They say it’s important to live with a house for a while before you redecorate. That’s the way to really get to know it and bring it to life. I’ve been in my new home for a month now and so it’s time to make a start.
“I’m thinking green” I say, my hand hovering somewhere between Willow and Sage on the colour chart “It brings the garden in to the house.”
“And why would you want that?” asks Rose my septuagenarian neighbour.
“Well…its calming… sort of…” I reply.
“It won’t suit your skin tone”
She regards me critically “By the way that lipstick’s all wrong for you”
It is? But I’m given no time to defend Pouting Peony as Rose continues
“There is only one rule to follow when it comes to interior design… or indeed anything… and that is to choose the most flattering background for yourself that you can. Most women have simply no idea…”
She eyes me again but as she is by far the most elegant person I have ever met I listen attentively.
“I once had them change the backdrop for a production of An Inspector Calls at the very last minute, dress rehearsal actually. The drawing room had been done out in the most hideous shades of ochre and mustard. It may be authentic to the 1940’s, I said to the stage manager, but how is someone with my delicate colouring supposed to stand out against it? You’ll just have to think again”
“And did he?” I asked
“The dear man worked on it all night. But then he’d been in love with me for years… ever since he saw my Clytemnestra.”
I’m pretty certain that’s not a euphemism.
Still undecided about colour I make a start on preparing the sitting room walls. I’m strong and fit…well fit-ish and so I’m confident that I won’t have to get in a professional. How hard can it be? I ask myself. I’ll just paint over the lining paper and that should be that. But it isn’t.
Standing on a tall kitchen stool (who needs a step-ladder?) I inspect the lining paper forensically. Quite a lot of it is coming away from the wall. Tricky. But there’s no reason to give up. I’ll just re-stick it… somehow. I take out my phone, remembering of course to climb down off the stool (safety first I think smugly.) There’s a step-by step-video online. Doesn’t look too difficult but I’ll be needing supplies. I get them.
Back on the tall stool again and stretching up to the where the wall meets the ceiling I begin to pull away one of the loose sections. Instantly the top of it rips. That is not supposed to happen I think crossly. But there’s no need to get discouraged. Who’s going to notice a slight tear so high up? I’ll just patch it in. Here I acknowledge that I might be understating the word slight. I try again and this time much more gently. Ah, that’s better I say to myself as a long piece unfurls to about half way down the wall. That’s fine. It is a larger section than in the video but it should be nothing to worry about. I repeat the operation on another section and this time no ripping. Great! I’m starting to get the hang of this. But I’m not. I’m not getting the hang of it at all. There is more ripping. A lot more. And in some areas not just at the top but further down. My arms ache and I feel my temper beginning to flare but there’s only one more section in the corner by the window to do. I should probably move the sofa but by now I just want to get the bloody job finished. I stretch as far as I can and pull. Gently does it I say aloud. The paper slowly comes away and I pull again but nothing happens. Maybe that’s as far as I need to go? But it looks odd somehow and a bit lumpy. I lean in as close as I can to examine it but suddenly something happens beneath me. The world appears to be rocking. Stop the rocking my brain screams as the stool rears and bucks to the left. Fuck I’m going to go straight through the window I think. Frantically I slalom to the right (although I’ve never skied in my life) and lurch forward, flail for a moment in what feels like mid-air and land with a thud on the sofa.
Later, nursing a large glass of wine and aching shoulders, I lie on that same sofa and survey the room. Ringlets of lining paper snake and coil down the walls. I sigh and go back to the chart. Remembering Rose’s advice, I reject Fuchsia Flush outright. After another glass of this wine my skin will match the paint and that’s taking colour coordination way too far in my opinion. I hold the chart against my face and study my refection in a mirror. Lavender Mist? No, it makes me look anaemic. How about Sugared Almond? Somehow, I’ve aged a decade. But there is a shade of pale pink that appeals. It’s comforting and warm and oddly familiar. I check the code. It’s called Pouting Peony.
TO BE CONTINUED