lifestyle

Comedian Simon Brodkin on his nightmarish renovation experience


The Lee Nelson funnyman had a tough time with cowboy builders (Picture: Blake Ezra/ Getty)

Comedian Simon Brodkin, 43, shot to fame as alter ego Lee Nelson, performing a series of high-profile stunts such as handing Theresa May a P45 at the 2017 Tory Party conference.

He is currently on a UK tour.

He chatted to us about his disastrous year-and-a-half home renovation, involving cowboy builders, cracked tiles and a mysterious steel beam.

What was the first property you bought?

It’s the house I currently live in, in north-west London. We bought it 12 years ago. I’m super fussy, we had a budget and we didn’t know where we wanted to live so we saw lots of places.

I wanted to have good transport links and live in West Hampstead because you have all these different Tube and train lines – but then I realised I didn’t use the Tube much so what was I doing? My wife was pregnant at the time so we wanted somewhere for the kid to live – we were very confused.

Where were you living?

My wife had bought a studio flat in Acton and I was living with her. I’d just finished working as a doctor and had gone into comedy.

She’d become pregnant so we needed to find somewhere – so it was a big leap going from a studio flat to finding somewhere for a family.

What was your criteria?

We wanted somewhere with a bit of green around us but still close enough to London for going out and for going to meetings. We’ve got a nice back garden and a green at the front and it’s still only 20 minutes into London.

Did you make changes?

There were questionable décor decisions but overall it was pretty nice. I had leapfrogged the first house experience as my wife had already bought the studio in Acton which was the tiny ‘having a bath in the kitchen’ experience.

It was originally three bedrooms but the third bedroom was a small box room. We wanted to extend the third bedroom and I wanted somewhere to work so we converted the loft into a study, where I work now, and extended the kitchen.

You couldn’t have got a more clichéd experience with a builder. I’ve learnt if you ever want to screw someone over set yourself up as a builder with a limited company and the second you finish the job, no matter how shoddy, declare yourself bankrupt. Then you’re untouchable.

What happened?

They had to move the chimney breast which ran through the centre of the house to extend the bedroom and convert the loft.

On the first day the builder couldn’t work out what he was supposed to do as he was holding the plans upside down – but we went with him as the architect really recommended him.

He said it was going to take four months but it took a year-and-a-half. We moved in with my parents.

What went wrong?

There was an issue with everything – he had five builders in the house and always had someone else to blame. But there was nothing I could do. You can scream and shout but they’ll go at the pace they want to go at.

And they were by themselves all day every day so who knows what they’re up to? It turned out very little.

The ceiling in the loft leaked for a long time afterwards until someone else fixed it. And all the tiles in the kitchen and hall have cracked because they didn’t put anything underneath it – they just put them straight onto the floorboards.

I know nothing about what they were doing – so they could have told me anything. It took ages and they’ve left us with problems. We just ask people not to look down when they come round.

We had a scare when a different builder came round to fix the ceiling and said, ‘I don’t think they put a steel beam in here so your entire house could collapse.’ It turned out they had but they’d just painted it a weird colour.

Do you have any career memorabilia on display?

No, you want to get home and not think about work. If I had my ‘greatest
hits’ all up the stairs I’d feel a bit of a wally when visitors came round.

My manager framed the front pages of all the newspapers when I did the Theresa May and Sepp Blatter stunts but I haven’t put them up. I don’t have many pictures of my own kids up so it would be very weird if I was putting up old tour posters everywhere.

Simon takes his Troublemaker tour to Dixon Studio at the Palace Theatre in Southend tomorrow and Thursday, and touring, simonbrodkin.com

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