Friday 13 March 2009

White truffles are what? Lilac?

Wally the decorator and I are having the weekend off, and I am having even longer, freed from middle of the road pop/mouldy oldies Radio 2 and the smell of paint. He goes to another job on Monday, but will return later in the week to finish up here. What a star that man is, neat, tidy, hardworking, and, astonishingly, offering to do things without being asked, like "I'll box those pipes in for you; it will look nicer." (And that was a long sentence for Wally, a man of few words.)

The crumbling walls caused a serious over run for him, and the second colour, plus all the gloss paint, has yet to be applied, but the worst is over. Miraculously, given her close interest, the Little Helper emerged without so much as a speck of paint on her immaculate fur.

The first colour, applied above the dado rail, and ambiguously called White Truffle, is not quite as pale a grey as I had intended, but is a grey lilac. I will need to see if it can be made to look less girly with black and white photographs on the walls. The tester patch of the second colour, Grape Ash, is a delicious darkish bilberry grey, rather smart, even with low energy lighting, which, as we all know, is death to decor.

Imagine having a job where you have to name thousands of different shades of paint....

I took a photo of the inside of the front door, aware that it needed a lot of TLC (aka kiss of life), but I was horrified to see onscreen just how much - had I really lived with my door in that state for so many years? A doorchain set made up of two cannibalised unmatched components, one tarnished brass, the other rusty chrome. Never used, because you can easily see who is at the front door from the front bay window, should you be feeling anxious, suspicious or with just-too-unspeakable dressing gown and bed hair. A hideous chrome pull handle, more suitable for a public lavatory. A tinny escutcheon covering a yawning jagged hole gouged out for the mortice key. A nasty yellow brass bolt, also never used. A vaguely silvered metal letter box flap hiding a mutilated slot in the wood where ever-larger letterboxes have been installed over the years to cope with ever-larger letters. Not all of these horrors have anything to do with me, but were there when we bought this house....over 26 years ago. No excuse.

So today I tootled off to my spiritual home, Tynemouth Architectural Salvage. There I bought a neat pull handle
in rose brass, and a nearly-matching plain brass escutcheon, for a fiver - £5! A new handle would have cost three times that amount and not looked so good. Hopefully, with new paint and no more assorted old rubbish, the inside of my front door will look less like it belongs to a squat. Letterbox covers remain a problem - they come in silver, brass (both cheap and nasty-looking), brown plastic or white plastic - why? - with creepy brushes that sweep your fingers unnervingly when you push anything through. A decision remains to be made there, but I might just spray the existing one to match the door and hope it becomes invisible, just as the assorted tat on the door seems to have been for years.

The salvage people love a problem, and respond to every query with a good rummage about in a box or a drawer. I was given a bunch of washers to cure lovely old doorknobs from wobbling. I asked about a joiner who was sympathetic to old houses (after last week's dismal experience, too depressing to relate here, where it seemed that the only cure for my old hardwood banisters, long missing their lovely ornate newel post, seemed to be to rip them and all the original spindles out and replace them with shiny new modern ones) and was given the business card of a man who is calling round on Sunday to advise on the possibility of restoration and repair. On leaving, I spotted a nice old newel post sitting in one of the antique French baths, and have had it put aside for me in case said sympathetic joiner can use it.

I shall spend the weekend cleaning and listening to Radio 4. Middle of the road pop and mouldy oldies are ok in their way, but I reckon that nothing beats Radio 4, even at its most doom-laden. And I shall graciously receive a stream of visitors whose sole purpose of calling will be to Pronounce on the paint colours and hint at the need for a lick of paint in the kitchen. Wally and I are ahead of them there - he's been booked already for May.

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