Sunday 26 July 2009

small but exacting

Two newel posts installed, thus repairing the terribly-damaged staircase to an acceptable degree, although it would have been wonderful to have found (and afforded) antique posts that matched the ornate mahogany originals. I grieve to think of how these were vandalised in the name of modernising this old house, no doubt having been thrown out as worthless dust-gatherers, along with the balusters, the marble fireplaces, the panelled doors and their handles, before the introduction of new doors with thick wavy patterns in their four glass panes, and many, many acres of polystyrene ceiling tiles. The handrail was, inexplicably, moved closer to the wall by about three inches, creating complex problems for any future restoration. The little tiled fireplace in the newly-painted room was hidden behind a false wardrobe, its mantelshelf hacked off - the current one is in fact a wooden bookshelf - and only budgetary restrictions prevented the previous owners from replacing all the sash windows and the front door with UPVC ones.

But we could see the potential of this battered shell, and the vandalising owners were in fact a delightful and happy family who were pleased to pass their home over to people who would love it as much as they had - despite our unspoken intention to undo much of their handiwork as soon as we could. But it was to take a very long time. Over the years, doors and fireplaces were re-installed and ceilings stripped and plastered, but the stairs remained a challenge, and a decision was made not to replace the missing balusters on the lower flight as one job too far and too complicated. The next owners can tackle that one!.

This week, the Lovely Son painstakingly sanded and lacquered the old paint-spattered handrail and stained the new posts, which, when next to real mahogany, immediately revealed themselves to be such cheap and tawdry fakes that we judged it better to paint them white. They are still ugly, wrong and new, but definitely an improvement on the mutilated stump of handrail that hurt the eye every time I passed it.

This chore has taken hours and hours, with drying times in between, and that's only one length of handrail! Two more floors to go! The house still smells pungently of paint, varnish and turps, and hanging over it all is a cloud of misery, as the dog mourns the departure of the Adored One, who has gone back to London and his own cat. Lottie and Millie will miss the presence of an unreconstructed carnivore from whom to beg food. I will miss his company, the sharp humour, the willingness to tackle dreary easily-put-off chores, and the perfectionism that my son, who inherited from me a rather casual approach to finishing anything, seems to be developing. Perhaps I won't miss the colourful language, the tuneless whistling, the leaving of half-full mugs of cold tea all over the house, and the phenomenal amount of washing and dishes that seems to accumulate in his wake, but I will miss him. I'm off to clean paintbrushes now, as I did promise not to leave them to harden till they were ready to get thrown into the bin - he seemed to think this was important; very odd.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Sounds like you had a great (+ productive) visit with the Lovely Son. Two more floors to go. Yikes. You're doing a lovely job of it however daunting a task it must be at times. cheers from les Gang

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