As we begin to make ourselves at home it feels apparent that a milestone has been reached…and with it comes the feeling, long overdue, of actually wanting to return to this house at the end of a given day. There’s only so much sympathy one can expect for a project which feels both indulgent and self inflicted so I’m consciously aware of how I must have sounded as I bemoaned the difficulties. However everything….this week feels different….though I don’t promise not to moan again….
Its a work in progress, you understand. The pitfalls of the knock-on nature of project management mean that our shelving cannot be installed until the worktop is in (an MDF one currently understudies) ….and the tiling cannot be done until the shelf is in …..and the worktop won’t be in until the end of the month ….and thats without the finishing touches….sofa wall colour, healthy houseplants, kitchen handles…. The effort of trying to stay a step ahead has often tripped me up but the beauty now of inhabiting our new space, however minimally, is that it feels like once tripped we don’t have quite so far to fall.
Indeed, in the some might say belated employment of project management tactics – by which I refer to last weeks deadline setting (with credit due to S in driving it) …..success was achieved. Encouraged, I beckoned C to our MDF topped island to review The List.
“I thought perhaps you could aim to get this, this, this and this done within the next two weeks” I said, pointing at each task in turn. I looked up at him expectantly.
“Yeah” he turned away to contemplate the somewhat uninteresting job of creating an access hatch in some boxing concealing our boiler flue.
“I can’t seem to find my list” he mumbled as he rummaged for tools.
“I’ve re-written it” I said again, “and divided it into weeks. Maybe you could tell me if you think its realistic?”
“Well’ the doors will take….” and something distracted him, subject forgotten. I pressed the point later as he sought refuge on the patio with a cigarette and again as I applied hardwax to the larder door. Recognition that I was again setting a deadline began, slowly, to be acknowledged with visible displeasure. His weekly wages, coffees on tap and space to spread out were about to be curtailed…..his Peppa Pig World holiday forming the perfect cut off point for all odd-jobbing with the serious tiling (splashback and hallway) and finishing of the kitchen (shelving, handles, plumbing etc) conducted in a short, sharp Phase Two in early May.
Business thus concluded, conversation turned, inexplicably, to the genetics which have contributed to the physical make-up of each of our children….O being we think fairly slim and small (contrary to his appetite…that last part most definitely inherited from me) and C’s little girl being apparently tall for her age.
“She has the luck” C said as he strode across the room, chisel in hand “of having my wife’s legs and my body”
Larder finished, I packed up my tools and relocated to the Worlds Smallest WC to begin applying the sea blue paint matched to the underwater mural bought for one wall. C followed, moving to the adjoining understairs cupboard, as the conversation remained unbroken. A pause for breath offered me an opportunity to gain some much needed respite.
“There appears to be no Absolute Eighties today?” I prompted.
“Nope, not today. I fancied a bit of Phil Collins” and returning to his man-cave….our snug….he pressed play on the forgotten cd.
As each track played he took the considerate time to explain the likely stimuli for each of Phils similarly sung songs. Eventually he tired.
“I think we’ll have a bit of Cristina” he announced as I heard the CD whizz to a stop, ejected prematurely from the player, “but you probably won’t recognise her”.
A German voice filled the house.
“I used to live in Germany” he explained “and this came out just as I was leaving. I’ve lost count of how many German words I know now. They say that a newspaper is made up of only 600 words so you dont need very many. I must know about 6000…but to be honest I don’t count.”
Shielded from me by a thin partition and the toilet cistern ….but nonetheless within crisp earshot, he continued in the same vein as I concentrated on masking areas, such as the sink, that I hoped would remain white.
“Do you know how poets write?” his voice jolted back into my consciousness.
“Um….” I stopped still. “… I don’t think…”
“Have you ever seen one?” He continued flatly. “They write alone.”
“Oh” I said, realisation hitting me.
Resolutely he continued, following each line of the song with his monotonely delivered translation.
“…….Do you know how painters paint. ……Have you ever seen one…….. They paint alone……. ”
I dipped my brush into the inky blue.
“Do you know how angels fly….have you ever seen one…”
“My guess is they fly alone” I tried to joke.
“…they fly alone” he said, oblivious. “That’s what’s she is singing.”
And so he continued. Every song. Translating as he worked, as he drank, as he smoked then as he worked again until eventually I could take no more and retreated upstairs to find solace in the dirty task of reorganising our tools into the now vacant old kitchen cupboards.
A few minutes later I heard the CD stop, Absolute Eighties flick back on and the loud grind of his wood cutter flare. Normality resumed.
The beginnings of an understairs cupboard