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Brassed off

Perhaps it is the newly-dark evenings, or the onset (finally!) of the unsettled seasonal weather, but it seems my creative impulses have been lacking of late. Indeed, the last time I sat at my laptop with the intention of writing some new and exciting bloggy stuff sadly coincided with one of those occasional days when ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WAS AWFUL and I, probably wisely, thought better of the unreasonable rant I began to type and binned it, in favour of watching some inane TV.

I have no idea what prompts such horrible days. It seems sometimes that I am incapable of civilised exchanges, most of Mr J’s comments and suggestions being received with a snarl or despairing shrug – or worse, a curt and cutting return comment. On the most recent such day, I eventually developed a banger of a headache which was on the ‘wrong’ side of my head and unresponsive to migraine medication, so there was perhaps something chemical at play here. I don’t much like myself in these instances – which of course makes it worse! Fortunately, so far, such days are few and far between. (Mr J may disagree here – haha. It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose.)

Anyhow, here – finally – is a bit of a catch-up.

After a weekend of acting the glamorous groupie for Mr J’s band at the local pub and in an altogether ‘cooler’ venue on the Portobello Road, I determined to bring myself back down to earth a little and paint our front door. We have been the scruffy house on our side of the street for as long as I can remember – quite probably since we moved in nearly 20 years ago. Despite replacing the windows, and sorting out the front garden – both of which have vastly improved our frontage – our front door has remained resolutely chipped, scuffed, faded and slightly cracked. I filled the most obvious crack a few weeks ago in an attempt to bring the temperature inside the house at least up to that of the outdoors (this was unsuccessful because, apart from on exceptionally windy days, the cold comes up through the floorboards). Of course, this has left yet another blemish on the door because the filler is not the same colour as the paint.

Whilst making my way along the Portobello Road, I multi-tasked and cast my beady eye over the many brightly coloured terraced houses in the adjoining streets in an attempt to weigh up the pros and cons of different front-door colours to add to the ‘discussions’ at home. The making of decisions is not a strong point of mine, but when it comes to rooting out all possible alternatives to make the ultimate choice inordinately difficult, then I am the Queen of rooters.  Mr J seems to favour a high-gloss black for our refurbished front door (perhaps over-influenced by the far-too-numerous recent shots on TV and in newspapers of the ever-revolving No.10 portal) and I have ruled out white but failed to narrow it down any further. We are still undecided, and I suspect will end up with a ‘shade’ of black. I imagine Farrow & Ball do something like coal-miner-sweaty-brow which would do. Please note: As I am a thorough sort of a nerd and, of course, keen to root out those many alternatives, I reckoned I should check my references at this point. Thus I spent a few brief minutes this morning perusing F&B’s website. I am none the wiser. The only black they seemed to have was definitely not an actual black at all – and I had to go and lie down for a while after noticing that their colour-sample book costs £99. I mean, really?)

In the meantime, some progress is made in the preparation of the door for its paint job. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I begin sanding with some heavy-duty sandpaper, believing that I can somehow trick myself into doing the whole door in one go (I am easily distracted, as will become evident). No sooner have I begun, than Mr J helpfully appears brandishing an electric sander which speeds up proceedings quite a bit, although makes my activity a little more noticeable, for which I apologise to those who may have been disturbed by it. The sanding reveals several different colours beneath the faded British Racing Green which has been clinging on for at least the last 20 years. I am contemplating leaving the door as it now is, mottled green, blue, white and salmon (primer from a bygone age) and raw wood. Perhaps we can be trendsetters in this?

A later accidental return to the Messrs Farrow and Ball website leads me to understand that they do indeed make a variety of different blacks: Off-black (so, NOT black then); Tanner’s brown (so, that’ll be brown then, NOT black?);  Paean black (praise be! but a bit poncey – and is it actually black?); Railings (which is described as a blue-based black – and is in any case, ridiculous, because railings can be painted any colour can’t they – and they were definitely green in Cheltenham’s parks when I was growing up); Tar (that’s more like it, as long as it doesn’t have the accompanying smell; and finally Pitch Black which I will acknowledge looks properly black to me.

I am glad I returned to this website, because I have inadvertently discovered a wonderful paint called Sulking Room Pink which I believe will transform my office, beautifully reflecting, as it does, my frequent state of mind therein.

Returning to my front door, I decide that the door furniture (letterbox etc) is inoffensive and functional so will not need replacing. However, it could do with a bit of buffing up. I am confident that the fittings are brass and also (fairly) confident that we have an ancient tin of Brasso lurking somewhere in the back of a kitchen cupboard. Triumphantly, I retrieve the rusty old can and, wielding an almost equally decrepit duster, I hasten to the front porch.

