Archive for the 'Aesthetic Mission' Category

The Bedside Table

There were many reasons I was dissatisfied with my bedside table.  First, its colour: orange.

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Not even a subtle orange.  Second, it has no drawer.  I must either leave my book on the top (which would be fine if I could constrain myself to two books) or I must reach down awkwardly while on the edge of sleep and open the door and throw the book onto the half-shelf within (or as you can see in the photo, simply throw them on the floor).  Third, with a square base and a monolithic stature it has a utilitarian oomph which is not to my liking.

Fortunately, my taste in furniture tends towards peasant rather than palace. When I last persuaded K-man to visit the local junk emporium, we came across this:

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This is the most poorly-made piece of furniture  I have ever encountered, and that includes Swedish flat-pack specials I incompetently put together myself. It seems to be made predominantly from waste wood by a person who hated their job. In places where surely – surely – a nail would have been better, glue has been used and did not stick properly.  Someone made a bad decision to try polishing this turd, and attached a piece of spare dowelling rod to the outside.

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This little cupboard was very cheap, and I have vision. And my vision couldn’t withstand more morning orange.

Yesterday the sun shone, and in our house that means embarking on a stupid project outside using power tools.  Hurrah!

K-man had to shore up the flimsy construction, and wrench off the stupid dowelling. Then I got busy with the power-sander. A short time later, I looked up from my cup of tea and realised this might not turn out too badly after all.

DSC_1016When all the black shit – I know not what it was – came off, the little cupboard grew a personality.  There was an interlude when I got a bit too busy with the power-sander and the bottom piece of wood holding the door up broke off, but what’s a husband for if not to clean up after his wife’s manic sanding experiments?

Then it was time to paint.  As we know, paint is a shit piece of furniture’s best friend. It covers a multitude of sins and can turn something horrible into something you can stand to look at without crying.  I do believe, however, that the trend should be reserved for crap pieces otherwise beyond rescue.  All those people painting over beautiful woodgrain because of fashion are nuts.  Especially if they do stupid shit like two-tone blue and pink and then sand down one layer of paint to display the nonsense.  I have seen more overpriced ruined chests of drawers than I can bear because people think that shit adds value.  Hell no, you just ruined a decent piece of furniture.  What is it with these people?

Sorry – that rant has been inside me for a long time and it needed to come out.  Obviously, I would never paint something pink and blue two-tone. I would simply use whatever left-overs I had available in the garage. Which turned out to be Farrow and Ball New White.

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Of course, every insect for miles around stuck itself in the paint. But progress was made and soon it was time to wax the top.

DSC_1018I was very surprised and pleased with how well this turned out.  You would never guess the top was plywood, or that it cost only around £20 and a few hours of my time.  Check out the sanded and waxed top:

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Here it is in situ:

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A full year after K-man accidentally sold our bedside tables on ebay for a song, I finally have a book-drawer and no orange.

That’s our new carpet you can see in the photo.  What a revelation!  More about that another time.

 

 

 

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How Not to Be A Photographer

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K-man got me a new toy for Christmas.  This is a Nikon J1. It is, apparently, an old model. The only thing I care about is that it was half price, down from eye-wateringly expensive to heart-racingly expensive, which means I could legitimately put it on my gift list. And make no mistake, it is a hell of a gift. I’ll be on best behaviour for a while.

Obviously a camera like this instantly transforms you into a professional-quality photographer who can take well-composed photographs with just the right exposure. I’m half-way through the manual, but hey! Who needs instructions, right?

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This is what happened when I took the camera off the Do Everything For Me setting.  Really.

I availed myself of the instruction manual, the power of the internet, and several hours.  After a time, I was able to achieve a focused background and a blurred foreground.  And then, something clicked.  No, they’re not perfect, but there is progress:

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It’s still slightly blurred in the foreground.  The rest of that blurring was intentional.  Seriously! Confusingly, the camera kit I got came with two lenses. I’m still learning their relative limitations. Also, I’d had wine, thought ‘art is great!‘  and it was late.  I imagined I was the Shakespeare of the photography world and for a brief moment, when I viewed this image on the camera’s LCD screen, my dream became reality. Once uploaded and viewed closer to full size on the Mac’s display, truth kicked beauty’s butt.

