After I had been glossing the woodwork for a few days, I started to feel light-headed. It hadn’t occurred to me that the paint was solvent-based, of course. Not until I caught sight of the writing on the tin one evening while painting a bedroom doorframe did it make sense. But it was too late, because I had inhaled enough of the stuff by then.
The keeper arrived to find me neurotically painting architrave so that the paint lines were correct to the nearest millimetre. I was up against the wood so close my nose was virtually touching it, as if I were painting the Sistine chapel. And all the while, I blathered on incoherently.
Apparently, the noise I was making was something like this: ‘Oh, you’re there great come in I can’t stop I’ve nearly done this look isn’t it great aren’t I doing well I’m getting really good at this I could paint for a living there are lady decorators I’ve seen them in little vans I could do that couldn’t I don’t you think I could do that I think I could I mean look at this door it’s good isn’t it no drips can you see that no drips at all the trick is to put exactly the right amount on the brush no more no less than you need see that then you keep working it up down up down I mean you can’t stop you can’t ever stop you just keep going if you stop it’s no good you can’t stop you mustn’t ever stop I’m going to strip all the wallpaper in the living room next with that steamer you got me that steamer is amazing I really think I could steam wallpaper for a living I could definitely fill things for a living I could be one of those professional fillers you know mastickers they call them they go around building sites just filling holes in filling everything all day long isn’t that incredible I’d love that job that’s perfect for me I love filling holes I could do that…’
The keeper stood silently looking up at me teetering precariously on a ladder as I rattled on like I had snorted the Dulux Satinwood or mainlined it into a vein and then he said: ‘Please come down off the ladder. You’re high on gloss.’
Poor keeper. It’s been pretty hard to control me since I discovered caulk. With a silicone gun in my hands, I became crazed, happy only when I could see a narrow gap somewhere into which I could shoot white Painters Mate.
They say necessity is the mother of all invention and I have had to learn to strip, sand, fill and paint in order to get this house finished before I breech my emergency borrowing limit.
I say strip. I mean strip in the sense of taking peeling wallpaper off. I haven’t resorted to the kind of stripping Terry the Plumber rather rudely suggested might be my way out of financial hardship.
He came round to take a radiator off a wall and stood watching me grapple with a scraper and a pot of Polyfilla, dressed in a pair of ancient shorts. Then he laughed and said: ‘You wanna get yourself down Shepherd’s Market!’
I told him that while humour is always appreciated, it’s Shepherd Market and I cannot abide inaccurate punctuation.
Despite that vote of no confidence, however, I have, against all odds, managed to do all the upstairs decorating so that I have one floor completely finished and the house is nearly good enough to have a lodger.
A few people have come to look round but no takers. This is perhaps because they can barely get through the door before the dogs hurl themselves at them. And once through the door, the guided tour consists of a series of explanations about things hanging off or falling out: ‘Don’t mind that,’ I say, pointing to a giant piece of plasterboard propped in a doorway. And the poor twenty-something gives me a terrified look. If I can’t get a lodger, I may do Airbnb.
I’ve been thinking about this (I’m still a bit high) and it strikes me there is an opportunity for a niche holiday package. There might be people, readers perhaps, who would love to stay in my house with me and watch the drama unfolding in real time.
It won’t be the neatest bed and breakfast you ever stayed in. You would have to be prepared to have spaniels jumping all over you, saddles piled high in the living room, wall-to-wall shrieking and live DIY.
But I have a feeling the intellectually curious and emotionally open would pay for such a unique experience. I could call it Kitey Towers: Disaster Tourism.