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All I needed was a bit of encouragement. You know what I mean? That gentle push that forces you into that first step on the road to achievement?
Of course, there's usually a good reason why you haven't taken that step already - like the old familiar gut feeling you've come to rely on. The feeling that once you start you will find there's more involved than you can imagine. That's the time that you know you should pick up "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway", but you're too scared.
It had been seven years since I first saw those polystyrene ceiling tiles and knew they had to come off. Seven years of paranoia about them catching fire and melting on me. Seven years of knowing that someone put them there to hide something even uglier. Seven years of dreading the blobs of immovable glue and the inevitable replastering job.
By now, it had turned into a monster.
A chance remark to a friend, who was honest enough to agree with me about everything I thought, led to the realization that I had no excuses any more. All he said in reply was "You won't really know until you start, will you?", and that was it. We each tentatively picked at a corner of a tile to peek, and when the corners snapped off there was no going back.
Out came the paint scraper, down came the first tile revealing so little evidence of glue that I wondered how it had held up at all. Human nature's a funny thing. I should have been delighted, but instead I was suspicious. I was convinced we had chosen the only tile on the ceiling to be held up by the rest, the one where they had run out of glue! But the second tile was the same. And the third, and fourth. OK, so now I had this obvious patch and a mess on the floor, and momentum. I was also mad. I was mad at myself for being such a wimp for so many years.
However, pride comes before a fall. By the time I had taken down a dozen or so tiles, I was noticing a strange discoloration on the ceiling which I at first assumed was from the spread of the adhesive as the tiles had been pressed to the ceiling. Now it seemed more like a pattern. I was right. The tiles had been applied to a layer of patterned paper, so already my job list had doubled.
Now I had reached the wall. A slip of the paint scraper lifted a thick slice of woodchip wallpaper away, and I was committed to my third job on the list. I was standing on the fourth rung of the stepladder above a sea of polystyrene squares, and there was no point in worrying any more.
All of a sudden it was fun. The sensible adult disappeared, and the child came out to play. To the swishing and cracking sounds of the removal of the ceiling tiles, I added ripping and slashing, whistling and singing, grunting and heaving breathing. I can't remember the number of times I said (to no one in particular), "There are SIX layers of paper under this lot". And there were. Two of them had been painted over and came off in inch square bits, which helped to get rid of lots of anger and frustration. And then some of it made wonderful sloooosh-ing noises as it unexpectedly stripped itself from top to bottom. Oh, the victorious feeling THAT brings!
So now I have three quarters of the room stripped, and in my head there's a battle going on.
Usually, I have done some good planning on how it will look before I start. This time was different, so I was going to start with a real clean slate. I'd recently had the Feng Shui man in and he had recommended reds for this room. "Anything from rose-tinted white to deep, dark red", he said, and my creative juices were flowing. The colours in the curtains and seat cushions include dusky pink, deep salmon and a sort of cranberry shade, so I have lots of choice, and my "Paint Magic" book by Jocasta Innes is tempting me to try washes, glazes, stippling, spattering . . .
But as I said, I have only three quarters of the room done and I've come across this irritating, squared off lump down the side of the chimney breast. It is obviously boxed in pipes, but I can't think what the pipes could be for. We don't have central heating, there is no back boiler to the gas fire, and the bathroom is in the opposite corner of the house, so it's time for a bit of archaeology.
My destructive tendencies are now in gear, and I suddenly find a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other. In minutes the offending box is ripped to shreds, revealing two surprisingly large diameter lead pipes. A consultation with Pete later, and I'm confident they are superfluous. "Consider them gone", he said. I do. And I have a shelving unit for videos constructing itself in my imagination before I can say "OK".
As I tidy up and fill four large refuse bags with the detritus, I wonder where the money is coming from for the redecorating - I only intended to repaint the ceiling, after all. Perhaps another stall at the flea market . . .? I could sell the lead pipes . . .!