Do It Yourself, not with others

I've got away without redecorating Fortress H for so long that Mrs H has really put her foot down this time. No more of my vague promises to “do it next week” and protestations that there are some jobs that must be done in the garden.

I've got away without redecorating Fortress H for so long that Mrs H has really put her foot down this time. No more of my vague promises to “do it next week” and protestations that there are some jobs that must be done in the garden.

“The Good Gardener book says the pruning has to be done now. And you'll be the first to complain if the lilac gets in the way of your linen line.”

However, Mrs H means business this time. I was instructed to take some time off. Usually it's: “We're going to decorate” with the “we” meaning me. But his time Mrs H announced she was going to help.

“Right,” she said the night before we were due to start. “Let's decide what we're doing tomorrow.”

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Ah, so no lie-in then. No leisurely breakfast followed by: “Reckon I need a new brush, just popping up to B&Q.”

The first room to be done was the spare room. When Brats M and M lived at home this room housed the computer and was where Brat Minor spent many hours tinkering around, with the result that a succession of engineers were called to undo his damage. As he got older the interlopers would join him in there and, by the time he left home, the walls were covered in a collage made up of posters and pictures, some of which I have to say, were not suitable to be viewed by those of a nervous disposition.

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They were put up with the dreaded Bluetak so when we removed them chunks of plaster fell out so there was quite a bit of preparation to do. Mrs H allocated me the large holes to fill and set about doing the smaller ones herself.

It was then that I realised we had stumbled across something that actually rendered her silent.

After some time she said: “I like doing this. It's very therapeutic.”

I went about my filling, enjoying the peace when, suddenly, I became aware that Mrs H was at my shoulder.

“Put more filler in,” she rasped. “Go on, more. More! It'll sink; it won't be level”

“Hang on!” I protested. “I've been doing all the filling for years and now you're telling me what to do?”

“Yes but I know what happens,” she said. “I ice.”

“Ah, so creating a snow scene on the Christmas cake and whacking Santa Clause and his sleigh with a couple of snowmen on it qualifies you to pontificate on filling?”

“It's the same principle,” she insisted.

I decided to back down. We'd already had a spat. With the two of us cooped up in a small room, things had not got off to a good start. I was using a tube of filler in a gun to plug some cracks round the skirting. With this job, I'm all right once I get going, but when I start I can only assume I squeeze the trigger with a bit too much enthusiasm and I have filler spewing out the end of the tube like Vesuvius erupting. The only way to deal with this is to curse and whinge.

After my first spontaneous outburst Mrs H said caustically: “I can't stand this. If you're going to keep that up I'll come back and do this when you've finished.”

I pledged to be silent and after the filling and sanding, I got on with the ceiling while Mrs H made a start on the skirting board.

She complained that the brushes were too thick and we argued briefly over technique. I'd done half the ceiling when I noticed Mrs H hadn't moved far. No wonder she wanted a thinner brush. She was painting the skirting as if she was putting the finishing touches to the Sistine Chapel.

And there was a distinct edge to her voice when she realised the roller was overhead. “Don't you splash paint on my hair!” she barked. She put the brush down while she moved out of the way and promptly sat on it.

There are times when something is amusing but laughter is inadvisable. Fortunately my instincts were alert and the guffaw function had the safety catch on. Eventually Mrs H completed the skirting board.

“Just the door to do now,” she sighed wearily. “I better do that next.”

“Would you like me to do the door?” I offered.

Mrs H's early enthusiasm was clearly waning and she gasped a relieved: “Yes!”

The operation is on hold at the moment. We have reached the point where everything is done except the walls - and surprise, surprise, Mrs H can't decide on the colour. I have stared at that many paint charts, and we have enough testers to cover the walls of the entire room and almost enough carpet samples for the floor.

Perhaps we could come to an arrangement: If I don't have to go searching for paint, I'll do all the work.

It'll be a lot less stressful if I'm not supervised. And I bet I wouldn't sit on my brush.

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