My cousin Z described this period as being the ‘storm before the calm’, and today that storm toppled me ungraciously from my boat.
The house is being stripped, as of course it needs to be, back to its bare bones and meanwhile there is little part of it remaining comfortable or welcoming. The new extension area which yesterday we thought we were reclaiming as our own has now had a tangled mess of tools and rubbish dumped in it making it feel, once again, like a foreign, estranged space. The walls throughout the house are a tattered mess, having been subjected for so long to the abrasive combination of steam and scraper. Every floor is dusty and dirty and most, including the staircase, are studded with nails, splinters and carpet gripstrips. The bathroom is degenerating rapidly into a hostile environment with the sink now out of action and a February draft from the old waste pipe hole billowing around your bottom as you sit on the pink ceramic throne. Thick layers of dust cover every lotion and potion, curbing any enthusiasm on my part to embark on grooming of any sort. The builders may now be accustomed to seeing me with no make up and unwashed hair, but depressingly this is regularly how I am presenting myself to the rest of the world.
In short (or long… as I’ve moaned like this before and no doubt will do so again) our entire house has been turned over to the tradesmen whilst we squeeze our lives into the little gaps remaining. Today, not yesterday and maybe not tomorrow but today I couldn’t cope with it all. Not even word from the worktop guy saying he would accept our offer could lift my spirits and, tears falling inexplicably from my eyes, I took the decision to mentally shut down shop. Passing the baton to S to finalise arrangements for both the worktop and carpenter, I left the builders to run, busy as ants, all over the house doing whatever they needed to do in order to move us from this chaotic and disruptive place to normality.
It may have been a wobbly day for me but for the builders it was business as usual and they cracked on oblivious to my emotional state. Our labourer set himself up on the landing, a scaffold of ladders arranged so he could reach the high bit above the stairs ( I’m trying not to think about how we will later paint it). Downstairs the boarding had been taken off the hole in the back of the house so work could continue on the patio area and the plasterer momentarily packed away his stilts and turned his attention instead to screeding the floor in what used to be the side return.
O, thankfully, was also seemingly unaware of my fragility. Resilient as babies are, I’m saddened to think he has had fragile moments of his own whilst day by day, week by week the safe haven of what he knew to be home has disintegrated around him. This has manifested itself in tears for the last six weeks whenever he has been dropped off at nursery ….but today was different. Trotting straight past his favourite teacher from the baby room without a backward glance, he pressed his face up to the door of his new room filled with toys, toast and his little friends. Door opened, he headed unblinkingly past both the toast and teachers and mounted the slide. With a goodbye kiss I left, dreaming of the day we can throw open our new doors and let him and his friends run out to the garden in a similar manner. . . onto a slide or trampoline, to his little planting patch, to make mud pies or to cause screams from the kitchen, as we did as kids, as we were caught red handed tearing the petals off my mums precious flowers to make rancid smelling ‘perfume’.
Later, after a restorative moan with a friend, I headed home with a tired O and a kindhearted Z to finally wash my hair in preparation for a much needed night out. We had tickets to see 8 out of 10 Cats being filmed and I was looking forward to it for a number of reasons. The first being that I am constantly intrigued by behind the scenes stuff and was itching to see the whole thing, outtakes and all. The second being that our weekly sofa date is the only way I can keep up with current affairs ….being too absorbed in the intricacies of my own dusty world to take note of the world at large and the third and most important reason…to spend the evening with my Valentine. Racing against the clock to get cousin Z and O settled in for their night together, we arrived too late and were restricted entry. An evening out together, as every parent knows, is never to be wasted so we took advantage of our babysitting token by ending the day with a meal, glass of wine and an uplifting talk before heading back home.
We’ve weathered worse storms than this and, buoyed by our evening out, I climbed back, hand in hand with S, aboard the boat.