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When Pete knew he was going to Australia for a month to visit his family, I started to plan. I was going to do all those things I put off, like tidy the home file, clean the things at the back of the kitchen shelf as well as the ones at the front, put all those photographs into albums . . . and decorate the cozy room.
Well, I started the decorating, as I told you last month, and four weeks on I'm still at it.
You know how they tell you to clear a room before you start decorating, put dust sheets down, etc? Of course, they're right. It makes sense. It's the first advice I give people. It's also the last advice I take.
I had started the preparation before Pete went away and, because he needed all the space he could get hold of to organize himself, there wasn't much left for clearing the cozy room. After he left, I couldn't be bothered. I was in full creative swing, and reintroducing a planning stage now could dry up the aesthetic juices. And there was a deadline.
A friend, Brina, rang and said she and her son, Ricky, were coming to stay for a couple of days. She had been told about the "couch", a sort of built in bench bed under the stairs, where guests sleep, and she was looking forward to trying it out. When she mentioned this, I must have hesitated long enough to make it seem she wasn't welcome. What was actually going through my mind was that the space normally occupied by the famous bed now had a selection of stripping tools strewn across it, plus blobs of filler, swatches of wallpaper, paint samples and about an inch of dust. The bed cushions were upstairs, the wall candle holder in the front room, the carpet was turned up away from the skirting boards, and the ceiling was all blotchy. In short, there was nothing cozy about this room now, especially that bit under the stairs.
I knew I didn't have a chance of finishing the whole room before they came, so I determined that she would have her bed at least. Instead of the normal "start at the top" routine, I had to work on just one end of the room. I filled the holes in one wall, and while that was drying I stripped the wood on another, then sanded down the original wall and sealed it, followed by priming the wood I'd just stripped. While these dried, I filled the holes in another wall, and so on. The papering was easy. I'd decided to use lining paper, painted and sponged.
A couple of days before Brina and Ricky were to arrive, I started to panic. There was only so much time to work full time, feed myself (which is usually Pete's reserve), water the garden and pot plants, check the e-mails, pay the bills, do the shopping (again, usually Pete's job), watch Star Trek, fulfill my obligations to family and friends, and do the decorating as well. A friend from work and my next door neighbour came to my rescue. Together, working well into the early hours of the mornings, we completed Brina's bedspace and even ventured a little into the rest of the room. All this on the hottest days and nights of the year so far. But it was worth it.
As for the colours, though I had referred to the colourways within the bed cushions and curtains, and borne in mind my recent Feng Shui consultation, I surprised even me. I can be brave when the notion takes me, but this was downright reckless. Perhaps it was the pressure of the deadline, perhaps it was because I didn't have time to consult anyone else for a second opinion, perhaps it was a sense of new-found freedom with Pete being away. Whatever it was, the space under the stairs started to look like a bad sun burn. The sloping ceiling is a rich but muted plum, the adjacent wall is a soft clover and the paintwork is deep salmon pink. I apologize if this boggles the mind a little, but trust me. It looks stunning.
Brina and Ricky have been and gone. She slept well, she tells me, so the colours didn't keep her awake.
The room is progressing slowly (it is now four weeks since I started), and I like it more every day. However, it is only a few days until Pete returns from Australia and the place is still in chaos.
In spite of this, though, I feel that everything really is in its place. No, not the ornaments or the pictures, nor the cushions and rugs, but my sense of achievement, creativity and individuality. All is well with the world. Now, where did I put my pasting brush . . .?