The evening air is cool as it rushes through the flat of open windows. The plastic sheets that cover the room flutter in the wind tunnel and the dust shifts. The chill can’t be fixed. The windowsill is filled with empty paint pots, brushes, books and bottles, and the fresh air clears the lurking smell of white spirit. The dulcet tones of Craig Charles float on the breeze, his late night funk and soul providing no encouragement to do anything but sleep. George stands balancing on the bench with paint on his nose, attempting to attack the ceiling with masking tape. I lie defeated on the floor, dust in my hair and tears of frustration in my eyes. The wall I have just attempted to paint is covered in drip marks due to a mishap involving a wet roller. I reach up from my space behind the sofa and retrieve the bag of cold Five Guys and the nearly empty Subway cup. The pips sound on the radio. BBC news at 1. Finally George looks down in pity.
“Maybe we don’t have to do any more tonight.” He offers. And I smile thankfully through my chips.
The following morning dawned earlier than we would have liked. With the three hour Good Friday vigil looming, there was little time to get the rest of the painting done. Especially with Magnus coming over to cook. In the cold light of day – the windows had been open all night – the task seemed monumental. One hour. And we should probably tidy up a little before he turned up later. While I sat on the plastic floor with a coffee and considered how to paint without creating accidental watercolours on the wall, George got straight back to work.
“If you can see, what we’ve done is we’ve removed all of the original gloss and sanded down the base coat. Now the top layer will be really smooth and sharp.”
Over the last couple of days, George had adopted the patronising tone of a friendly TV interior designer. He had even started wearing lurid trousers in the manner of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen – ostensibly because he didn’t mind getting them painty, but I was getting worried. I didn’t mind the gentle condescension, however; he had spent a considerable amount of time researching the most effective method of glossing a dado rail and was therefore qualified to be supercilious. And so, while handy Andy went back to sanding, I began to correct the mess of yesterday… this time careful to use a dry brush. After an hour of work I was glad to leave for a while, despite not having finished. The cycle to Fulham for a Good Friday service, filled with Tallis, Byrd, and the embarrassment of spilling my drink all over an unassuming alto, was a welcome break from the desert of dust.
“Why don’t we get some sherry? We’ve got to drink something while we paint.”
When I returned, I was greeted by Magnus, who seemed less than impressed that his shoes were already coated in a thick layer of paint and powder, and by George, who wouldn’t stop suggesting pre-prandial beverages. Magnus was making Ikea meatballs. I put this down to his Scandinavian heritage and proposed we watch The Killing to match the meal – a suggestion which was stonily ignored. We munched on pre-dinner cheese strings and drank gins as we set about our various tasks. George painted the high bits of the walls I hadn’t been able to reach, while I continued with the bottom. Suddenly it was all happening at once. We were done. And the meatballs were ready.
“The balls are as tasty they are numerous. And you’ve nailed the sauce.”
Magnus had indeed done himself proud and a satisfied silence filled the room, joining the cold. The two tea lights that I had artistically placed on either side of the window had blown out, unnoticed, so that the lamp in the corner was our only source of light. It warmed the new blue and bounced off the cool white of the walls. I looked down at my bowl and glass, both empty. Thankfully the latter could be refilled from the magnum of Rioja George had decided to buy, explaining –
“I just quite want a giant bottle around the house.”
But unfortunately the food was all gone, and there was nothing for it but to pop some corn, finish off the wine, and watch Anchorman.
….Thankfully I had fallen asleep on the sofa before the Japanese whisky made an entrance.