Being Decorated

My mother felt sure that, despite nigh on thirty years of continuous incompetence, when it came to all things practical, there was really no reason why basic DIY should be beyond me. Perhaps it was the fact that, alongside me would be the Textiliste.

Being the woman she was, my mother promised me two things to set me on my way: one, she would show me how and, two, she would give me a book to refer to. Unlike today’s youthful generation for whom user manuals are about as likely to be read as Apple’s T&Cs, back in the mid 1980s a good how to book was a must. Mum, you see, believed staunchly in DIY. After all why would a broken hand stop you bricklaying…

And so it was that we newly weds bought a near derelict pile in South London with a view to filling our evenings and weekends with that most Yuppie of past times: the doey-uppey. Today’s young folks show off their tattoos or some clip of dolphins making muffins; we showed off our dado rails and anaglypta wallpaper. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my generation managed to spend most of our national wealth making home ownership for Generation Miffed as likely as a coherent Boris Johnson soundbite.

move in day – bare boards and sooooo much brown paint…

We were stupidly ambitious. Take out a wall and make a large kitchen-diner. Remove old chimney breasts but keep the fireplaces and reuse them in other rooms. Burn off all the old paint, back to the Victorian wood and paint it from scratch. Wallpaper the main rooms. Put in extra electrical circuits.

Mum encouraged me though she insisted on one thing. Do not do plumbing. Well nothing new anyway. Draining the central heating system and removing a radiator was ok. But putting in something that might flood the place? Not clever.

The pink gloved woman is mum, clearly still hard at it while the Textiliste – dig those dungees!- has a glass of something white…… maybe more than one

We learnt a lot. For instance if you’ve laid a new floor – in this case cork tiles – and need to adjust a door so it opens smoothly don’t cut off the top rather than the bottom.

We became very methodical. We would strip off the years of old paper. Ditto the years of paint, no doubt much of it containing enough lead to cover a church roof. Blown areas of plaster would be trimmed and the holes filled. I wasn’t much good at plastering, the newly skimmed wall more redolent of the moon’s surface, but needs must. We couldn’t pay for an expert, but we were prepared to do a lot of sanding to try and get it smooth.

how many men does it take to put up curtains…

Ah, wallpapering. I’ve learnt that whatever a book or a YouTube video might indicate, you should never ever test your marriage vows by trying to repaper a ceiling together.

‘Hold it up.’ ‘I’m trying too. Why are you taking so long?’ ‘Because you keep dropping your arms.’ ‘That’s because you’re taking so long.’

The first room we papered was the living room, a large irregularly shaped space with a picture rail, a large sash window in a bay and two doors. Start gently. There was a pattern repeat to incorporate into our plans too.

It took us some time to get the first strip straight. Starting in the evening after a long day at work probably didn’t help. By the time we’d set the tone and hung 3 strips to Mrs LP’s satisfaction we were knackered.

’Let’s eat.’

’But there’s a bucket full of paste.’

’Mum said put a wet tea towel across the top and it will keep.’

Good tip that one. We adjourned to the kitchen, ate some food, watched some TV and then went looking for the cat who regularly got trapped in one of the yet to be worked on rooms. No sign.

Eventually we found her, asleep on the Tea towel having sunk into the wallpaper paste. She was sticky down one side and it took us another hour of hissing and scratching ( and that was just me) to get her clean and dry.

Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t work with animals or children…

Mind you I was always great at floor polishing, especially if I removed my brain first… this looks so much like Gumby Wax Inc at work

And finally it’s a Pooh Bear moment.

Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits…



About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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32 Responses to Being Decorated

  1. I have aches in muscles I didn’t even know I had, just from thinking about it, Geoff! LOL The good ole days huh? Fun post. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A great enterprise. Will we see more?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ritu says:

    Oh I loved this His Geoffleship! And the photos… Such great memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Smith says:

    Did you improve over time?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The cat finished me off! Then I saw the red trousers 😉 There’s a whole Twitter account for men in red trousers (though I think only in Edinburgh, so fear not).

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh how timely! Just when I was thinking I might still be capable of wallpapering my lounge ……….Of course I’m not – thanks for the reminder 😀 My god the hours we used to put in and the dust!! And the fumes! And there was always something else that needed doing. I’ll stick with things the way they are. Brilliantly funny Geoff, love the Textiliste’s take on decorating!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    Happy Memories 💜lovely post

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elizabeth says:

    An old boy friend who taught me plumbing told me the first law of plumbing is “open a beer” on the theory that things are bound to go south and you will need one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. trifflepudling says:

    Nitromors was my Waterloo. It was smelly and disgusting and didn’t work properly. Mind you, I’m still using the imperfectly stripped chest of drawers with the knob which comes off the second drawer down every time you use it! Good post and photos! Poor kitty! Was that Sisyphus?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yvonne says:

    A gentle snicker of sympathy from Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Norah says:

    What a wonderful project. We can conquer anything when we’re young. And have a mum who knows just what to do!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    Like you, we rolled up our sleeves and worked. How did we do it?!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Darlene says:

    Wallpapering! Why did we ever think it was a good idea??

    Liked by 1 person

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