THE helpful assistant at the out-of-town DIY store offered to carry my four pots of paint to the car.
“I can’t understand why anyone does this,” he said, pointing to the paint and shaking his head as he stashed them in the boot.
Which I thought was a strange thing for someone who works in a DIY store to say, although I suppose the sight of so much vinyl matt emulsion and wood stain on a daily basis might act as a decorating deterrent. I once visited the Nestle factory in Halifax where they make Quality Street and was told that no-one felt like eating chocolate much after spending their working days in a sickly fug of cocoa butter and toffee. It’s the same thing in principle.
I was just about to ask an impertinent question about the state of the interior decor at his house when he explained: “I pay someone else to do it. It’s easier that way.”
Decorators, in my experience, are rarely short of work. We have waited weeks on end, on several occasions, for ours to give us his precious time. But the difference between what a professional can achieve with a few sheets of wallpaper and some emulsion paint and what I can achieve makes it worth the wait.
However, in a bid to save some cash, I decided that we’d attempt the easier decorating tasks at The Boy’s new house. The stairs and hallways will be left to the professional.
I feel it is my parental duty to initiate Firstborn into the decorating arts. The early hunter gatherers showed their children how to make flint spear heads and take down a bison; I can show him how to mask a plug socket, roller paint a wall and take down a curtain rail.
We began with the spare bedroom. He did the high stuff that I couldn’t reach – I’m not to be trusted on stepladders – and I loaded up the roller with his chosen paint. After much deliberation and cogitation, necessitating several trips by me to buy tester pots, he had selected a shade described as ‘biscuit.’ It looks undistinguishable from the widely-scorned magnolia, but who am I to argue?
I’d already masked off the skirting boards and plugs. He decided it would save time if he masked the ceiling also. In fact, this procedure has added hours onto the job as the tape removed a layer of white paint from the ceiling, which didn’t need painting but now does.
Monday found me rollering one of the walls in his bedroom in a fiddly and unforgiving deep purple. He seems to have lost interest in the decorating and keeps telling me of his weekend plans, which include trips to Manchester and York but not to his new house.
“It’s not as if I’ve got loads of spare time,” I complained to the Man-in-Charge the other night, as we sat looking at a radiator in our living room that has needed a coat of paint for several months now.
“And there’s plenty of decorating in our own house that I could be doing.”
But, if I’m entirely honest, I’m finding the process of refurbishing The Boy’s new house quite satisfying. My complaints are not to be taken too seriously. I feel as if I’m in an episode of the House Doctor, chucking out the chintz and putting a contemporary stamp on things. I’ve even painted a couple of mirror frames and rollered a set of bedroom furniture. If it doesn’t move it gets a coat of paint.
The next task will be to do some grouting in the bathroom.
Why, I have wondered to myself, is it so much more fun doing up someone else’s house?
And what’s the betting our living room radiator will still need a coat of paint this time next year?
I must ask our decorator whether his own house ever gets a lick of emulsion or if, like the Quality Street workers, he’s just had enough of it at the end of the day.
It’s a bit like me and computers. I sit at one most of the day and find the thought of Facebooking and computer gaming in the evening about as appealing as climbing into an I’m a Celebrity Get Mr Out of Here bucket of dead fish heads.
Give me a paint brush any time.