Clowns To The Left, Puppets To The Right
Interior decoration can be hard work and after almost six weeks of toil, sweat and a little blood we are finally close to finishing the main bedroom.
This week we have added colour to the walls which my wife informs me is a soothing vert de terre green combined with a natural linen creamy off-white shade for the trim and doors, which may or may not have been trending in 2020. Such is Sadie’s taste and style, I suggest she becomes a colour consultant for Farrow & Ball, which is accepted with a scowl and a paint brush of expensive vert de terre green thrown across the room in my general direction.
Like mugs we bought a spray gun to do the walls, which cost almost 60 euros and is about as useful as my French, so we apply the coats of paints with rollers and brushes and make the best of it.
The hard work has been put in preparing the walls and ceiling with several layers of undercoat on the original walls and filler and taping on the new dry wall, which we put up with the help of St Mark of The Chateau, who, if you remember, is our electrician. As I write the wall is still standing, as is my boxing-in of hitherto exposed pipes and cables in one of the corners of the room.
While working on the walls, Sadie casually remarked on how physical and hard this type of work can be: “Just like being back in mime school,” she said.
I stopped work and looked at her incredulously, and told her if she had come out with a remark like that on a proper building site she would have had a lump hammer thrown at her!
Sadie did indeed study at a school of physical theatre, the famous École internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, in Paris and is a master at creating imaginary walls and space shifting, skills that I am sure will come in useful one day when the theatres across Europe reopen, but for now what is required on this job is skills that are a slightly more tangible.
Work has also commenced on the exterior as we have hired Nottingham Dave and his band of Merry Men to repoint and render the walls in what will be an elegant Mediterranean-style courtyard when finished.
Nottingham Dave is old school, about the same age as me, so old, but we can see he is a grafter and joiner by trade and is going to come in very useful for when we come to convert one of the out buildings into a bijou apartment.
When I tell him I come from York, I get the typical response from people from other parts of the north, who immediately think I am somehow ‘posh’.
I have got posher, I suppose, by virtue of moving away at an early age, working in a middle-class profession and having a lower middle-class income, but I am also proud of my working class routes and secondary modern schooling with just a couple of CSEs to my name.
Nottingham Dave also loves to tell jokes, which he obviously picked up on northern building sites in the 1980s, so we’ll leave those at the door. He reminds me of my late uncle Mally, another builder, and salt of — and down-to-earth bloke, and was not one for PC sentiments, whom I miss since he passed away last May.
My rudimentary building skills were picked up from helping Uncle Mally and I was closer to him than my father, who worked for the council driving a dustbin wagon and spent most of his spare time in the pub. Uncle Mally would have been proud of what we are doing and I feel sad he will never see the house.
We humour Nottingham Dave with coffee and biscuits and talk of a ‘Juliet balcony’ from Sadie to go with the new window on the second floor of the new apartment, which leaves him scratching his head at the thought of such a concept.
The Juliet balcony idea was actually suggested by our architect friend, Serena, who lives in the States but is drawing up plans for us. Because she is working remotely we have to provide all the measurements of the space.
This entails going next door into the abandoned buildings with a ladder and accessing the roof of our property with a head torch as it’s pitch-black and slightly unsafe. It’s going to take a bit of work, but doable, according to Nottingham Dave, who is all over the roof like an agile cat.
When we send the measurements back to Serena, she queries the height of one of the doors. We have marked it as 86cms, surely it should be 1m 86cms?
She is right and we remind her of the Stonehenge stage set scene in Spinal Tap, with the 18-inch monument, which cracks her up. I suggest we keep the small door for when the puppets visit us, with Sadie’s brother, a well-known theatre director in Paris, known for his modern adaptations of Shakespeare and who once directed Eric Cantona in a play that toured France. Because of COVID-19 he is devising a puppet version of Dr Zhivago during lockdown, which I can’t wait to tell Nottingham Dave all about.