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Professional villagers won’t rest until they have eliminated mud from the countryside

The more they whinge about others’ lack of neat and tidiness the more I embrace mess and noise

23 March 2019

9:00 AM

23 March 2019

9:00 AM

‘Don’t touch anything sharp. Don’t saw anything or drill anything or sand anything,’ said the builder boyfriend as he left the house.

‘I generally agree,’ I said, mindful of the fact that this is what the keeper used to say. ‘But I’m disappointed you include sanding, because I think I made a very good job of the living room floor, and now I’m going to sand the dining room.’

I truly believe there is nothing a deranged woman with a sander can’t achieve. The builder b and I are trying to get the last bits of the house finished so it is in a fit state to be sold.

We still harbour dreams — whether or not made of pipe — that the two of us will get our act together and move to a farm or smallholding where we will live with the dogs and horses far from civilisation, like Little House on the Prairie, or Misery, as the case may be.

As things are, we seem to be living in a bit of Surrey that is a suburb of Woking. We were warned about this soon after moving in by a neighbour who was insulted by my description of the place and was quite adamant this wasn’t countryside, but we didn’t believe her.

Since then, pretty much everything that has happened here has proved her right. I feel so depressed by this business of the farmer down the road who has had all his horses confiscated by the RSPCA I don’t know what to do with myself.

As part of my investigations, I obtained a copy of the warrant used to raid the premises. The gist of it is that 27 people rang in last year to say they didn’t like to see horses standing in mud in winter.


Twenty-seven people a year in this village ringing the RSPCA to report horses standing in mud in winter (eating hay) actually isn’t bad. I would have expected more.  I would have thought 27 people a week would be ringing in. When I first moved here, it felt like 27 people a week were telling me to move my muddy Volvo from outside my house to more outside my house until they got tired of the builder boyfriend coming out to shout at them.

Now his Toyota Hilux is outside the house too. The looks that gets are quite special. It’s a very old model, with a fan belt that makes a high-pitched screaming sound when he first starts it up.

I like to call it the Low-Lux but he says that’s nonsense. It’s got electric windows, he says, including a window in the boot that goes up and down at the push of a button. Well, it goes down at the push of a button. I wouldn’t say it goes up. The builder b has to push it back up manually but he likes it.

Actually, you know what? I like it. The more I listen to professional villagers whinging on about people’s lives not looking as neat and tidy as they would like the more I like mess and mud and cars with fan belts that scream like a demented banshee.

That car sounds like I feel, screaming inside from the sheer hypocrisy of everything that has happened around me in the past few months.

In any case, I threw myself into the sanding. ‘The trick with any job like this,’ the BB said before he left the house, ‘is to switch your head off and go on to autopilot. That’s how I get through most jobs.’

I understood what he was saying. It wouldn’t have been a good idea for me to go at the floor with my head full of hysterical thoughts about where those horses are now or how I’m going to get them back into their 100-acre field.

The way to achieve a nice even result was to go at it empty-headed. Music, that was the thing. The noise of the sander was such that the only option was rock.

It turns out Mick Jagger is excellent for sanding. ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ worked particularly well and delivered a very smooth result. When it came to the varnishing, however, I had to go with Barry White.

The BB was back home and helping me by this point. He endured an entire evening of painting Ronseal on to the floor as Barry did his thing in the background. I told him I found it relaxing. ‘I prefer Tony Christie,’ he said, unhelpfully trying to sing ‘Amarillo’ over the top.

The next day I set about the glossing of all the woodwork. Barry White didn’t work at all when it came to coating things in mind-bending, solvent-based white paint.

Turns out Tom Waits is good for skirting board and dado rails.


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