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You can’t tell this from my advanced ability in selecting portrait backgrounds, but I am playing with the aperture size.  This background is blurred, I tell you.  Alfie looks furious; the power of his anger has evidently created an odd halo of light around him.  It couldn’t be anything I did.

The weather has been especially shitty lately, and today was no exception. But it was dry. I toddled out to the garden to see if I could use the many fast-moving creatures who live there to test my shutter-speed selection strategy.

The answer, folks, was not really.  In England, of course, daylight doesn’t always mean daylight.  Sometimes it means the sky looks like wet newspaper.  Since photography is all about light, woman, that means a fast shutter-speed doesn’t let enough light in. Aperture adjustments just weren’t cutting it. Or at least that’s what I think the problem was. I took about one hundred photographs, and what you see below is the best of the best, after they’ve been through image manipulation software.

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This is an artichoke leaf at the back of the garden, in the shitty patch. See how the background is all blurred?  That, for me, is a major achievement.  I was taking this close-up with the telephoto lens, because I was too lazy to go back inside the house and get the smaller lens with other numbers written on it.

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One of the evil sunflower-head-eating forces at work in our garden.  Here he is, in his domain high in the tree-tops. Normally he is leaping between the trees or stealing food from someone.  Just when I actually wanted him to be moving about so I could test the shutter-speed settings, he was stock still.

 Bastard.

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This is my favourite.  Quite obliging when it came to sitting for telephoto portraits, but still wouldn’t move so I could test my shutter-speed ideas.

I can see it is going to take some time for me to get the hang of this.  I must squash my lazy attitude, pony up the hours of manual-reading required, and spend serious time experimenting.

You know what really blows my mind about this?

This is the best I could manage after hours with a really good camera, plus computer aided image manipulation. The camera does 95% of the work for me. I set either shutter-speed or aperture size (I am scared of the fully manual setting at the moment), and it does the rest. I don’t have to worry about putting the wrong type of film in the camera, and I can fix small screw-ups using my computer.  I have to remember about four things. Next time, I will think about light metering and exposure compensation and other parts of the manual I haven’t read yet.

But actual real photographers (people like my friend Lane, who has inspired my new hobby to no small extent), they create images far far far better on their worst days than I could ever dream of on my best day.  And they do it with film cameras.  I find that simply mind-boggling for the sheer quantity of talent and dedication and outright skill it requires.

Ambitious Pursuit of Magazine Life

We’re decorating the spare bedroom.  My role during performance of a particularly delicate decoration operation is to take cover outside the blast zone and pretend it isn’t happening.  Attempts at diffusion are misinterpreted as supervision, and nuclear fission swiftly results.

As my contribution, I decided to paint the spare room bed.  We bought the bed from a charity shop for a pittance two years ago, and while neither of us were in love with it as a piece of furniture, it is a solid workhorse.  It didn’t look noticeably awful in the spare room, because the rest of the spare room always looked like shit too, so there was a happy harmony of decor dissonance.

Now that the spare room is being addressed, the vexing question of the foul appearance of the spare room bed must be answered.  The shape is acceptable, even pleasing: it is the vibrant orange sun-damaged pine varnish hue that is desperately off-putting.  Observe:

 

OK, it doesn’t look that bad in this photo.  That’s because it’s outside in sunlight and the photo is weird.  Inside, this thing is orange and shiny.   Believe me.

