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The family painting

It took my wife quite a while to reacquaint our living-room with its furniture, following our completion of the redecoration. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop her from running her critical eye over other areas of our house. The attic proved to be of particular interest. It was something of a waste of space, and her idea of transforming it into a spare bedroom-office certainly sounded appealing. I could imagine myself spending many restful hours in such a place, following vital world events through the medium of the internet. The more I thought about it, the more attractive the prospect became. I pledged my full support for the endeavour.

And I must say, once the lounge had been restocked, she set about this project with gusto. It was reportedly very hard work. Sometimes, she could be heard hammering and sawing late into the evening. To be honest, this was something of an inconvenience, seeing as it coincided with the World Cup. It made watching the repeats of such matches as Germany versus Saudi Arabia, or Paraguay against I forget quite whom, difficult. She explained that no, it wasn’t possible to pad the hammer with cotton wool, and nor could she wrap the saw blade in thick linen. Having pledged my full support, I felt obliged to accept the sacrifice. I made the best of things by turning the television up. Aren’t those remote control devices a blessing?

Shortly after the final interviews following the final repeat of the final, I hurried upstairs, via the cellar, to admire her handiwork. And all credit to my wife. She’d done a splendid job. She’d even managed to instal the computer. I smiled a compliment as I sat down, in order to check the population figures for Warsaw in 1820. Whilst undertaking this research, I also happened across a most appealing homepage: Koala-cam.

Several days later, my wife interrupted my studies with a question: would I like to paint the stairwell, as she had to buy some fixtures and fittings for the en-suite bathroom? I thought my answer was correct, but she changed my opinion by suggesting certain surgical uses for a saw. Once again, I set to work. After several hours of fruitless searching, I found all the necessary equipment awaiting in the would be en-suite bathroom. After sating my curiosity concerning the Weather Forecasts for 120 Cities of the World (storms expected in Accra, incidentally), I was ready for action.

As you may know, a large part of successful decorating is dependent upon command decisions. For example, if Michelangelo had resolved to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with the largest roller available, I’m sure he’d have saved himself a great deal of time. That he chose a different approach perhaps suggests his artistic temperament impinged upon his sense of strategic planning. Alternatively, he might have been paid by the hour. This is an issue I should look into more closely. Having made sure to have taken ample time for formulating my command decisions (and checking them with a retired fisherman from Nova Scotia per means of, the DIY-er’s internet forum), I resolved to take a Napoleonic approach and use the largest roller. I wonder if there’s some significance in the fact that L’EmpĂ©reur never commissioned a portrait of himself from Michelangelo. I manoeuvred the paint bucket into the passage, grabbed the roller and dived in. To the task at hand, not to the paint.

Realising that the whole stairwell had to be tackled, a decision upon where to start would have been superfluous. The nearest place was as good as any. I dunked the roller into the white emulsion, watched the excess drip back into the bucket, rolled it professionally against the plastic grid thing and ordered my artillery to commence the bombardment.

The paint splodged satisfyingly against the wall. As my wife had thoughtfully spread plastic sheeting over the floor, I was in a position to disregard the droplets that fell stray of their intended targets. Consequently, I soon had a beautifully white area of wall, plus a bit of collateral damage on my toes. I looked at my contented expression in the two-thirds of the mirror in which my reflection could still be viewed. It then occurred to me that the other third was unusually white. I did think about removing the mirror from the wall. However, seeing as my wife had neither done so already, nor provided a screwdriver for the purpose, this was clearly unnecessary. For the sake of uniformity, I applied more emulsion, and assumed it would blend in with the emergent ambience. Somewhat astounded by the success of this initial strike, I went down to the cellar for a well deserved cigarette.

As I made my way back up the stairs after a mere twenty minutes (perhaps it was slightly longer), I was surprised to hear giggling and chattering. It was then that I observed the painted boot prints on the plastic sheeting. I followed them, and was astonished to find that they continued up the wall at the top, and even onto the ceiling. It was as if small and playful elves had decided to join the campaign. The giggling increased and I was left filled with pride at the ingenuity of the children. They’d fetched their wellingtons and taken advantage of my short absence, in order to indulge their inventiveness. At first, I was mystified as to how they’d reached the ceiling, but the paint-splattered chair was part of the solution. When they showed me the sole of a boot they’d managed to superglue to the head of a broom, everything was clear. Apart from the location of the rest of the boot. I could but applaud them.