Within minutes I have rendered the small door pull around the upper lock mostly a shiny gold colour and am spurred on enormously. (Note ‘mostly’ – as usual I abandon it as soon as it looks shiny from the far end of the pathway.) My first tiny test of the letter box surround also proves successful – at least, in a small area. But this is a tedious task and after more than half an hour of assiduous buffing I succeed only in part. The top half of the letter-box surround gleams beautifully but the sides, bottom and the central flap are still mostly dark and dull. A passing neighbour helpfully suggests I use tomato ketchup, but by this stage I am unsure I want to waste a useful comestible on what now seems a hopelessly difficult and possibly unnecessary task. A quick look at a few neighbouring houses reveals that several others have allowed their identical door furniture to ‘weather’ in the same way as ours has done, and whilst they have been more diligent with applying fresh paint around it they have not worried about the lack of a gleaming feature. Of course, there are a few blingy silver articles among them, several of which I can see from just a casual glance must be far too small for even a modest envelope. From my vast experience of newspaper delivery (two whole weeks in 1975, I recall. I’m still scarred by the early mornings and scary dog memories in the steep lanes of rural Gloucestershire) I know that these tiny apertures are a complete pain regardless of shininess!

The final straw arrives in the shape of Mr J and his screwdriver, attempting to remove the whole fitting so that I can dip it in vinegar (a slightly more acceptable comestible to waste on this activity) or even Coca Cola. Halfway through the manoeuvre, it becomes apparent that the fixings are old and might not easily be replaced, so we hurriedly push it all back into place and I continue with desultory rubbing – until one side works itself loose and I fear the whole thing will disintegrate and leave us with a rough-edged hole in the door which will most definitely not help the draughts. I curse and blame – and fortunately manage to reattach things by hand without the aid of a man or his tools (and it’s all still in place more than a week later, please note).  

The last word in contemporary door design

A few more attempts, but I decide that enough buffing is enough and my performance having been decidedly lack-lustre, I am thoroughly brassed off with the whole pantomime.

So now the door is mottled, and its embellishments part-shiny, part-dull. It is a new fashion, I am sure.

I have cheered up today following the delivery of a sofa-bed for my office/Son J’s old bedroom and the completion of the related tidying, cleaning and reorganisation which have much improved my immediate environment,  spurring me on to complete this blog at last. 

And I am also boosted by the fact that today, unlike yesterday, I have not spent ten minutes lying on a cold grey lino floor in Boots contemplating my own inadequacies. (And thus the booster I was eventually given in Boots has had the desired – if slightly postponed – effect, I suppose. Big sigh…)




And before I knew it, I had a beautiful sanded bedroom floor!

From my style meeting on Wednesday morning, to a completed job by the end of Saturday afternoon. Sometimes miracles do happen.

All credit to the flooring company (BT Flooring) that offered an almost immediate booking and cheerfully spent a Saturday in our house sorting it all out for us.

Now I’m exploring the delights of creating a Wish List on the John Lewis website for all the other bits and pieces. Just the small issue of finishing all the paintwork now – and being super careful not to spoil the gorgeous floor in the process. Dustsheets to the ready.

Oh, and the ceiling in the room below is now hanging by a thread – with large chunks fallen down as I had rather expected with all the banging and shaking above – so I think we’ll have to tackle that room next. 


I’ve got style, at last

After agonising for weeks, and painting for days, I had reached something of an impasse in my redecoration attempt. I have finally banished the lilac walls under multiple layers of fresh white/grey paint (called some fancy name which currently escapes me without venturing back into the room where the nearly empty paint-pot sits – and I’m NOT going in there today), but I realised I still have no idea what to do with the floor or the window covering.

I consulted the previous occupant of the room (my daughter) but of course it is not really her choice or decision. Nice to have an opinion though, and that helped.

A discussion with Mr J ensued – not terribly helpful but I guess he tried. Anyway, I miraculously discovered that John Lewis do a free service offering style advice for home redecoration projects. Not something I would ever have noticed before I suppose. Once I had established that this would not tie me to anything at all, and that appointments were available almost immediately, I quickly booked myself in.

Yesterday, trudging through the rain into town, I wondered whether this was worth the effort, but in fact despite my damp feet and having to wear a mask at all times, it was glorious. I now know exactly what to do! It just takes a friendly person with a reasonably authoritative air to listen to me a bit (to judge which ludicrous ideas not to suggest to me too soon I suppose) and then come up with a few little suggestions and an offer to send samples and pictures. 

On returning home, I swiftly had Mr J on his knees sanding a corner of the floorboards. This established that it would be perfectly feasible to strip and oil these  (the floorboards, not his knees) – and that it would be infinitely better if we got someone in to do it. I have already made the request.

Funny how my lack of vision and inability to make decisions can sometimes be thwarted by an expert I’ve never met before.

She had pink hair.

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