So, I thought, I will paint it.  This will be productive: paint is cheaper than a new bed, the bed is solid wood and very sturdy, and it could not look worse painted than it does now.  It will be easy, I thought – I read articles about how to do this stuff all the time.  It will be satisfying – it is very many years since I did something even vaguely creative with my own bare hands.  It will bring this piece of furniture bang up to date in terms of fashionable interiors – painted shabby chic furniture is all the rage.  Thinking ambitiously, I decided I would artfully distress the bed so that it looks like an antique that belongs in a manor house rather than a piece of crap we unearthed from the damp section at the back of the YMCA shop.

You will no doubt be shocked to discover that magazine articles can be misleading.

In the magazine, the preparation phase is over in the time it takes to flip the page.  In real life, after three hours of arm ache and finger burn and the disintegration of huge wadges of coarse steel wool, there will be no discernible difference in the appearance of your potential masterpiece.  To wit:

If through my tears of fatigue I had examined it through an electron microscope, I may just have been able to detect a slight difference in the surface of the wood.  I was covered in dust, which indicates that something was happening.  Just not the magical transformation I’d been expecting.  I hoovered the dust off the wood, and then wiped it carefully with a damp rag to make it really clean.  K-man, who was not convinced this project would work and who forbade expense other than cheap paint in the pursuit of improvement, was practising his Skeptical Eyebrow.

By this time four gruelling hours had passed and I had begun to question the wisdom of my endeavour.  Still, the really worth-it part was fast approaching: painting!

In the magazine the lady of the house spends money like it is going out of fashion, buying industrial quantities of the best paint on the planet.  In real life, there’s a husband who declares the expensive paint verboten, forcing a compromise of some clearly inferior product.  In the magazine the best brushes are worth the investment because money is no object.  In real life, the aforementioned compromise restricts the decorator to two cheap old brushes with the few remaining bristles sticking out in every conceivable direction.  In the magazine, the painting environment is a carefully air-conditioned sensitively-lit studio of wonder.  In real life, the blazing hot sunshine and the outdoors makes life uncomfortable in a number of ways.

Let me count the ways.  The paint will dry very quickly.  It will dry on the wood almost instantly, on the brush itself shortly thereafter, and in the paint pot within the half hour.  It will be virtually impossible to achieve the desired smooth finish and instead brush-strokes and lumps will be clearly visible.  Sunburn will be a significant issue, and insects will be strangely attracted to fresh paint, becoming embedded in it  up to their shoulders.

I would have done it indoors, if I didn’t have a husband who convinced me this was a job that would be better done outdoors.  Like a fool, I listened.

After another four hours of tirelessly cutting in to get all the detail, the first coat looked like shit.

At dusk it looked otherworldly, like the malevolent ghost bed of childhood nightmares.  At this stage I was dead on my feet and gasping for a beer.  I tried hard to focus on the fact that every time I have painted anything, I have always thought it looked crap after the first coat and restored my faith with the second coat.  K-man was looking less bemused and more impressed, which I took as a good sign.

The next morning I couldn’t face the bed until after lunch: I knew the magazines were misleading with their implication that a second coat goes on in the time it takes to cancel your subscription.  At 2pm I recommenced.  The second coat was looking much more promising, and though the weather was even hotter and the drying issue was even more pronounced, it did seem to be working out.  Behold:

At the time, I was just so bloody relieved to have the thing finished by 6pm that I didn’t much care what it looked like.  I painted it in Old English White by Crown, and there are some weird grey streaks in the dried finish which I am not very happy about but which K-man says add to the character and charm, and will make it look fantastic when it has been suitably ‘distressed’ by my steel wool and furniture wax combo.

All I can say is that it had better look damn good in the new spare room.  More on that next week.

 

 

Code-Breaking

A hefty envelope hit the door-mat of my abode the other day.  I finally start my new job on Monday, and they kindly wrote to apprise me of what to expect.  If I wasn’t so cynical I would almost believe they cared about making this experience as comfortable as possible.  The plan consists of training sessions and seminars for about three weeks before I’m unleashed on unsuspecting members of the public who have suffered serious injustice.

Quietly slid into this communiqué were the words the dress code is business casual.

