I went down to the flat on Monday evening, to meet up with the builder and electrician. We discussed the cabling that I want, and there were a few complications resulting from this. Firstly, the electrician won't deal with TV (Sky) cables at all. Secondly, he was reluctant to install Cat6, and tried to persuade me to go for Cat5 instead (which I refused to do). Thirdly, he said that it would be difficult to get the sockets flush with the wall (as opposed to having a box mounted on the skirting board that sticks out). I'm keen on having them flush, so that I can put furniture in front of them if I'm not using them.
Aside from the difficulty of installation (which isn't really my problem), the electrician said that having Cat6 and flush sockets would be more expensive. I was pretty relaxed about this, on the basis that I've already had a quote for the whole job (back on 13th April, i.e. 3 months ago), which I accepted. At this point the builder started looking uncomfortable, and said that they hadn't realised how much it was going to cost when they gave me the quote, and so they'd have to increase the cost. He did concede that this might seem a bit unprofessional. No, really? Going way over your deadlines, then saying that you can't do the work you promised (Sky cables), and that you'll charge more than the agreed price - surely nobody could say that this is a dodgy way to do business? The most charitable reaction I can think of is to say that this was a slight misunderstanding about what a quote actually is. The less charitable reaction is to say that they're taking the piss.
Anyway, I told them to work out the new quote, then get back to me, and that I'll sort out the Sky stuff myself. This is liberating in some ways, since if they're abandoning the agreement then that gives me a polite way to say that I'll accept someone else's quote instead, rather than having to fire them (arguably breaking the contract myself).
Today (Tuesday), I went back down to the flat to receive the kitchen appliances. Slight mix-up when the guy arrived earlier than expected, and I wasn't there, but we got it sorted out. And I got some exercise by helping him lug the fridge/freezer etc. up the stairs. Mind you, I think it's a sign of my old age that when I get a "shiny thing" delivered it's a sink rather than a computer game...
After that, I went foot-slogging around Croydon for a bit. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it only gets you so far. E.g. email relies on the other person having a working email account, which has been a problem with some of the traders I've tried to contact. The original idea was that I'd tell the builders what stuff I wanted (e.g. appliances), and they would buy them getting a trade discount. I'm now getting a bit suspicious about what level of mark-up is involved in that process, so I'm buying stuff directly. I found a good deal on the shower I want at a local shop, and I'll go back there for my other bathroom supplies (basin/WC). I may ask them if they can recommend a local plumber, to finish off the stuff in the bathroom.
I also found a TV shop that can install Sky for me next Tuesday (dish outside, and cables inside), so that's good. And I've contacted Stonell (the shop that I'm getting floor tiles from), and they're going to send me a quote for the stone, sealant, etc. and a contact list of recommended fitters. I asked my builder to give me a quote for this stuff in May, so I don't think he can reasonably complain if I solicit quotes elsewhere while I'm waiting.
Coming back to the cabling, I think it makes sense to get an electrician (not necessarily this one) to revamp the power cables for me (e.g. getting an MCB installed, with "pop-out fuses"). I'm not sure whether I'm legally allowed to do it myself, but I'm not entirely confident about my abilities there. I will try to watch the other guy do it, though, for future reference. A similar thing applies to the plumbing, particularly since the toilet is being moved to a different wall; a mistake with the waste sewage pipe could be rather unpleasant. The Cat6, on the other hand, I may well do myself. I'll purchase the cable myself (see above for pricing issues), then take it from there. Although the electrician that I met was saying that he could come in this coming weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun), I want to get a quote first, and that's still pending.
So, the upshot is that things are now starting to move along. Although it's now been 3 weeks since anything changed in the flat, I'm confident that I can get stuff done if I keep grinding away at it. I'll just take it one step at a time.
In other news, I've booked my ticket to the 00:05 showing of "Spider-Man 2" at the local cinema on Thursday (i.e. Wednesday night). Hopefully this should only attract the real fans, so I won't have to put up with kids running around or mobiles ringing etc. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.