The Great Reveal


I blame Noel, he blames me, we’ve reached a compromise, we blame each other. He started it by suggesting that the pile of rubbish (or collectables as I know them) in the spare bedroom could be concealed by a built-in wardrobe. He was right.

Garry, our indispensable joiner, had already won our hearts by fitting reveals to the new windows, making them into giant picture frames displaying village life on the move. They replaced dirty plastic which had just about hidden a multitude of sins and transformed our rooms, illuminating everything, including the collectables.

The shine from the new wardrobes cast a yellow glow on the poorer relations in our room. Our wardrobe doors weren’t white any more, they were yellow, nicotine yellow. And we’ve never smoked. Our room looked decidedly dowdy, so there was only one course of action to take, call Garry.

It was going to be a simple, if faffy, build-then-decorate job. After getting a season ticket to the tip where we deposited the yellow wardrobe and dusty (sic) pink carpet, complete with the 1991 copies of the Daily Mail the previous occupants had spread on the underlay, presumably so they could grind it under their feet, it was just a matter of stripping the wallpaper, getting the new wardrobe fitted, then making good and decorating. A few days, tops.

In the meantime, we had moved the contents of our room into the spare room, stuffed even more rubbish into the spacious wardrobe, calmed the cats, who were accidentally shut into wardrobes, drawers and suitcases, and looked forward to our transformed bedroom.

The next person who says ‘these things are never as easy as they first seem’ will get a wallpaper scraper rammed up a sunshine-free place. There were at least four layers of paper, the last one painted with gloss, the only crumb of comfort was that neither of us was going to remove the paper which would be covered by the wardrobe, let it be a little present for the next owner of this house, after all the previous owners left us plenty.

I was dreading discovering the cause of the lumpiness in the chimney breast. Tapping with the scraper made a hollow sound. Underneath was hardboard papered with the finest the 50s could offer, covering the hole left by the fireplace. Out initial thought was to paper over the lot, so it would be just as before, but neater.

But here was a mystery, right here in our bedroom, a board, a hole, maybe a passage to a mini Narnia, how could we not look?  I imagined that behind it would be soot, a few pigeon skeletons and pigeon poo, we stood waiting for the great reveal. I expected it to be a rubbley hole and suggested to Noel that Garry could board up the sides to make an alcove, what a great place for a cat to sleep, or we could put our running trophies and medals there. It’s only a small alcove.

There was no soot, or corpses, sadly no kingdom of talking animals either. But there was a fine fireplace which I immediately saw as a beautiful feature for the room, no longer boring black, but a lighter colour and the fine detail of the cast iron flowers picked out in greens and yellows. We can always put the trophies in the hearth.

So here begins a journey of discovery and decorating, a bit longer than anticipated, but ultimately rewarding (remind me I said that when I’m covered in plaster dust). It may take some time. See you at the other side!


The decorating days are over….for now….

Decorating chaos in the dining room….

In the olden days, when I was a lass and there were twelve pennies to the shilling and that bought you a banquet of fish, chips and mushy peas for four, home decorating was labour-intensive and tedious.

Rolls of wallpaper came with an extra bit on the edge to protect it, as there were no plastic covers or indeed plastic then. The one-cm strip, which ran the length of the roll, had to be cut off with scissors, all very straight and neat, producing a little mini roll of wallpaper, which curled up on the floor. Being nobbut a bairn, I thought this was fantastic, these lengths of thick paper were much more fun to play with than toys. Hey, I was young and we were poor.

Now we have fancy wallpapers that aren’t really paper at all. They are lightweight, quick to put up, easy to handle, stretch over bumpy bits and mend invisibly when torn, I know, I tried it. The old oil-based paint that stuck to everything, belched out mind-altering fumes and dribbled down the cracks in the floorboards, which was bad news if you were painting the bedroom upstairs.

The recent upheaval Chez Akers, following the replacement of all the windows and the kitchen, means we need to re-decorate every room, either that or just close our eyes when we move about, but that’s not good news with a couple of cats forever under the feet.

Noel and I have been married for 17 years and it’s true to say we have not had a serious disagreement. Yes, there may have been the odd barbed comments or stony silence with the placement of a seven-letter word using the Q, Z and J on the triple score in a particularly tense Scrabble match, that was all.

But with the decorating of the dining room, it was a close thing, and it all boiled down to a difference of approach. Do you do it quickly and achieve the desired result, getting back to normal in time for tea? Or slowly and accurately so even the bits that no-one can actually see are perfect, and live for weeks surrounded by chaos and cranky cats, stepping over drop cloths and trailing bits of wallpaper around the house? There were full and frank discussions and an exchange of views, though no game of Scrabble was involved and there were no cross words, actually, there were no words, just silence, the swish swish swish of the roller and the clock ticking every so slowly.

The dining room is now as near to finished as it can be without the intervention of a professional joiner to replace the architrave after we decided to remove the door, well, we never used it. So there’s the three bedrooms and the hall to start…some time in the next decade. We’ll just about have recovered by then.

Watching paint dry

Noel likes decorating slightly more than he likes gardening, which is not at all; and less than DIY of any description, though it could be argued that decorating is a subset of DIY so any painting in the garden is a combination of all three and to be avoided at all costs.

But sometimes decorating can’t be avoided, especially after Andy Chimneysweep, accompanied by Andy Stoveman fitted a new flue to our precious wood-burning stove which had been belching black smoke everywhere, including all over the cat, who does insist on getting so close that it singes his whiskers. I should point out here that all the tradesmen we deal with are called Andy, including Andy Logman, Andy Smallholder and Andy Treesurgeon. The Andyness spreads to other suppliers of services, including Andy Frenchteacher.

The Andys warned us there may be mess following the flue fitting, to be fair, there had been a mess before, so we’d already resigned ourselves to the inevitable and even taken advantage of Homebase’s 15 per cent discount to buy the paint in anticipation of D (decoration) Day. Naturally with such a discount it was only fair to spend an extra 15 per cent on plants and half-price pots.

With me out during the day, Noel volunteered to start decorating duties in between his coding and programming duties. OK, so he didn’t volunteer, but he did it anyway.

Now, not that I want to check up on him or anything, but we do have a wireless camera I can control over the interweb, mainly to see the cat. There’s something very restful about watching the cat sleeping, his little furry body sighing as he breathes, ah, bless. Under the pretence of wanting to see the cat, but actually to check painting progress, I logged on. This is what I saw….

View from the Catcam

I ask you.

Work before play……

OK. So it's the ski season.

The boots have been dusted down from the wardrobe, the salopettes are getting a good airing and the helmets (oh yes, we need helmets after Noel's 60mph escapade in Courchevel…!) are all ready for packing. The Chamonix snow has seen off the foehn, all runs are open and Jet2.Com is ready to receive its regular Geneva fliers. They should give us our own seat….

But before that, there'e the little matter of the dining room. We've been here five years and our total disregard for all things household is positively criminal. And what with the forthcoming party, we really ought to make an effort to respect our 120-year-old home.

Now not that I'm bossy or anything. I prefer to call it assertive. Anyway, SOMEONE'S got to dip the first brush, so to speak. So first thing, OK, second thing, this morning, we started. And, we'll finish……

Cat was totally traumatised, but soon settled down to its usual 23-hour sleep.

Decorating. Is there ANYTHING finer?

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