Oh please, do not do this to me.  My talents don’t extend to decoding sartorial short-hand and applying it to practical contexts.   I always get these things a bit wrong, usually on the side of too casual since I was born wearing denim and Birkenstocks.  Two out my last three jobs had no dress-code whatsoever and I like it that way.

I’ve got enough reasonably smart attire to cope with a two-day working week, but this gig is full time.  For the first day or two I will err on the side of very smart and suss the lie of the land.  Still, we’re going to need a bigger wardrobe.  After extensive research on the myriad meanings of business casual, I biked over to the town’s department store to see what I could find that toes the fine line between Mother Flump and the Sex and the City ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google’s advice included that business casual means different things in different contexts.  Google also only has US-centric information on this particular topic.  What’s acceptable at Twitter HQ is not necessarily acceptable in the heady world of UK public sector middle-tier flow-chart jobs.  I am lucky to have this job, and I do not want to be reprimanded for inappropriate dress.  I want to be promoted, not ridiculed.   I asked K-man, who works in a big city law firm, and he had no useful advice.  He’s a dude, and it’s easier for them since all rules are designed primarily with them in mind.  Business casual for a dude means no tie, smart shirt, no jeans, and leather footwear – easy.   Apparently, K-man has never noticed what his female colleagues wear.  I should be pleased about this; instead I’m frustrated.  But some information can be gleaned: if the women around him were wearing torture-porn shoes and halter-necks, he would have noticed.

On my first pass around the womenswear section, I despaired.  I had ideas about simple tailored dresses in cotton, and shirts that aren’t tight across the boobs.  Maybe a skirt or two that arrives demurely at the knee.  I was drawing a complete blank: everything is about summer floatiness, or is tailored and comes with a price tag that suggests Alexander McQueen rose from the dead and feverishly cut and stitched just for you.

I lowered my bar.  After all, provided it’s reasonably smart and not distracting from my professionalism, it should be fine, right?

Starting from the bottom: shoes.  I already have a pair of nice taupe vintage French Connection flat shoes which should do.  I’ve ordered a pair of all-purpose black pumps:

For days when I need a heel, I already own these:

And for days when I need to distract someone from my professionalism long enough to win an argument, I have them in blood red too.

Well, maybe I won’t wear the blood red ones to the office, but they look amazing on.

So, yesterday I got this, which is pretty inoffensive:

And this, which I am not 100% sure about.  It looks a little bit smart but mainly casual.  I like it, but I feel in need of a second, third, and fourth opinion on its suitability for work.  It probably depends what you team it with, but still.  Too Kim Kardashian?

This is a nice knee-length skirt I got on heavy mark-down:

And this little wrap thingy – again I am not 100% sold, but I think will be useful for wearing with sleeveless or short-sleeve tops, or the long black dress (see below).  It’s a very fine knit:

This black shirt called to me just as I made the decision to go to the cash desk without spending any more money, and I have not yet tried it on, so it may need to be returned:

I’ve got another white shirt in the wardrobe, and a flowery knee-length white cotton dress that can be teamed with a black cardigan and pumps.  I also own a dress very similar to this:

And another one a bit like this but with less curvature, and a more chocolate brown:

A few items in my wardrobe (a white linen top, a pair of black tailored high-quality trousers, and the above shirt-dress) will fit after I’ve dropped the few lbs I will lose fretting through my first weeks.

Anything in there that you wouldn’t wear for business casual? Advice on the jacket and cardigan is particularly welcome.

Day one will be tailored trousers and shirt combo with medium heels, to be completely safe.  Until I’ve seen what everyone else wears I am not taking any tags off the £200 I just spent.

At times like these, I wish they had just said you are expected to wear a suit.  I would have bitched about arse-clenching uptight self-important organisations, but at least I’d know exactly what is acceptable.

