Archive for the 'Marital Carnival' Category

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?

The Show Must Go On

Six weeks into this year, my interim assessment is that it sucks.  Minor trauma plus minor trauma equals astonishing sense of unfairness.  On the bonus side, I got my annual bout of illness over with during the first week of January.

First, allow me to expound on the self-made miseries.  Well, what the hell, I’m going to be true about it: K-man made these miseries.  It was nothing to do with me when he put our car on because he’d identified a new car he swore he needed.  Something about the size of his testicles, I don’t know what.  We use our car once a week at most, but for reasons to do with stones I don’t possess it behoves us to spend £6,000 on a piece of metal that spends 98% of its time on the driveway.  Don’t ask me; I just live here.

He made a hat-tip at ‘consultation’ and put Vern on the market, selling and arranging collection within a 24 hour period, for a price that was borderline insulting to Vern’s dignity.  The pre-car research on the proposed new car was only completed after he sold our old car. Things were discovered, worrying things, about the proposed new car having a fake service history.  What now, fool, when we need a car?  Oh yes, now we’re pressured buyers: a great big unavoidable horror.  Car salesmen can SMELL pressure. 

Yes, I’ve been skating close to the thin mental line lately.

Next up is the Bedroom Furniture Debacle.  The bedroom was next on the list of things in the home to participate in the destruction of my surroundings, a project that’s going really well.  Remember the bannister?  Months later, this is what it looks like now:

My best guess is that the white stuff in the middle is nuclear-bunker-grade heat-protective coating. It will not budge.  If President Obama needs protection from Iran’s unhinged, he should come to my house and crouch behind my bannister.

We moved out of our bedroom three weeks ago and it’s in a state of disarray that will be brought to you in another post.  Our furniture is too big for the room so was put up for sale.  The enormous triple-wardrobe was the priority, but ultimately we needed to rid ourselves of the rustic solid oak bed and bedside tables we got in New Zealand too.  We discussed and agreed a sale price that would prevent me feeling aggrieved (I like this furniture and we paid a wadge for it).

K-man operated the eBay and somehow fucked up the equation that exists between ‘buy now’ and ‘minimum bid’.  Our solid oak king-size bed and two bedside tables that we lavished cash and care on were sold for a price so low I had to fight back tears.

Next up, the trauma visited upon us from outside our control.

Finding that one’s bicycle has been stolen is never pleasant.  I can attest that it’s particularly unpleasant when one is returning home at 1am on a freezing cold night having had too much to drink.  I searched the bike park in vain for my bike, clinging to the hope that I had, like all the other times, simply forgotten where I’d left it.  I saw a cut cable lock and with a sinking feeling put my combination in.  It sprang open, and so did  my tear-ducts.

To a cyclist, no bike you’ve had for any length of time is just a bike.  We’ve seen penguins, fallen off curbs, been blown into oncoming traffic, got back up, and travelled on together.  I loved my bike.  I reported the theft of my buddy to the police.

Describe the bike, blah blah, where did you leave it, blah, was there CCTV, blah blah investigate I’m not really listening anymore but then and how would you describe your ethnicity?


Are you black, white, asian? 

The police person on the phone does not know me, and does not know that questions like that coming out of nowhere, even when I’m drunk, especially when I’m drunk, and already upset are not something I’m going to let fly.  Way to make a bad situation worse, Flow Chart voice.

Is that relevant?  I shot out before I could stop myself.  Would you NOT investigate the crime I’ve just been a victim of because I fit, or did not fit, a certain racial profile?  


Because, that’s certainly the implication OFFICER.


Would you like my gender, age, or other profile information for the government statistics? 

Uh, no.

In that case you can put me down as human.

I’m really pleasant when I’ve had too much to drink and been the victim of a crime.

Next up: the following week, K-man was riding home on his un-stolen bike and got hit by a car.  The bike ended up under the wheels of the car, and he bounced off the bonnet.  He’s fine; cuts and bruises only (though the bike was a write-off).  Mostly, he was shaking and fragile with shock.  Thank lard it was a small car that hit him, and that it was not going faster.  He made eye contact with the driver before the collision (she definitely saw him), he had right of way, and she should have stopped and she knew it.  Her foot ‘slipped off the brake’ apparently, so she simply drove into him at a roundabout.  A witness helped pick K-man up and escorted him home to make sure he was OK.

Then, back from a weekend in the country during a cold-snap and snow, our heating broke.  It’s always a bad sign when you can see your breath in the hallway, and in sub-zero temperatures frozen pipes mean you have to eat your Ha! Boiler insurance! What a con! words and call the Fuck My Wallet line.  £500 later, I’m seriously considering becoming a heating engineer.

Everything you ever wanted to know about my frame of mind by this point is represented by this picture of Jesus, our formerly vibrant house plant:

What’s a girl to do when the first six weeks of a year have removed her colour and rendered her incapable of even a glimmer of sparkle?  Why, run off to Paris, of course!  My friend JR might not be a doctor, but he knew, it turns out, that I was in parlous trouble in the doldrums department without me even having to mention it.  And, because he is somehow psychic and knew without me ever having breathed to anyone how much I wanted to go there, he surprised me with tickets to this place:

It's the Star Ship Enterprise, in chandelier form!

