Life lessons

Thursday June 15, 2006

We started moving stuff today, from the caravan Graham’s occupied for some eight months and in which we’ve all three been living since moving down to Somerset, into the ‘staff’ caravan that’s been allocated for his more permanent accommodation while employed here at the holiday camp.

It’s a rather nicer caravan but is situated close by one of the utility areas of the business, so our lovely outlook over the sea will be enjoyed by paying guests once more from the start of the season. All these lovely long hours spent sitting here looking out over the cliffs are mine for only another twenty-four hours. Hey ho. Looking out at an incinerator site when I draw the curtains of a morning will focus my mind wonderfully on getting the house ready for occupation.

On the positive side it has a larger shower bath, one in which I’ll be able to turn round with ease, and a much larger kitchen, large enough to do a little plain cooking instead of subsisting entirely on chilled food from the supermarkets. The living room is about the same size, but better planned. So, all in all, it’s a more comfortable little home than this one. And much, much cooler, which will please a certain Mega-cat of my acquaintance.

I shall pray for rain to dampen the ashes, and try to persuade the handy-man to confine burning waste to those times when the wind blows in a favourable direction. Won’t be for long.

I resisted the urge to phone Sally today, to confirm she’s received the cleared funds for the house purchase but I think I’ll give way tomorrow morning and check. For purposes of peace of mind, you understand. I know very well that it’s all gone through like clockwork but… Paranoia is a useful partner for the poet, in its mild, everyday form at least, along with other minor neuroses. All part of the creative psyche. It’s a destroyer of peaceful sleep, however, when it has bones to nibble.

The World Cup gave me a period of respite from holiday crowds early this evening, which I turned to advantage by driving over to Minehead for a two-day provisioning trip. The roads were almost empty, as was the supermarket. Everyone except for me and a few other non-football types like me was indoors watching the match between England and Trinidad and Tobago. There were far more staff in Tesco’s than customers.

I don’t do football watching, or any other spectator sport for that matter. When the English teams do well I cheer of course, and I did so in this instance, but I’d have been equally delighted for the Windies had they won the match. I always enjoy it when the under-dogs come out on top.

Tomorrow we shall complete the caravan move and start in on the countdown to completion on the house. Graham has cleared the afternoon and evening on completion day, and all of the following day, to help me open up the house, go shopping for cleaning and painting supplies, and get me going on the paint pad project.

He reckons we’ll need three large buckets of plain white emulsion paint [not sure what it’s called in other countries, but it’s the stuff you use for painting walls] for the job, along with a couple of pints of a deeper colour to mix in, making Graham’s special interior decorator’s cream tint. It may be an old-fashioned approach, but it’s much cheaper to mix your own tones. There’s the added advantage that, instead of ending up with a collection of identically coloured rooms, regardless of aspect and purpose, you can introduce subtle differences room to room. It works for us, anyway.

Decorating houses has always been a large part of our life together, and Graham has developed a fine eye and has honed his skills over the years.

The first house we shared—the first home I owned rather than rented—was a modern, light-filled place, and a much younger Graham decided he wanted to experiment with strong, deep colours so we painted all the walls a dark chocolate brown, and the woodwork in a powerful British racing green. It was a brave venture, but then everyone needs to be brave with interior decorating at least once in their lives.

It was close on thirty years ago now but I have a vivid memory of Graham calling me at my office desk when he’d put the last touch to the scheme:


“I’ve finished,” he said. “The job’s complete.”

“Oh, well done,” I said. “What now?”

“I hate it. It’s dark and oppressive. I think it all a dreadful mistake.”

“Ah. Well, we don’t have to live with it if you feel that way. Pop into town and pick up some new paint and do it over, why don’t you?”

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Of course I don’t. It was a fun idea but there’s no need to keep it if you don’t want to.”


When I got home that evening the kitchen and dining room had been transformed into a bright, all-white delight, and Graham was exhausted but beaming widely. By the following weekend, the whole house had been similarly treated.

“I’m sorry about the expense,” he said.

“Don’t be silly,” I replied. “Put it down to experience. As life lessons go it’s been a very cheap one.”

I could do with possessing a part of Graham’s youthful energy and endurance to help me get the next decorating project done. It’s going to take me rather more than a few days of work to get the new house painted. At a realistic rate of one wall a day, it’d come out at something like fifty-six days if I were working on my own. Fortunately, Graham will be working with me for at least one day a week and his rate is more like one and a half rooms a day. That’s another life lesson, I suppose, though of a more sober kind.



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