 

Boudoir Beautification: Nearly There

After  three months of living in the spare bedroom, we are back in the Boudoir!  Principal reasons for the lack of progress are: it takes a long time to get stuff made to measure and shipped from China; K-man’s broken wrist needed to heal; and I said I wasn’t helping any more with DIY and I meant it.

Let’s recap: we started with top to toe magenta, a huge triple-wardrobe that had to be pushed side-on into an alcove, fire-hazard ceiling tiles in the bay window, and flowery old-lady curtains. Our furniture was too big for the room, the colour induced insomnia, and the cracks in the ceiling could have fit one entire Victoria Beckham inside them.

We conducted an interim stripping job, and then life got in the way.  For a very long time.  We sold our bedroom furniture on e-bay, except that little Victorian pine chest of drawers which has gone back to my parents from whence it came.

And now, I bring you the next stage! This stage is called Most of it is Done So Despite Our Best Intentions Let’s Leave It As Is For At Least Five Years.

First things first, actual construction projects. An electrician moved the sockets to sensible places, and accidentally knocked a hole through to the study.  It took him twice as long to complete the job as his estimate, and I wanted to punch him.

Once the triple-wardrobe had been dispensed to two of the stupidest people I’ve ever met, the way was clear for the built-in wardrobes.  I despise built-in, preferring to scour the universe for the perfect item of free-standing furniture.  This is because I have never stayed in the same house for more than four or five years, and when I leave, my shit comes with me.  It didn’t make sense to me to buy something that you can’t take with you, when portable options are available.

Well, it turns out that most modern furniture isn’t constructed with 1930s alcoves in mind.  It proved astonishingly difficult to find either a single wardrobe large enough to make the most of the space, or a double wardrobe small enough to fit.  Anything that did fit was either ugly, expensive, or both.

Built-in was the way to go.  The problem with built-in is that most of it looks like it came straight from the plasticised nightmare of a dystopian minimalist.

As luck would have it, there are a number of powerful internet-based search engines that can occasionally be persuaded to find the person you are looking for.  The person we were looking for arrived at our house, spoke very little, listened to my vague description and watched my general arm-waving, and exercised his psychic powers.  I think I know your want, he said in a thick Hungarian accent, and started pulling out photographs of his previous work to show me.

He certainly did know exactly my want, and here it is:

And here it is again, in the other alcove:

He measured the space and sent very detailed drawings by email.  Eight weeks later, he and two colleagues installed these two hand-built cupboards in one 9-hour day.  I love supporting local craftsmen, so it fills my heart with joy to tell  you that the aggregate cost of these cupboards was cheaper than one OK-quality wardrobe from a trusted furniture supplier that ships their shit in from China.  And for that bargain price, we chose exactly what we wanted rather than having to put up with what is available.

Instead of the flowery curtains, we now have plantation shutters in our bay window:

These were expensive enough that we had to give it serious thought before committing.  They also have a 10-week lead-time because they are made to measure in China and shipped from there.  But, I am glad we spent the cash and waited the wait.

Our new bed is made to look like antique metal, and is the sturdiest version we could find.

The wallpaper is by Next.  We wanted a kind of modern country feel to this room, and I saw this wallpaper while I was furtively leafing through a copy of one of those magazines that exists to make us all feel inadequate.  I love this wallpaper, and the feature wall approach means it’s not overwhelming.  The cleanliness of the rest of the decor means the look doesn’t tip over into twee.

Our other recent furniture acquisition was from our local vintage/junk shop.  It was so cheap I cannot remember how much it cost.  It’s serving as K-man’s bedside cupboard. He hit the relative jack-pot, and I am bitter considering it was he who let go our previous bedside cupboards at a knock-down price.

This is the little cupboard thing we stumbled across on a weekend away, and it goes perfectly in the room.  The mirror is one we have had for years, and have no idea where it was purchased.  The colour on the wall is Wild Mushroom by Next.  I was skeptical since it looked too dark and pink in a tester space, but K-man talked me into it.  It changes with the light, shifting between muted pinky-grey-brown hues.

