Don't some men react oddly to builders? Rosemary's late husband wouldn't even let them in. She'd book them, go off to work, they'd turn up, then husband would pretend they weren't expected, slam the door in their faces, and return to his Adana printing press. My ex-partner would boss them about until they realised that he knew better than they did, and now Fielding is scuttling off to the library the minute they turn up to install a new kitchen, moaning that the noise and dust is too much.
He's reporting the horror of it all, when Mrs Fielding snatches the phone to tell me what a ghastly fusspot he is, and that not only are there two perfectly tranquil and empty rooms that he could use, but in her whole life she has never come across such polite, charming, punctual, unobtrusive and tidy builders.
It is perhaps hard for Fielding, an elderly middle-class weed and sensitive scribe, who can't replace washers or tyres, and wouldn't dare plug in a Black and Decker, to cope with a houseful of strapping, handsome young fellows breezily replacing a whole kitchen. No wonder he scarpered. "I'm no good at the tribal sub-gorilla," says he poignantly. "I can't fight and shout, but I did get sent off once in a rugby match for bad behaviour." One proud moment as a proper chap.
I thought we'd improved, but Fielding doesn't. To him, things are going butch again. Now it's all short hair and suits, and we still clearly need last weekend's Being a Man festival, where various fellows opened their hearts in public and dared to say that real men can be anxious, dither, weep, cuddle babies and small animals, wear frocks and multi-task. If only the world had taken less notice of Freud and more of the very sensible Ian Suttie, who wrote The Origins of Love and Hate 80 years ago, and found it "incredible that so harmless and amiable an emotion as tenderness … should [be] … taboo" for men. Make it compulsory GCSE reading, until builders, scribes, boxers, artists and weeds all know that they're real men.