The children said they wanted to help. This made me slightly uneasy, and I explained all about the hard work and difficulties this would entail, which failed to diminish their enthusiasm. Having once read of the beneficial effects of parental trust upon healthy child development, I decided to accept their assistance. This was rewarded by angelic smiles. I explained the strategy, showed them the whereabouts of the walls and ceiling, and took up my position in Command HQ, whence I continued my discussions with Nova Scotia. Apparently, the state of the cod population is catastrophic.

A couple of hours passed (perhaps it was slightly longer), and I realised I was feeling peckish. Being a considerate general, I asked the troops about their need for rations on the way down to the kitchen. They assured me they were fine, so I made myself a sandwich and a refreshing cup of tea. After a further cigarette in the cellar, I hurried back to my Command HQ. The photos on the Orkney Islands homepage were simply sublime. I sent an email to articulate my appreciation. That’s when I heard the thudding sounds and the muffled screaming.

I’m pleased to report that the troops had been very busy. I inspected their efforts whilst descending the stairs. Large lengths of wall had some white paint on them. As did considerable portions of the carpet. Clearly, my wife had neglected to secure the plastic sheeting firmly enough. Much of it lay in a dishevelled heap outside the bathroom. Still, monotone grey, blue, green or whatever colour the carpet had been, can surely be considered dull. The large roller stuck to the ceiling might have attracted more of my curiosity. It was certainly unexpected. But I felt the muffled screams enjoyed a higher priority.

As I made my way across the heap of paint splattered plastic, I was surprised to discover parts of the broken chair and to hear a yelp from near my foot. Fortuitously, this alerted me to the presence of one of the children. I managed to disentangle the slightly whimpering individual. Instead of thanking me for my efforts, she said something about me virtually treading on her hand. The brush this anatomical feature was clutching waved vigorously around, which resulted in my receipt of a considerable, though uneven coating of paint. Happily, this in turn altered the mood of the owner. She began to laugh.

At this point, the screaming, bi-pedal bucket appeared from the bathroom. Despite being unable to see the face, I recognized this figure was actually our son. Wishing to be of some assistance, I removed the bucket from his head. Naturally, this had more paint on it than the bucket possessed within it. He hugged me. The screams gradually subsided and he utilised my clothes as cleaning rags. Finally, when he saw the roller stuck to the ceiling, he began laughing too.

Following some symbolic attempts at washing in the bathroom, we decided to hold an impromptu picnic on the lower stairs. (It didn’t seem wise to locate our painty selves within the pristine splendour of the sitting-room.) The emulsion didn’t detract too much from the taste of the crisps, especially after we had learned to discard the edges we’d been holding.

It was during this period of relative calm that some details emerged, concerning the earlier chain of events. I can’t say that the picture became crystal clear, or quite why the superglue was applied to the roller, but it might have had something to do with discussions upon the stickability of the paint. That as maybe, proceedings had certainly been influenced by the inherent topography of steps, the instability of chairs when placed thereon, the energy employed in trying to retrieve the roller and the force of gravity. By the way, never balance a bucket of paint on the corner of the bannisters.

Eventually, feet could be heard staggering up the front steps, and a heavily laden silhouette was visible through the glass of the door. Upon seeing this figure struggling to find the keys, I was up like a flash to bid welcome. My wife, carrying several bags and a large box, stared at my face, hair and clothes. Her mouth tried to say something but seemed unequal to the task. “We’ve been busy,” I informed her. She nodded and thrust the box towards me. I took hold of it, just as she dropped the carrier bags in reaction to seeing the children. “I thought you’d be surprised,” I suggested. Her reply was a strange, strangled kind of noise.

This seemed a good time to show willing, so I carried the box upstairs, taking care to avoid treading on the painted edges of the crisps which lay strewn around. My wife followed and cast her expert gaze over the results of our labours. Words continued to fail her as she noticed the heap of destruction in front of the bathroom. She was clearly surprised by the growing puddle visible through the open door, and sensibly disengaged the taps of the overflowing sink. I had meant to attend to this detail myself thirty minutes previously (perhaps it was slightly longer), but it had somehow slipped my mind.

That successfully achieved, she somehow managed to keep one eye on me, whilst her other gazed with something between indifferent acceptance and complete astonishment at the roller on the ceiling. As I transported the box further atticwards, she eventually rediscovered the ability of speech. She suggested I should look, just look and don’t touch anything, at myself in the mirror. I did voice the opinion that this wouldn’t be a good idea, an assessment which proved to be correct.

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