The astute among you will note the carpet.  We desperately needed carpet back down, for noise-reduction, warmth, and shard-protection.  We looked at huge rugs, but could not find anything of the required size at a price we could stomach.  This is super-cheap felt-backed carpet that K-man cut to fit and laid himself with a craft knife, a staple gun, and a few hours.  it’s not quite a perfect fit but it is close enough.  It will serve until we get the whole house re-carpeted (a couple of years).  As long as we don’t rub up against it too much, it’s fine.  The stripes were the least-offensive option in the price-bracket and while they’re far from ideal, they don’t jar too much.

There are still some things I am not entirely happy with.  The fireplace isn’t quite so vile now the colour on the walls somehow disguises its pinkness, but still:

The question is what we do with it.  Options are to leave it, paint it off-white, or replace it with something similar to this:

Black might either be too harsh, or go well with the bed-frame.  I can’t decide.  We could always paint it if it’s not right.  The off-putting thing is that with the living room fireplace, the process was horrific and expensive.  We paid £600 for someone to fit it, and they did so badly.  Also, the tiled monstrosity is original to the house, and I don’t hate it as much as the shit-smear that used to be in the living room.  I hate to rip out original features.  What would you do, internet?

Questions also arise about my bedside cabinet:

It really is that orange, and it does not look right with the more neutral tones of the bedroom.  It was a parental hand-me-down, and we think it’s 1930s or maybe 1940s.  It is a good solid cupboard with a shelf inside, and I like everything except the colour.  It’s covered in what seems to be a kind of varnish (I don’t think shellac, but it could be), and I’m sure I am jinxing myself even as I type this, but it cannot be too hard to strip down with some hideous chemical.  Then I would have two options: either stain it dark like K-man’s, or paint it a neutral colour and fake ‘distress’ it.  What would you do with it?

So, the tour’s finished.  I hope you enjoyed it!  Home improvements are off the table again until autumn, but then I think we might look at the study.  That was another temporary paint-job (to cover up a sea-mural) but we could use the space far more effectively.

Nothing To See Here

If there was a blogging conference on Creating a Boring Waste of Webspace, I could be a keynote speaker.  I wouldn’t have much to say, but I could bob up and down looking dissatisfied for an hour.

I’d like to say that life has been one thrilling roller-coaster after the next, but that would be lying.  Some stuff happened, and some stuff hasn’t happened yet.  So it goes.

Happened:

  • I promised myself I would write more frequently.  Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I love to wordsmith.  Sadly, I’m not one of those folks who can dash off a missive packed with brain-bendingly brilliant prose within a few minutes.  It takes me hours to write even the most basic of sentences, and unless I force myself to be sensible, weeks to decide if I really am happy with it.  Most of the time I’d rather gouge out an eye than re-read what I’ve written.  I need a clear afternoon or evening to get something decent down on keyboard, and even then it’s contingent on having something sufficiently meaningful to say.*
  • Project Bedroom is 90% finished.  Pictures are forthcoming, though I will crop out the cheap electricity-conducting temporary carpet we put down to avoid cutting our feet to ribbons on shards of wooden floor.
  • After five weeks of stoically resisting my wide-eyed pleading out of the ridiculous desire to keep it ‘clean’, K-man allowed me to draw on his arm-cast.  Just don’t draw a cock and balls, he said, I have to go to work on Monday.  I drew a coffee bean which from some viewing angles looks like a turd.
  • I purchased and tried on some shapewear, and I didn’t expire in a puff of indignity.  My circulation is still functioning, and I still have all my limbs.
  • Successful extrication of myself from the dull ache of commitment.  I terminated my internship, which was a blessed relief.  A particularly low point was when the team administrator saw fit to lecture me that at this point in my life, experience is SO important.  I pointed out that I am 34 years old, I have worked since I was 16, and that I am doing the internship because I can’t get a job, I would rather do something than nothing, and I like this project.  I didn’t add in a sarcastic tone that I’m not helping out because I am learning anything here – far from it.   Turns out she thought I had just graduated.  I focussed on how this is a massive compliment to my complexion.
  • Further academic writing work, now stretching to ridiculous since I stopped being paid over a year ago.  Still nothing actually published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • I’m really into The Voice.  The USA one, not the UK one.  I have whiled away many hours lusting after Adam Levine critically assessing the singers’ performances.

