John Scott Masthead
December 23 2010 at 07:14

The back garden gate of our house in Hermanus finally collapsed, in little pieces.
It led through a wall into a little patch of lawn where we hang up the washing. For a while we propped up a board in the space, to stop the dogs getting out. I'm pretty good at propping up boards, but out of my depth when it comes to hanging a new gate, which my wife insisted was urgently required.

So we phoned a recommended handyman, who quoted us R1 500 for the job - it's quite a big gate - and said he would do it when we were away for a week or two.

When we returned the gate was still in pieces. In fact totally stukkend. Even the board had fallen down.

We phoned the handyman. "No, I've done it," he claimed. "The gate is up."

"Well then, you must have gone to the wrong address and replaced someone else's gate," I said. "As I speak, I can see the hole in the wall where the gate is supposed to be. There's no gate there."

He became so adamant, an idea popped into my head. I went round to the side of the house, where another gate separates the front garden from the back.

I knew it to have a loose slat, but it was still a fully functioning gate. The loose slat was loose no more.

In fact all the slats seemed to have been replaced.

"You replaced the wrong gate," I told him. "There was nothing wrong with that gate. We didn't ask you to fix something that ain't broke."

A day later he brought round an associate who confirmed his partner had indeed made a mistake, and that we were not liable to pay for it. We also agreed that the handyman would have another go at replacing a gate, this time the right one.

But when we phoned him again, he said he was busy and wasn't sure when he could do it. We were in a hurry to have it done before Christmas, so we said not to worry, we would find someone else. He suddenly became very cross. "What about my money?" he demanded.

"We're not paying you for the wrong gate," we said.

"Then I'm going to come and take it," he threatened. We didn't think he was serious, and by luck bumped into an old tennis pal of mine, Shayne, who is a professional handyman.

 He said he would hang a new gate for us at cost, but once again we weren't at the house when he came to Hermanus to do the job. By the time we got in, he had installed a lovely new side gate.

"But that's not the gate we wanted done," we cried, now suffering seriously from déjà vu. "There was already a gate there."

"No, there wasn't," said Shayne. "There was nothing. So I assumed this was where you wanted a new gate."

Ah ha! So the other chap had indeed taken our gate away. And whereas before we had at least one gate, he had left us with none.

Shayne very expertly put the bits and pieces of the collapsed back gate together, rebuilt it and hung it, almost like new. I phoned the other handyman to inform him I intended laying a charge of theft with the police.

"You're welcome," he shouted, and slammed down the phone.

Then I remembered it was Christmas, and that bit in the Bible about avoiding court with "thine adversary".

So we simply chalked it up as one of life's little lessons. We will tell our friends, though, whom to avoid if they want a new garden gate.


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