The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock puts paid to a romantic evening when she turns up with her carpenter
Can there be anything more embarrassing than gate-crashing a couple's romantic night in? Yes, there can. Accidentally barging in on your tenant's Valentine's Day celebration and almost causing the happy couple to split up in the process, that's what.

I know this because that's what I did when I arranged to meet a carpenter at my rental flat at 7pm on February 14 to get a quote to replace a cupboard which had been knocked to pieces when I'd replaced the boiler weeks ago.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I didn't spot anything significant about the date when I made the appointment. I say not surprisingly because I've been with my partner for many years, we have two children and three mortgages - you get the picture.

Of course I texted and emailed the tenant to let him know I was popping over that night and heard nothing so I assumed it was okay to go round. It was only when he opened the door and seemed, well, a little twitchy, that the penny started to drop.

'I think if I'd tried to haggle the girlfriend would have throttled me'



The carpenter was late, damn him, and while the tenant and I made uncomfortable small talk in the kitchen I was aware that someone was lurking behind the bedroom door. A woman, sighing, quite loudly.

After the longest five minutes she appeared and fixed me with an icy stare. I apologised for spoiling her evening. "Not a problem," she snarled, before telling me she had been planning "to do something special for him for Valentine's Day". Oh.

I glanced around the kitchen and there was no sign of a meal being prepared. She had just come out of the bedroom, so I guessed she'd had more than a romantic dinner in mind.

"Threesome?" I was tempted to joke, but instead I offered to wait outside, like that would have helped."It's fine," she snarled, again, and the pair of them canoodled while I stood cringing, but as time ticked on, and still the carpenter didn't come, they began to bicker. My tenant accused his lady of being stroppy. She wanted to know why he hadn't taken her out for dinner. "There's still time," I suggested, praying they'd go. They didn't.

When the carpenter finally rang the bell we all jumped to the door, barging each other out of the way. I hurried him in and hurried him out again.When he told me his price I knew it was too high, but I think if I'd tried to haggle, the girlfriend would have throttled me. I would have paid twice as much just to get out of there.

We arranged a date for him to come back to do the job and the girlfriend offered to let him in and supervise. "Really?" I said. "I can easily come myself." Her reply was firm: "NO." I thought we'd bonded for a moment but she didn't want me back and who could blame her? Back at home my son was waiting for me to help him with his trumpet practice. I tried to listen while emailing the carpenter confirmation of our appointment. "Mummy, you're not really listening," he shouted and stomped off.

My daughter wanted me to check her RS homework. I've no idea what RS is but I pretended to read it while transferring a deposit to the carpenter's bank account. "Mum you're not reading, you're working," she screamed and snatched her book away.

"Hey," I asked my partner as I slumped exhausted on to the sofa."When was the last time we did something for Valentine's Day?" Our daughter flopped between us and then I remembered 1999.

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