Our alarm clock woke late with a call for milk and biscuits, sending last Saturday morning into delighted but bemused chaos.
“That’s the best sleep I’ve had in ages” said a bare chested S as he made coffee and rounds of toast. A pyjama-ed me replied in the affinitive. Though with friends arriving in two hours for lunch and us having ambitiously planned a homemade mezze of ‘hummus and things’….the things as yet undecided …it looked however like our unplanned lie-in might unravel the rest of our unplanned Saturday.
“We’ll have to cook while they are here” I decided authoritively, “you know…like the recipe books say. Rustle rustle rustle at the island …cooking while chatting with friends ”
“I’d prefer it already done…” said S simply.
An open plan island arrangement does little to hide the stress of my failing Spanish tortilla, eggily glueing itself to the non-stick-very-much-stick frying pan. Or conceal the mountainous washing up as S hurricanes his way through the kitchen in a blizzard of strewn dill and papery garlic skins making his delicious fasolia gigantes. Jamie/Jools Oliver we are not.
A knock sounded.
“It can’t be….” We glanced in disbelief at the clock.
“Postman.” I deduced and padded my way barefoot to the door.
An apologetic looking shadow could be seen through the Down Pipe framed glass pane.
“The painter….” I realised milliseconds before greeting him with a wide but unprepared smile.
“Hello!” I sang.
He looked at his feet before meekly coughing his reply.
“It’s that misty rain.” he stated stepping through the door. “The really wet stuff…”
“Come in, come in.” I said hustling him down the hallway before adding as I crossed my arms self-consciously across my unsupported front, “Our little one overslept and we count on him to wake us…we are a bit behind.”
In the kitchen a familiar domestic scene was taking place with a half dressed S cajoling O into eating his soldiers whilst mopping up his spilt milk.
“I…er….shall I take my shoes off?” the painter asked, perhaps feeling slightly overdressed.
“No no…” I insisted as he stepped on their backs regardless and, returning to the hallway, added them to the mountainous pile growing there. I led him upstairs to look at doors.
The painter, recommended by a friend with the warning footnote that he is shy but sweet, had come to assess what painting still remains. He had a few days free, he had said, in the coming week. Tellingly he estimated three days would be required ….the amount quoted by the Child Catcher who has already spent more than five not doing it. The new painter…confusingly also an S…having run his hand diligently over each door in turn murmuring “primed…painted…..easy enough” finished by promising that a quote and exact start date would be texted to us in the next few days.
“Thank you for coming over here.” I said “and sorry for our unconventional attire.”
“It’s no bother. I got the 54. Bye.” And with a brief show of the palm of his hand sufficing as a wave he was off.
“How much?” asked S as I returned to my breakfast.
“I don’t know. He’ll text me.”
“We never learn.”
We don’t. The painter was almost booked….with no price agreed and no paint bought. So Monday morning, 9.30am, O and I ducked into Fired Earth…their paint’s low VOC and water based composition, not (this time) their extensive palette, being the draw. We needed more white.
“Morning.” I said brightly on entering.
Two well dressed women both of whom recognise me from having spent many an indecisive hour in their company deliberating over both tiles and paint, barely looked up from their computer screens.
I stood, unsure, in the doorway, O held preventatively in my arms…the candy coloured array of paint samples overwhelmingly tantalising for two year old hands.
Eventually Lady One glanced up.
“I just need to finish this,” she explained.
Obediently I nodded, setting O down who began immediately clacking together the painted wooden samples along their custom built shelf as if it were a giant abacus. The noise or the nagging feeling that there might be some customer service to attend to encouraged Lady Two to tear her eyes away from the screen to which her gaze had been affixed.
“Can I help?”
“I’d like two pots of your Sillica white eggshell please.” I asked.
“Right. Let me see.” And she disappeared out the back. Just as O had begun to progress to clacking the glass sample pots together she returned. Scooping him up I heard her beg her colleague for help.
“I’m not quite sure how you do this, there aren’t any in the store room.” she appealed to Lady One in a conspiratorial whisper.
Lady One looked me over.
“We could order it for you.” she said firmly as Lady Two stood meekly at her side.
“When would it arrive?” I asked, furrowing my brow.
“You can’t get it sooner?”
“No” they chorused.
Pushing away the momentary image of the two looking remarkably like Lady and the Tramp Siamese cats, I thought for a moment.
“Ok. That might work. I’ll tell the painter to prep everything first then pick the paint up from you Thursday.”
“It would be delivered to you.” said Lady Two.
“Oh. I won’t be in. I work Tuesday and Wednesday. What happens if they try to deliver and I’m not there? Where will it go?”
Both ladies formed their lipsticked mounts into a line.
“Back into the system..” Said Lady One in a hushed whisper.
“Then no, I can’t do that” I said. “Can you have it delivered here?”
“But its the same problem.” said Lady Two who was beginning to become the more authoritive of the pair. “We might not be in.”
I looked at them, confused.
“The courier might deliver before we open, or after we close” she embellished unhelpfully.
“Ok. So….what do we do?” I asked, O wriggling in my arms like a snake in a bag.
“Have you got a nice neighbour?” Asked Lady One
“Who is always in?” added Lady Two.
“Yes I have a nice neighbour.” I said tartly, “but no, they aren’t always in”
We paused. We had reached a stand off.
“Put it this way.” I said, breaking the stony silence “I’d like to buy two pots of white paint from you. If you can make it work, I’m your customer.”
Movements jittered their bodies in mock agitation as they made a show of thinking extra hard.
‘We like to be honest with people…” said Lady Two after having studied first some paper then her screen. “We don’t like to make promises…”
“Here’s my number” I said scribbling it down. “If you can get it in let me know.”
They nodded as I made for the door.
“So how have you been? How does your hallway floor look?” called Lady Two after me, her customer service skills returning.
“Fine. Thanks” I called back. And we left.
Outside my phone pinged. The painter.
“So sorry. Apologies. Can’t start this week. Can we make it next? Hope that’s ok…..”