Muriel: Hello. Is that you, Harold?
Harold: Of course it is.
Muriel: I just wanted to know.
Harold: You phone me at this time every day, Muriel. Anyway, what’s new?
Muriel: I had a visitor this morning and I need your advice about what he said.
Harold: Fire away.
Muriel: Well, he offered to do a lot of work on my house at no cost to me.
Harold: Sounds too good to be true, Muriel. What does he want to do?
Muriel: He says he’d start with cavity wall double glazing.
Harold: What? I’ve never heard of anybody putting double glazing into a wall cavity.
Muriel: He claims it’s a new system that works by injecting glass and PVC into the wall then, as he put it, reconfiguring the mix in situ.
Harold: Astonishing. What else does he have in mind?
Muriel: He suggested coating my windows with expanded polystyrene.
Harold: Muriel, if he does that, you won’t be able to see anything outside.
Muriel: I can’t see much now. I’m almost eighty-four and my eyes have been failing for years.
Harold: I don’t believe this. Is that all?
Muriel: No. He wants to insulate my loft.
Harold: I hardly dare ask this, but how?
Muriel: He intends to put a six-inch layer of concrete on top of the joists.
Harold: But that will come . . . oh, never mind. Tell me that’s the lot.
Muriel: No. There’s one more point. He wants to supply me with solar panels.
Harold: They won’t do you much good. You live in an inside back-to-back row house and the only bit of roof you have faces north. There’s very little sense in having solar panels up there.
Muriel: Oh, he doesn’t want to put them on the roof. He says the best place is my cellar.
Harold: And did he explain how the Sun is going to shine down there?
Muriel: I’m leaving that to him. He seems quite sure he can do what he has in mind.
Harold: So, to sum it up, he proposes to inject double glazing into your cavity wall, cover your windows with expanded polystyrene, lay six inches of concrete on top of your wooden loft joists and fit solar panels in your cellar. Have I got everything right?
Harold: And there’s no charge for this work?
Muriel: No. He says it’s done through government subsidies. All he wants from me is five hundred pounds for the survey, which he’ll do this evening if I want to go ahead. There’s just one small thing. He says he’s in the process of changing his banking affairs, so it would simplify matters for him if I’d pay in cash before he leaves, about ten o’clock tonight.
Harold: Do you have five hundred pounds in the house?
Muriel: Yes. Now, would you say I should let this man do the work?
Harold: Muriel, you already have secondary double glazing, which is old but good enough, so reject the idea of having your windows coated. Now, as a retired builder I can tell you that it took many years for the industry to perfect cavity walls, so I don’t see why anyone would want to have them filled. Therefore, say no to that one. As for the proposed loft job, six inches of concrete would fall straight through your bedroom ceiling and probably the living room one as well. You’d most likely be squashed as flat as a pancake, so I’d refuse that too. And I’ve already covered the solar panel thing.
Muriel: So you’re saying I shouldn’t have any of these things done?
Harold: I am.
Muriel: All right. I’ll take your advice. I suppose he’ll be disappointed, and he seems such a charming young man and so confident.
Harold: When you say charming, I think you mean ingratiating, although I’d rather think of him as smarmy. And as for his being confident, the word itself gives you a clue. He’s a confidence trickster, Muriel. As for the five hundred pounds, I think you should lock it up somewhere safe – before this chap gets back.
Muriel: I’ll do that. Thank you, Harold. I’ll call you again tomorrow.
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