1 January. Rooms left in house to decorate: 1 (only the attic, therefore doesn’t count).Walls plastered by self with no help from man: 1 (vg!!). Reconciliations with ex-builder boyfriend for the festive season owing to total collapse of self-belief right on cue at year end, notwithstanding evidence of self-sufficiency in newly plastered walls: 1 (must do better).
Am plastering genius, it turns out. After faffing about with something called a hawk to no particular avail, I ended up chucking all the tools on the floor in exasperation and plastering the dining room with my rubber-gloved hands.
It was a bit like baking, only instead of kneading dough in a bowl, I was kneading British Gypsum MultiFinish on to my walls.
The effect was stunning, unlike any plastering I have ever seen before, except perhaps on Grand Designs when those rich couples desert south Kensington for an eco-hipster encampment in Wales, where they build a roundhouse using only dung while camping with their five children in a tent for three years, then tell Kevin McCloud about the amazing ‘journey’ they have been on as grimy tears run down their newly toothless faces.
My walls were just as artistic. They were pink and swirly, not flat and smooth like boring old professional plastering.
Tip: squirt some washing-up liquid into your bucket of plaster as you mix in the water. It acts as a plasticiser. Don’t even ask how I know that, it’s a gift. When I get desperate enough, I have moments of divine inspiration. I hear voices in my head. Let’s just say the fairy godmother of plastering told me to do it, and it worked a treat.
Why, then, did I take it upon myself to text the ex-builder boyfriend to tell him about my plastering triumph, resulting in jovial banter, resulting in something like a rapprochement? Only, as usual with the builder b, it never gets as far as a proper rapprochement (a properochement) because we end up infuriating each other half to death within a couple of days.
He had some tedious ideas for how I should finish off the wattle and daub by skimming it with a coat of something high-tech to stop lumps of the walls falling off on to the floor.
Even worse: ‘By the way,’ he said, looking up at the outside of the house, ‘you’ve got six big holes in your roof.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I don’t suppose you could see your way clear to fixing them?’
He promised to bring the ladders in a few days, but the few days turned into a few more days, by which time the flooded attic was even more flooded. I climbed the ladder to the loft and found a pool of water an inch deep on top of the damp sheet I had put down beneath the missing slates.
‘I’m ankle deep in water up there and it’s pouring through the bedroom ceiling,’ I told him.
‘Yeah, that’s easy. Don’t worry.’
‘I know it’s easy,’ I said. ‘It’s just that it actually needs doing, however easy that may be.’
‘Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll bring my ladders this weekend.’
But this weekend turned into next weekend, which came and went.
‘I’m ankle deep in water in the loft and it’s pouring through the bedroom ceiling,’ I said again.
‘I’ve told you,’ he said, ‘that’s such an easy job. I’ll bring my ladders and it’ll take me 20 minutes. Honestly. Stop worrying about it.’
‘It’s only an easy job if you do it,’ I said, putting emphasis on the do. But there was no arguing with him. For reasons only he and other tradesmen understand, describing how you are going to fix something is tantamount to fixing it. The actual act of doing the fixing is a minor detail, not to be confused with utter irrelevance.
In any case, almost exactly at that moment, the Volvo decided to unravel itself so I had to move on. I heard a sputtering sound from the engine and took it to the nearest garage where a mechanic declared there was a leak in the water pump — ‘a big job’ for which he quoted a small fortune, probably more than the car was worth.
So I rang an old friend who has pieced the Volvo back together many times and he said he would do it for me.
‘Seriously, this car is falling to bits,’ he told me as I handed him the Gaffer-taped key. ‘It’s done nearly 200,000 miles. It can’t go on much longer.’ ‘Nonsense,’ I insisted. ‘It’s raring to go.’
He drove it away, sputtering, and a day later brought it back without the rattle.
‘You were lucky,’ he said. ‘I took a photo. Look. The cambelt had almost wound itself off.’
‘Yes,’ I agreed, ‘I am lucky like that.’