They're everywhere. And they bring a degree of encroaching chaos that leaves even me, the mega-untidy one, defeated - utterly, abjectly defeated.
The Lovely Son is working on about ten things at once - sawing, routing, filling, sanding, painting, fitting in one task while another dries, and sorting out other niggling problems for me, like my printer/scanner that had steadfastly refused to scan, while carrying with him rich deposits of dust that remain on my desk when he moves elsewhere. See?
The mess is overwhelming. I have reared a Mess Monster. If he was your handyman, you would be moving into the shed while he worked; I can't, because he is putting sensible shelves in the shed, and to get to it I would have to climb over the contents of the boiler cupboard, because he's putting sensible shelves in there too. Up till now, I had shelves that tipped over sideways if too much weight was put on one end, and sent all the boxes of screws, nails and assorted, hoarded tat to the floor, where there were more ill-organised heaps of things that couldn't be parted with.
He sends me texts if I go out: "Be prepared to sort cupboard contents when you come back." This means he has just piled mountains of stuff higgledy-piggledy on the back kitchen worktop that doubles as the cats' feeding station, thus causing feline consternation at the abrupt loss of elevenses, twelveses, afternoon snacks.
The house is perishing cold. The heating is on, but the back door is wide open, because he's cutting and sanding out in the yard, and forgets that the rest of us aren't dressed for outdoor temperatures. If I flee upstairs, I have to avoid the mess from the handrails that are being sanded back to their beautiful un-paint-splattered mahogany. In the small attic, the little door to the eaves, so shrunken with age that a strong draught can blow it open, has been replaced, so that the layers of itch-inducing loft insulation are safe from marauding cats who so love an unsupervised dark corner.
Scattered everywhere else are his personal belongings, phone (with its unsettling ding-dong! doorbell sound that indicates the arrival of another text, not a visitor), books, shoes, cups, lists, pencils, and much more. The words "Where's my...." are uttered so often that I no longer hear them, let alone respond.
The two little scaredy-cats are in hiding, because the Lovely Son is large and unfamiliar, and only safe to approach, they think, if he's sitting down quietly eating a meal, in which case he becomes fair game for professional scrounging. The dog is delighted to have him home, although the noise gets to her too, and she has to cling to me when the sanding is going on. And the LS looks a bit alarming even to me in his high-spec dust mask, practising his Darth Vader breathing technique.
Millie the fearless one sleeps, unperturbed. What she doesn't know is that she is having a special little door made for her that will close neatly and securely over the cat flap so that she can no longer break out by sliding the lock across and following me whenever I go out. This is a more reliable option than buying a more secure cat flap, because I believe Millie would learn to open or barge any cat flap, but might struggle to unlatch and open a hinged door first.
But I may be wrong there, of course. I'd swear that she is quite capable of overcoming a lack of opposable thumbs in pursuit of thrilling walks with the dog and me. But I hope the double door idea works. The prospect of being able to walk all the way into town without casting anxious glances over my shoulder is a comforting one.
Today is dust. Tomorrow is smells; paint and varnish. I stand warned. Of course, despite moaning and feeling overwhelmed, I am deeply grateful to have so much sustained help, messy, smelly and noisy though it may be. He's not called the Lovely Son for nothing.
When it's all over, I will have a long and venerable to-do list filled at last with gratifying crossings-out. Wally the painter arrives in late April, and my aim is to have all the other major jobs completed by then. And why?
Because after the sitting room has been painted and the ancient stair carpet replaced, this old house is - dare I say it here? with so many witnesses? - I'll whisper it:
going on the market.