Mike had to carry all of his equipment down from outside the village, making many journeys, each one necessitating a walk back up a 1:4 hill. He mapped out the floor, from which we could both immediately see that the finished article was going to look fabulous. Then he poured on to the damp and ancient floor something called a leveller. Staithes Lesson No 2 : my house is built into the cliff and of materials garnered locally. The leveller which should have taken 2-3 hours to dry took 3 days with fan heater on constantly. Mike came every day to check the state of the floor, and I was both impressed and gratified by his very high professional standards and his cheerful and philosophical attitude, and could see that there was no way he was going to turn in a shoddy job. At last, he pronounced the floor dry enough to start tiling. But another problem had appeared. He had just retired from the army and was now doing the job he wanted to do, but his wife, panicking over him being self-employed, had pushed him to apply for a job in a gas company. Mike being Mike, he got the job and was to start the following Monday. And, Mike being Mike, when a couple of new employees were selected to do a full-time college course, miles away in Sunderland, he was one of them. But he didn't panic, not for a moment, and urged me to have the same attitude. He would finish my floor evenings and weekends, and that's what he did. Superbly. The nature of the room, the awkward corners and strange angles, looked impossible to me, but he had all the necessary hi tech instruments and every aspect of the job was absolute perfection. Rushing everywhere, having to be in several places at once, having a young family, and being challenged in many ways, it wasn't surprising that he went down with a couple of nasty bugs one after another, but as far as I could see, this didn't deter him in any way. He did so much more than the job required. I had two fridges, one old and surplus to requirements. No problem, said Mike. And he took it away at no extra charge. He borrowed his father-in law's van, and I can see him now, striding away with my massive old fridge on his back. Mike Gibson - super-tiler - superman! Above all, it was his spirit that I appreciated most. He was always the most cheerful, optimistic presence. I can honestly say that I wasn't looking forward to him finishing the job. I knew I'd miss him, and how many builders can you say that about? The job has turned out to be so much harder, to take so much more time, than he'd reasonably expected, but he kept to his promise - not to go over his original estimate.

Now, everyone who visits me is bowled over by the transformation of my kitchen. After exclaiming over the effect of the black and white chessboard, they then look more closely. It's VERY well done, they say. Who did it? I answer with his name and location, then add, with a smile: it's a bit of a long story ...... Mike's wife Emma ( and no, we're not friends, had never met), told him that if he still feels the same about tiling six months into the gas company job, she'll agree to him returning to it. I understand that he has been inundated with requests from potential customers. I'm hoping that if we win this competition, Emma will be persuaded to keep her word. And I will feel that I have repaid the most excellent builder I have ever met


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Homeowner Maggie Bede

Tradesman
Michael Gibson
M.G. Tiling

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