Every room in this house seems to have a different smell, none of which are pleasant. As I come home from a lovely evening with a friend I’m struck by the fragrance, not just the unappealing aesthetic, of a building site. There’s the dank smell of dust, damp and cold in the hallway, illustrated by the row of dusty coats I forgot to move before the wall came down. The carpets, filthy to begin with are now heavy with brick dust and melted snow, a dust sheet laid dutifully by the builders really doing very little to stop this (though its certainly doing something as the dust sheet is now black). The lounge, the only habitable room on the ground floor, is being neglected and, with its door shut all day, welcomes us of an evening once the heating has kicked back in with the smell of old people and warm mustiness. Upstairs there are whiffs of the eco, non toxic paint stripper which smells headily of astringent liquorice and our bedroom has a particularly horrid smell caused by sanding the green primer-like paint I’ve discovered underneath layers of gloss. The bathroom has always been unpleasant with a sodden carpet and tiles popping away from a blown wall but having the bath panel off and its underbelly exposed does little to greaten its appeal. I would gladly burn every carpet in this house and dance around the bonfire chanting ‘be gone!’ if I didn’t think the fumes would be toxic.
Speaking of which, I was busily giving the non toxic stripper another go on my stair post this morning when I caught the attention of one of the builders. He stopped, bucket of rubble wedged on his shoulder, en route to the skip.
“What are you using?” he asked.
I hesitated before replying. “It’s a non toxic stripper. Seems to be quite good though.”
He looked dubious. “On another job we used this stuff that was amazing” he said, “you know, some strippers strip the paint off and others, like, tear it off? This was really good”.
“It was non toxic too” he adds.
“Oh, I’d be really interested to know the name of that” I said.
“Don’t know the name” he replied, resuming his journey outside. He called back. “It came in a blue pot and you can buy it on the Internet”.
I plough on.
The posts are looking a bit like caramelised praline at the moment, the brown nut of wood coated in a crispy, glossy varnish. I tried to sand them back using an electric sander but I’ve yet to find a job those things are actually good for. . I’d have had more effect if I tickled the wood with my rubber gloves. I switched to a a cork block wrapped in the coarsest paper I could find and started to make some headway but its tough on the arms. “A good work out” my friend assured me and with her words ringing in my ears I’ll resume again tomorrow.. . though I may also take her advice and treat myself to a blowtorch to finish the doors.
More significant progress took place downstairs with the wall, or most of it, coming out today. The bits that remain are holding upstairs up and I feel slightly queasy at the thought that I am, right now, being held up by a few metal poles. The steel will go in tomorrow so I assume the rest will come down and we will be able to get a sense, finally, of the space which will become our new family room. S and I have both talked frequently about our inability to be able to visualise quite how big or small it will be. I have spent so long looking at a plan that I’ve lost all sense of reality and with the kitchen company’s plans arriving today I can’t wait to be able to tape it all out on the floor to make absolutely certain we have judged it right.
The other momentous occurrence today was the arrival of the kettle. S is in charge of purchasing all things technological which is both good and bad. Good because its something I don’t have to bother myself with and bad in that it renders most things inoperable by me. S took some time proudly explaining the virtues of this particular kettle… it has different temperatures in addition to the unique feature of a ‘keep warm’ button. Good for hot water bottles I imagine but I’m yet to think of a reason that it might come in useful for a kettle. I needn’t worry, I won’t remember where the button is. The thing is, while looking fairly stylish (my only real criteria) it adds to the cacophony of beeps that already occur in the house. The dishwasher, which has an inexplicable integral blue light so it’s more of a discowasher really, beeps every time you shut the door. The washing machine which has the handy feature of being able to be preloaded with up to 20 ‘servings’ of washing powder (handy not just as it saves time, but rather like the car needing petrol, the job of refilling automatically goes to S) beeps every time a wash finishes. And the tumble dryer, no strange features that I know of but that’s just because I don’t know of them, beeps relentlessly and I mean relentlessly until you go in and yell at it, open the door, twist the dial or a combination of all three. All of which I suppose are trying to tell us something important, like “wash complete!”.
Our new kettle, however, beeps when you turn it on.
“I have to find out how to turn that off” S says, picking up the manual and flicking through it before flinging it on the table and trying all the buttons on the base plate. “I mean, what is it trying to tell us? It’s boiling! Coffee coming!”
Sounds a bit like me I think, washing up the four sugar encrusted builders mugs.