Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 6 July 2012
As I begin to type, 'Dido's Lament' wafts in from the kitchen, and - once again - I find myself thinking about the Princess Diana tragedy. That music could have been composed for her, and in a way, it might have been.
It is all but drowned out by the hammering and shouting both front and back (which I will not - you will be pleased to hear - say any more about now), but I shake my head and drag myself back into the present. I have a post to write, and a bathroom door to strip.
After 40 years of staring at two pieces of painted hardboard nailed to a flimsy pine frame, H.I. has decided she wants a 'new' bathroom door and, after 22 years of doing the same, I have finally gone out and bought one, so this post is shaping up into life-style style.
Every now and then, there is a little flurry of activity in our compact but adorable city apartment which could look - to the outsider - like a low-budget, amateur dramatisation of life in 'The Sow's Ear', with H.I.'s Brismod to my Jason.
H.I. sits or stands just behind me, making helpful suggestions as I sweat and swear in equal measure, and quite often after completion of the job, wonders out loud whether or not she has made the right decision about some minor detail to do with design or execution which has taken me about a week to turn into a reality.
You would think that fitting a new toilet-seat ought to be a reasonably simple matter, but you have forgotten the personal characteristics which traditionally comprise the make-up of a female fine-art painter born under the sign of Virgo, haven't you?
I visited my friend's reclamation yard the day before yesterday and selected a compromise (I did not dare mention that word out loud in front of H.I.) from a collection of 100 old doors, stuffed it into the back of the Volvo and drove it to my workshop where I began stripping about 100 year's worth of paint off it with what wags on building-sites call a 'hair-dryer'.
There have been quite a few simple people to have taken those wags seriously in the past, and actually tried to use these 300 degree, electronic, fire-breathing guns as actual hair-driers, and ended up giving a very impressive tribute to Michael Jackson when his lacquered Afro got too close to a hot lamp on stage that time. I suppose they could almost be used to dry hair, but I don't think that a human arm exists that is long enough to hold the thing far enough away from one's head to prevent turning it into a fire-ball within 2 seconds.
This compromise ("I've found JUST the one!", I said on the telephone) is exactly the right height, but needs a half an inch taken away from both sides so I can stuff it into the opening. After it has been primed, I will bring it home, take down the old and - like I said - stuff it into the opening.
"Who is hanging it for you?" asked my friend as we loaded the door.
"Who do you think?" I answered. He made a soft and knowing, sort of sympathetic grunt, then said no more about it.
The painting of the door will be H.I.'s job. She likes messy, rustic application of natural colours, and would not let professional painters anywhere near the house. She likes to see brush-strokes, but hates to see runs, so the paint is put on very thinly, allowing the ground to grin through from behind.
Recently, one of these professionals came to paint the shared stair-well, and she was horrified at the thick, glossy stuff that the man was slapping all over the 1770s woodwork, so she went down to tell him to leave our entrance door so that she could paint it herself.
I had to laugh when I saw the finished result because - looking at it through the professional painter's eyes - it looked as though it had been done by a blind child standing on a chair. Personally, I think it looks good, but I would have liked to have heard how he described her handiwork when he got home that night.
I'll show you the new bathroom door within about 2 months.