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Landlady: A hole in one ...

Many years ago I asked friends to stop buying Christmas presents for me, as I already had way too much stuff. Lovely though they are, bits of bling and scented candles are not much use if they're simply piling up in my bathroom. Instead of returning the favour, I decided to spend the equivalent amount of money on less fortunate friends struggling away in Cuba or Africa.
Now that my 50th birthday is approaching – at an alarming rate of knots – I am at a loss as to what to say when the inevitable question of what gift I would like arises. Increasingly, I'm thinking of going for a practical approach.

In the same vein, my good friend and neighbour in Turkey has already given me an invaluable gift: a 6cm square hole. I think I need to elaborate further, just in case you think I've lost the plot ...

Last week, I installed air conditioning at my house, because it is hot enough to roast a leg of lamb in the bedroom during summer. Aircon man arrived and declared the wall directly above my bed to be the perfect location for said machine. This was far from the case, but when I said I wanted it on the opposite wall, for practical rather than ornery reasons, Aircon man came out with several flimsy excuses. My dark past as a plumber means I'm well-versed in the reasons why things ‘can't’ go where the customer wants them, the main reason being that it will be a right royal pain in the arse to put them there.

Fortunately, my lovely neighbour – who wishes to protect his identity with the name 'Hilti Man' – had said that he would happily knock a hole in my wall in order to put my 'time bomb' gas bottle outside. A date was set and, magically, Aircon man was suddenly able to install the machine on the wall of my choice. Funny, that.

Hilti Man arrived at 8am the following morning (he likes an early start and I dared not demur) and by 9.30am a large hole was made in my two foot thick solid stone wall. The following day, the Aircon was installed within half an hour thanks to the efforts of Hilti Man, who then came and filled the hole with great skill, with an extensive audience of stray cats and dogs who were probably hoping that food might issue from the hole.

So, if you were wondering, I'd like something practical for my birthday. And I've already got the hole ...