Hasn’t Happened Yet

  • Starting my new job.  This experience has been both frustratingly slow, and astonishingly dictatorial.  No part of the process has been designed with the candidates’ perspectives in mind.  I put my application in on 21st January, and last Friday they let me know that paperwork would be with me this Tuesday.  Oh, and I will report to work on 2nd July.  None of this is negotiable, though a reason was proffered when sought: there are lots of people starting and it must all happen when the planets are in direct alignment with the flip-chart in Room 101.  I was tempted to tell them I would be out of the country and unavailable to start until the week after, just to see what would happen.  Would I hear a dull thud as a gant-chart exploded?  But this job means too much to me, and I’m too chicken.  I am not thinking about the fact that the dictats could be indicative of the rest of our employment relationship, or that I am not a person who responds well to dictats at all.  I am grateful just to have this job, even if it is as yet unrealised.
  • K-man’s arm-cast hasn’t been taken off yet, but it will be tomorrow, praise lard.  He has been morose in the extreme, and, well, I try to sympathise, but all I can think about is where my next shoulder-massage is coming from and when it might arrive.  Shoulder-massages have rehabilitative value for wrist-breaks.  That’s my line, and I’m sticking to it.
  • Owing to advanced medal-winning quality procrastination, I have not tried on the bridesmaid dress I’ll need to wear in five weeks’ time.  I haven’t organised the laminated photos of my brother in embarrassing situations that I promised for this weekend’s hen party.  I haven’t had the dress shortened.  I haven’t managed to muster even a moment’s joy over the prospect of taking two three-hour train rides to partake of hen festivities with people I barely know this weekend.  I’m thinking of starting a support group called Introverts R Us.  We could all watch TV separately and use Twitter to wonder about the sanity of people who think it’s fun to wear amusing Special Occasion T-shirts and hand out cards saying ‘Best Looking Man’ to people in nightclubs.  I’m thinking of having my own T-shirt printed saying ‘This is Really Not My Thing’.
  • Posts on snowboarding, Easter with my parents, our new bedroom, and the Olympics tickets I might be unable to use because my new employer doesn’t seem to understand that relationships are inherently bilateral.
*In case you're wondering, I'm not happy with this post but I'm just going to push publish anyway.

The Boudoir Beautification Project

You know when you’re tired, and out of nowhere one of your eyeballs spasms for a few seconds?  The reason we could afford to buy the Suburban Mansion was that every single surface upon which gaze was cast led to eye-spasm and involuntary cursing.

Making our surroundings look less as though they’ve been paint-balled, tarred, and feathered is a labour of really quite ongoing love.  The master bedroom is getting its dose of TLC as I write this.  Let’s recap: what follows is a photo that might cause eyeball seizure.  If you can remember the pinkness from reading about it back in the day, you may wish to look away now.

One day we woke up and couldn’t take it any more, so we painted the walls and removed the carpet, enabling temporary relief for the last 18 months.

Every so often, usually when I needed to dispense with some rage, I would attack those hideous glued-down floor-tiles, until only the space under the bed was not tile-free.

The original plan was to clear all the floor-tiles, belt-sand the wood, and stain it deep brown.  My imagination basked in the glory of a stream of home decoration magazine shoots, and people fawning over the lovely non-dustmite-harbouring natural feel of my home.