In one weekend, I regained my sense of being alive.  My vibrancy came back, I smoked some cigarettes, ate a bucket of french lard, glammed around Paris, and remembered all the good shit I’ve seen and done, all the people I loved, love, and almost lost, and who I am privileged to know.

Here Ends the 11th Commandment

I work at home most of the time, which means K-man will happily arrange delivery-people or tradesmen to call at the house.  These people are rarely reliable, are always disruptive, and K-man has always gone to work.  I am glimpsing a tiny part of what it must be like to be the parent of a baby who manages to get her child to finally go to sleep 30 seconds before her partner arrives home to comment (in tones that imply judgment about the ease of parenthood) on how cute it is.  Only it’s the noise and disruption of tradesman, and K-man waltzes through the door at 7pm to examine how great everything will look.

I need a fucking break from this shit, I said.  I am not getting anything done because every half hour I have to get up to answer the door, show someone around for the purposes of yet another quote for work, make a cup of tea for a worker, or answer some question about how exactly I would like something done.

Part of the problem is the nature of my work, which requires hours of close reading and deep thought about public policy processes, the relative merits of different methodologies for researching the answer to a question I haven’t thought of yet, and whether and how I know what I think I know.  Having someone liberally cursing at their machinery interrupts the train of thought, and trying to get that thought back is like clutching at fog.

I’m pretty sure I said thou shalt engage no more tradesmen until 2012.  Several times.  I’ve taken to calling it the 11th Commandment, but I should have known better because like many a religious dictat it’s being enthusiastically ignored.

Latching on to my statement that perhaps certain improvements to the outside would not be as disruptive, K-man arranged for a man to move our garden shed and build us a patio in the sunny spot of our garden.

The shed was built at least 25 years ago in the stupidest place available, right in the centre of the garden.  Visually it cuts the garden in half, and it takes up valuable sun-lounging space during our four annual seconds of sunshine.  It’s ugly, and there are now enough gaps in its structural integrity to enable squirrels to get in and cause havoc.

Cross-reference the astonishing size of the dump section of our garden, which is in the perfect place for a garden shed since it is in the back left corner which never sees the sun.  Every garden – am I right? – has a dump section.  Ours is the size of Tokelau.  I tried to clear it myself but stopped when after six inches of digging, I uncovered a bin-liner potentially containing my worst nightmares.  Always one to take the easiest way out, I pretended the dump section’s dark secrets didn’t exist, so we dumped more crap on it (the smashed up fireplace, the 1970s kitchen unit we ripped out of the garage, the fence we pulled down and replaced) and walked away brushing down our clothing.

Work began yesterday.  Sixteen cups of tea and a wheel-barrow of biscuits later, this is the view from the upstairs window:

Considerable consternation was caused upon the inevitable tradesman discovery that in relation to the dump section, more clearance work would be involved than he initially estimated.  I tried to tell you, I said, for all I know it’s filled with concrete and human remains to a depth of 20 feet.  I am paying you so that I don’t have to think about it.  Now deal with it!  Yes.  Tradesmen adore me.

The skip on our driveway is full already, and neither the shed nor that huge heap of soil will fit in it.  The tradesman is taking the shed away himself after we have stripped useful firewood from it.  We will have to get rid of the huge heap of earth by chucking it over our skeevy neighbour’s fence gradually putting it in our wheelie bin for the council to take away.  Some of it can probably go on my vegetable patch, which is already full of topsoil from under the original shed.

Our house is gradually evolving, and with it I believe my approach to home improvements has matured.  I have informed K-man that should there be any further works scheduled during 2011, his costing should factor in my hotel bill.

The Second Annual Pilates Shove

There hasn’t been any chandelier-swinging in our castle for a while, as K-man’s sciatica has reared up to bite him in the right leg.

Last week things took a turn for the worse, but we ignored it and went camping in a field and to a party full of friends.  Several beers to the gullet later, a game of rounders was organised.  I queried the potential pitfalls of his involvement at the time, but I was shushed.  Unsurprisingly, the next morning was fairly hideous.

He had to have Monday off work, as he could neither stand up straight nor lie flat without significant pain.  A double-dose of codeine wasn’t even touching the sides.  I queried the potential pitfalls of overdosing on both codeine and the anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by the GP, but I was shushed.

After an MRI and a consultation, this morning he is at hospital for his second annual cortisone injection.  I wanted to go, to make sure I could observe the steadiness of the consultant’s hand as she pushes a giant spear into my husband’s spine, but I was shushed.  There’s no need to sedate him, apparently, so I’m simply sitting here chewing my nails to the quick and fretting about what would happen if the needle slips at a vital stage during the procedure.

K-man knows (after three separate specialist recommendations, and after I have beaten him about the head with a clump of leaflets) that pilates is the preventive strategy of choice.  I am striving to dissolve his expectation of instant results, and he has signed up for a series of ‘rehabilitation’ classes.  His previous experience with pilates was not promising, but he won’t admit that it was his own fault.  He attended two pilates classes, approximately 8 weeks apart, and then proclaimed it was not working.  

The biggest battle is going to be making him keep going when a) he has espied some particularly urgent DIY matter which requires his attention on a Saturday morning, and b) he’s been going for three weeks and can’t discern a difference.  If you read about a third annual cortizone injection on this blog, you’ll know that I’ve lost the battle, but the war rages on.



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