At last it is over – three highly stressful weeks. On the Richter Scale of my life events, it counts as about 4. No, make that 6.
When we bought our current house about 7 years ago, it had just been painted afresh inside, so it looked clean. What we did not know, was that the seller had slapped a coat of cheap paint on the walls, just to make the selling appeal greater. A few years later, the paint under the top coat started playing peek-a-boo in places. Besides, two of the rooms were painted different colours to the rest and the main bedroom sported bi-coloured walls.
Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against colours – my BFF lives in a Smartie box of a house and it looks great, but they have a huge house in comparison to our, well, Smartie-box-sized humble abode.
Then B got a bee in her bonnet about having the house painted. You need to understand that when B gets a bee in her bonnet, like the proverbial one it needs to be let out. Soon, if not immediately. I stalled. I found reasons why we should wait another year or so. I um-ed and ah-ed. A year or so ago, we had the en suit bathroom redone and B had such anxiety, she was almost hospitalized. So believe me that when I added 2 to my Richter Scale of stressful events, the 2 was solely caused by B’s anxiety.
Two months ago, we heard that our next-door neighbours were going on an overseas trip for 2 months. Ah! Light bulb moment for B. Woe for me. She immediately made arrangements with them to have the run of their house in exchange for looking after their place, mostly so that Pooch is safe and not being trampled by painters (because, face it, she just has to put her snub nose into everybody’s business, literally), but also not to have to be around while the house is swarming with painters and covered in dust and paint fumes.
I was swept along on this wave of arrangements – getting quotes, comparing them, accepting one and arranging for the contractor to come and prepare the walls during the 3 days before the Easter weekend. I clamped my mouth shut and nodded agreement to all her plans (I would be away working all day, escaping most of the goings-on in any case).
We packed away everything that could be packed away and took smaller fragile stuff like lamps next door for storing. The curtains came down, all 12 of them. And I’m short, so even standing on our household mini ladder, it was a stretch, that’s why I know there are 12. My back muscles took their revenge at night.
It started to look like we were moving and my throat constricted. Although moving house does not appear on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (which is a bit dated), believe you me it should rank up there in the top 5 or so. I should know, we have moved house 6 times in the last 25 years.
On the first day, the contractors were late and only worked for a few hours before packing up. Not even half of the work had been finished. B’s anxiety shot up a few notches when they did not return the next day. The contractor spun some story about having had to finish another job. They would start in earnest two weeks later. Add more notches to that stress scale.
I tried convincing B that we now had more time to decide on the colour we wanted. Ha. Start of episode 2 of this soap opera. The colour we chose from the product colour guide, looked NOTHING like the colour in the guide when applied to a wall from a small, 250 ml (a cup) sample tin. Back to the guide, chosing another colour, getting a sample, painting a section of a wall. Meh! It looked like the first sample – dull grey. Third time lucky, we thought. Ha once more! Not so – grey again. Only then did a different shop assistant show us the mix of colours that goes into samples on his computer screen – one colour is left out of the mix in the 250 ml sample tin. Getting one liter as a sample, would be a better match.
Episode 3. We buy a liter sample of a colour that looks great in the guide. It has the promising name of My Magnolia. On the wall it looks like puke. Or shaki (that shade between sh*t and khaki). Back to the drawing board, no, sorry, colour palette. We peruse exotic-named colours: Mystic Tulip, Unmatched Beauty, Afternoon Shower and Nautilous and decide on Worn Wood.
By then a few walls looked like a bored three-year old had gotten their little hands on the brush, as I tried to lighten B’s mood with my attempts at art. B was not impressed. By the third liter of paint, we realized that the squares of colours in the booklet were not accurate either – you needed to look at the colour swatches. Why don’t sales people tell you this?
By then the contractor was ready to start and the painters moved in to prepare the surfaces. By day, B and Pooch moved next-door to camp for the day, by night we camped in a house with furniture covered in fine dust, sounds echoing with no curtains or carpets to absorb them. At times I felt like we were in the Royal Albert Hall – or what I imagined it would sound like.
Why did we not sleep at the neighbours’ place? Hmm. They had the power switched off and comfort-loving creatures that we are (preferring a guest-house holiday to camping in a tent or camper), we wanted our meals and showers hot, a bedside lamp to read or knit by and soap operas to watch on TV. As if we were not living one!
Still we had not decided on a colour for the walls. In despair, as time was running out, we chose Full Cream, as this seemed to be the only colour that displayed true to its name. We painted a section of a wall and slept on it. The idea, not the wall. The next day we agreed that we could not live with cream walls and decided to live dangerously. We choose Ivory Parchment. As librarian and writer, parchment appeals to me as writing material of old. Yeah, I know, weak excuse. It sounded great at the time.
I lived through the whole saga vicariously, as at night the day’s events were relayed to me. Like the day the painters put the dining room set outside under the leaking porch roof on a rainy day. Or the day they placed shelves from the linen cupboard on the dining room table – made of soft wood that dents easily. I could picture the minor volcanic eruptions these acts caused. I know how B feels about “her” furniture. Stress levels were dangerously high. Pooch took it in her stride. She had a different couch to sleep on during the day.
7 days, more elevated stress levels and a few broken promises by the contractor later, we agree we had made the right choice. The walls look great. Really.
“Never again,” B tells me.
I agree. Even the sight of a paintbrush makes me break out in a cold sweat. Colour me gone.