Suddenly, after 28 weeks and 3 days the building work on my house is done. Yesterday there were 4 builders sorting the tarmac driveway, two electricians finishing the outside lights, a tiler and a carpenter. Today, they have all but departed. Even the blue portaloo went. My house isn't complete… but to all intents and purposes there remains only finishing off and snagging, to be done by one remaining builder. (He must have done something very bad to be left behind!).
The builders have worked 8 – 4.30, 6 days a week for 26 weeks (they had 2 weeks off at Christmas but even came in then- I rashly promised them Christmas dinner if my kitchen was in). There have been between 2 and 18 people on site for the entire process. Typically there have been around 10 people here daily… and me.
For 28 weeks my daily contact has been the builders. And now they are done. They have started an extension round the corner. Quite by accident I took a wrong turn yesterday and saw their vans parked out side the new building project. I think I felt envy. This is typical of someone who has been in an abusive relationship. They miss it when it’s over.
In fact I think I need therapy. I have Stockholm syndrome! The term comes from a bank robbery (would you believe it was in Stockholm?!!!) where the bank robber held four employees captive for 131 hours. Upon release the hostages felt a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor. It is also known as Survival Identification Syndrome. It is a psychological phenomenon where the hostages have empathy and feelings towards their captor. Having lived in Sweden I can understand this as no one speaks to each other. It must have been such an enjoyable novelty to spend so much time with a complete stranger!
The factors contributing to Stockholm Syndrome are:
- The crisis lasts for several days or longer
- The hostage takers remains in contact with the hostage
- The hostage takers show some kindness towards the hostage or do not harm them
- There is perceived inability to escape the situation
I spent approximately 1428 hours with the builders. I think I qualify on the time front. I couldn’t escape them for fear of deviation from the plans if I left them to their own devices. And they had shit loads to do so they had to put in the hours. I was a prisoner in my own home… which they demolished and rebuilt around me. I was in constant contact with them. I was asked approximately 100 questions a day ranging from incomprehensible ones like ‘Which way would you like your soffits’ (I have found that lengthways is best) to “Can I borrow your Fairy’ (for an extra tight fit). If I had a minute for every time I was asked if I had a minute, I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers!
I have been in crisis for most of the 1428 hours. It’s had an impact. I feel anxious when I leave the house, mostly incase a wall has been built in the wrong place or a wrong wall knocked down in my absence. I also feel anxious that the dog will bite one of the builders while I’m out. To try and make friends with him, they have fed him so much pork pie that he had internal bleeding and had to go to the emergency vets. He loves the regulars! He too has Stockholm syndrome.
People in stressful situations who develop Stockholm Syndrome do anything to survive. I made around 40 cups of coffee for my captors every day. I made them breakfast butties on a Friday and a full English on a Saturday. I wore baggy jeans without a belt on so I showed my arse crack every time I bent down… just to fit in. I walked around all day with a pencil behind my ear, holding a paintbrush and eating pork pie (that the dog left). I may even have internal bleeding. I couldn’t drink builders’ tea though. I like milky weak stuff, but even that has got darker, like my spirit. I did draw the line at scratching my bollocks in sweat pants reminiscent of Rocky Balboa in his finest hour. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?
My captors were nice to me on occasion. Once I threw a wobbly and they bought me 2 litres bottle of coke because I couldn’t find my can of coke and cried… a lot. I didn’t cry because of the lost coke. I cried because I was being held hostage on a building site and was having a breakdown… but it was a kind gesture. Hurrying up, not standing around drinking 40 cups of coffee, and finishing the job and fucking off quickly might have had a better psychological impact on my mental health but I appreciated the coke at the time. I think we were about 12 weeks into the build at that point. I certainly didn’t feel able to escape the situation at any point.
I shall end up like Patty Hurst, the Californian newspaper heiress who was kidnapped by revolutionary militants in 1974. She joined them in a robbery. I’ll be hanging around building sites pretending to be a sub-contractor. I know all the terminology. I can talk flanges and ring mains and spirit levels and I reckon I could do a better job than the tiler who walked off site half way though the tiling yesterday because he had to cut too many tiles to maintain the twisted wonky pattern he had created. Luckily my builder will step in to finish the job. He will have to even stay longer now!!!
I don’t feel ready to let them go. They do have some finishing off to do and I’ve a feeling the snag list will keep them busy for quite a while… not because they’ve lot lots to correct but because I will be very demanding on the final finish of the house. My excuse? Stockholm syndrome!