I was asked today when I thought we would be ‘finished’…
“Are you halfway there? Third of the way through? Almost there?”
I turned to S for help.
“Definitely more than half.” I said slowly. “Would you say almost? If you don’t count the front or the garden?”
S nodded. Yes, he agreed. Almost.
It depends, I should hasten to add, on how you choose to define ‘finished’. ‘Built and painted’ is how I choose to do so…knowing that the accessorising and furniture (re)arrangement will go on indefinitely …as it should, of course, for a living, breathing home. So with that definition in mind we are really only a few steps away from getting there. However, due in part to the prolonging of this glorious weather (I hearby eat my cynical words of earlier this week), and crazy times for us both at work, those steps are proving hard to make. The bathroom window frame has been stripped and an hour spent on it with sandpaper in hand but that hour, disappointingly considering my ludicrous ambition to complete it during O’s nap, translated into approximately 5cm worth of sanded wood. (Looks promising though….) The spare bedroom walls are still unwelcomingly pocked and stained and the woodwork throughout….skirting, architrave, doors and spindles…remain in desperate need of a close encounter with some of the toughest sandpaper followed by a coat (or more likely several) of paint.
On paper we planned spaces in which to cook together, eat together, play together and read together. We talked hopefully of family gatherings, dinner parties, barbeques and shindigs. Seven months on we have those beautiful spaces..albeit most in a semi-finished state of decoration. The reality, though, is that in the time its taken to bring our vision to life, the skills needed to put those aspirational scenarios into practice have grown rusty. We haven’t yet, despite recently unpacking our recipe books, kicked our newly acquired habit of regular takeaways. Days out with O are done in shifts to give the other uninterrupted time in which to get house jobs done, friends have been neglected and the planned celebratory party has been postponed indefinitely whist we stock up on depleted energy levels….the brain space and organisational skills needed to plan it also being in short supply. Added to that is the fact that every attempt to get us finished seems to result in an even longer list of jobs and another, to the eternal frustration of the Finance Manager, of shopping…..
Take, for instance, the kitchen sofa corner. Sitting down of a weekend serves not to relax but to highlight the fact that the sofa corner doesn’t yet feel right…no matter which side of the kitchen it is positioned (the furniture was rearranged again yesterday and may well be reconfigured tomorrow.) I’m not yet sure if its the sofa itself which doesn’t work (too big? Not big enough? Too blue? Too low?), the presence of the crisply fronded palm which, as the saying goes, can’t stand the heat so must get out of the kitchen, the need of something to tie it altogether (a hugely curving Arco-like lamp? Piles of cushions? A pair of hanging pendants?) or simply the sudden explosion of toys we (are lucky) to find ourselves with following a birthday (the solution to that one being the snug….which is itself a procrastination project of its own) and I find myself unable to sit at all as I belligerently pursue a finish line which appears to run parallel to the eternally elusive horizon. In the evenings, with milk drunk, stories read, cuddles cuddled …my head tells me that to get finished we need to crack on and sometimes I do indeed try….until a more rational S reminds me that in the hierarchy of housewifery a snuggle down with a box set (currently the addictive Breaking Bad) surely outranks sanding spindles.
So, in a rare moment of simultaneous clear thinking, S and I have come to the conclusion that in order to conclude, we need a plan. It’s a two-pronged attack…
1) A holiday. Two weeks in Greece now booked.
2) A man
The man, by the way, will stay here…not come with…and he’s one you and I both met, albeit briefly, on Decorating Day (Week 22 Day Five). Having poached his number from our neighbour, his ‘friendly but exhausting’ painter arrived promptly at six pm this evening to take a look at the work left outstanding.
“Wow, ha ha ha ha” he exclaimed as he strode unprompted through the house into the new extension. “Now what a difference this makes” he turned to look at me with a pair of piercing blue eyes glistening from within the deeply tanned and wrinkled face of a man who has spent his life working outside. “I knew the place before…”
“It was a rabbit warren..” I cut in.
He looked me in the eye meaningfully as he nodded. “It was a rabbit warren.” He paused “but It certainly isn’t now….and those doors…” He gestured towards the hole in the back of our house through which a light breeze was being encouraged by a fan “we are thinking of an extension too and the wife said recently that these folding doors are a waste of money but…..” He said no more, choosing instead to simply spread both his hands and his grin disconcertingly…his level of complimentary enthusiasm making me flashback momentarily to childhood nightmares of The Child Catcher.
O, who had been up until this point sitting quietly with my Nan, Torroding his way through his tea, looked up at him expectantly. Builders, he has come to learn, bring Maltesers.
“Hello trouble” said The Child Catcher.
“Hello” answered my nan.
“Er, I was meaning the boy….ha ha ha…not you ….when I said trouble, I mean.” he hastily clarified, “Though of course, of course I mean hello”.
My Nan smiled back nonplussed. This lady who, shall we say discreetly, had eight candles on her birthday cake today….(and we were rounding down)….once sent me a photo from a lone trip to Hawaii in which she stood, a brightly coloured parrot on each shoulder, flanked by two oiled and Speedo’ed hunks. In Vegas she ordered a Piña Colada so big she had to stand up to reach the straw. She once told me with a wink that she’d booked herself and her beau into a hotel under the name of Mr and Mrs Smith and her marriage to said beau three years later took place with her sporting an elegant white trouser suit on a beach in Barbados. So I think its fair to say that where my Nan is concerned trouble, albeit mischievous, often abounds….
Unaware of his accuracy The Child Catcher followed like a chuckling shadow as I circumnavigated the house, talking through each aspect of the work still outstanding.
“All the skirtings, the architrave, these doors….”
“Yes, the spindles….not the posts or banisters though…”
“You did these did you?” I nodded as he caressed a banister post. “Good job on those. Good job….”
“Don’t…whatever you do….paint them will you?” I begged nervously,
“Not even a quick undercoat? Ha ha ha”
Entering the bathroom I pointed to the window frame.
“I’ve started this but not had time to finish. I’d like this sanded right back….then I’ll oil it.”
“Not painted that one?”
“No, no…not painted.”
“And this…” He tapped at a log perfectly suited to its new role as a wine glass perch. “Painted? Ha ha ha”
“That was carted up the hill from Crystal Palace Park by my brother in law.” I explained. Its come with me everywhere since…..”
“Ha ha ha. ” came his simple reply.
He left with a promise to call next week with a price and I hope that we laugh, rather than cry, on receiving it. Mentally I fear, his price is already accepted. Watching a hazy horizon dotted with boats whilst a chuckling man works to bring our own horizon that bit closer is just the kind of plan this exhausted but happy family needs……
Anyone any ideas what make/era this kind of sofa is? Image found on the Abigail Ahern Blog