Impracticality bites like a crocodile, folks.  The sad truth is that without a carpet plus underlay, a person sitting in the room below needs earplugs to cope with the sound of a mouse creeping its way across the floorboards in the bedroom.  Our already-cool house becomes a fridge.  I wailed, but had to admit the floorboard idea was not going to work.  We assessed the options, which included insulation between the ceiling and floor (too expensive with no guarantee of success), laying new wood on top (raises the floor level in this room to an unacceptable degree compared with the hallway; the floor looks flat but bows upward in the middle), and finally, carpet plus underlay.

We want the same flooring in the whole house (apart from the kitchen and bathroom) so we would either have to go through expensive hell to have all the floors under-insulated, or new floor on top (with attendant levelling difficulties), or take the easier cheaper path of least resistance.

Carpet it is.

This frees us from fighting the glue, which we now believe is bitumen, across the remaining four rooms of the house.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen!  How swiftly the noble goal of back-to-shell redecorating is abandoned!

Everyone knows carpet is the last thing on the decor list, so meanwhile we’re concentrating on the wall and ceiling combination in the bedroom.

I know you’re not going to believe this, but my suggestion was that we simply call up the APPT and arrange for him to come to smooth, skim and line the walls that are full of irregularities and cracks.

K-man’s suggestion was that I grow a giant tree of patience in my soul, and permit him to carry out the works himself during evenings and weekends.  We would save a packet (that we would then apparently spend on an unnecessary vehicle) and I would not be required to become ill at the very sight of the APPT on day 14 of delay.  Also, K-man believes he can do as good a job as the APPT, albeit in seven times as long.  After competency-related promise-extraction, I agreed.

We moved all of our things into the spare bedroom three weeks ago, and work commenced.

This is the bay window, where once there were polystyrene ceiling tiles holding up the plaster, and flowery old-lady curtains.  They had to go, not only for aesthetic reasons but also because our home-buyer survey identified them as a serious fire-risk (shh, not a word to my mother).  Now, there is plaster-board and expertly – very slowly – applied filler and sealant where once there were cracks.  In approximately a century, our made to measure plantation shutters will be fitted.

Yeah baby, I love a layer of plaster-dust over everything.

The time came to attempt to put lining paper on the ceiling by ourselves, with no previous experience.  But for the lack of canned laughter, it could have been a poorly-written sitcom.  I would hold one end of the gloopy 12-foot length of paper above my head, and K-man would endeavour to make his end stick to the ceiling.  As he progressed along the length towards me, it would come unstuck behind him.  Like a scene from Pantomime Alien, I’d yell shit! look behind you, and he’d turn around just in time to be gruesomely smothered to death under swathes of sticky paper.   A strategy involving a long-handled broom and a shit-ton of extra paste was deployed, and the ceiling is fully papered.  It only took two days.

I would have helped to paint the ceiling for more than five minutes, too, but K-man chose to wait until my back was turned before hastily and passive-aggressively re-doing the parts I’d painted.  Harsh words were exchanged, and hence-forth I shall not be assisting with the home-improvements.  This may seem like laziness on my part, but I call it marriage-saving.

The dusky pink paint-splotch that looks odd in the photo above will be the colour of some of the walls.  The plan is:

  • built-in wardrobes in the two alcoves either side of the fireplace
  • about the fire-place: painting it, since I don’t hate the shape
  • electrician to put electric sockets in sensible places
  • plantation shutters
  • natural-coloured carpet ultimately, but large rugs in the meantime to stop us impaling our feet on wood-shards
  • one wall of bird-oriented wall-paper (sounds horrific, but isn’t)
  • wrought-iron bedstead
  • the cupboard thingy we bought in November

We have found a man to build our wardrobes; he can barely speak English and I find his name utterly unpronounceable, but he comes with great references and if pictures of his work are anything to go by, he’ll do us a solid job of excellence and individual design.  He’s scheduled to complete the job in mid-March.

So, the Boudoir Beautification Project is approximately half-way through.  And if anyone in control of this situation is listening?  I’ve had enough disasters for 2012 thanks – please leave this room alone, OK?


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