I couldn’t wait to get back to work, and that’s saying something. For something like a week, I was alone in the flat with only the cat for company- and she was always hissing at me and looking out for my wife. The only human interaction I got was when I went to the shops or, one morning, went to Starbucks. The living room was jam-packed with mirrors, coat racks and whatnot from the hallway. The hallway was lined with dust sheets, paint pots, bottles of white spirit, brushes, etc. The flat reeked of chemicals.
By now, you’ll have gathered that I don’t like decorating. A memory, perhaps, of being turfed out of my bedroom every summer by my dad, who used to love all the upheaval. Yes, it can look nice afterwards (although, with me decorating, there’s no guarantee), but for the anxiety it causes me, I’d simply make do. I’m out at work all the time anyway.
This week, though, was particularly bad. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before nine o’clock. Then I’d spend hours messing about with the laptop, trying to find a decent American radio station. It could be twelve o’clock by the time I buckled down and got to work.
Well, of course, once you’ve started your particular decorating task, you have to keep going until it’s finished. So I was painting or paint-scraping up until eleven, crawling into bed at twelve. I barely read anything though the week, let alone wrote. Sometimes, I’d watch a bit of a DVD as I ate my supper, but here was a curious thing- I wasn’t bothered. I simply wasn’t bothered. All the time while my wife is home, I’m scheming to get the remote control to myself. Now I could barely concentrate on what was on the screen, and sometimes I nodded off.
It’s only a small hallway, yet in five days I barely got through it. In fact, I’ve still got to paint the woodwork. The trouble there is, in the twenty-odd years we’ve lived here, I’ve never stripped the previous layer of paint, simply painted over it. But by now, the doors don’t shut properly. Well, I was slapping paint-removing gel on it by the jarful. It blistered, but stubbornly remained in place. I some patches, it seems to have had no effect whatsoever.
So, when I set off for the airport to bring my wife back, I was steeling myself to tell her that I’d painted the walls and ceiling, but that the doors and skirtings looked like the ones in Freddy Krueger’s lair. I was dreading an argument, and the last thing I wanted to do was break the holiday mood. Luckily, she was understanding about it. I felt like dancing down the train carriage.
Looking back, I think I’ve been a bit hard on myself. I know I took two days off, but on one of those days, I went to the launderette with two big bagsful. And I’ve never had to strip five layers of gloss paint off wood before- it was a steep learning curve.
I listened to a lot of radio drama on BBC i-player. I read passages from the King James bible, in bed at nights. And- dare I say it? I felt a sense of achievement, and a sense of pride in our flat. I can almost see why my dad enjoyed DIY.