Watching paint dry: Most things can be improved by throwing 10 litres of Ivory Silk emulsion at them

The Prime of Life: House maintenance is like painting the Forth Road Bridge

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Like many of my columns, this one will feel like paint drying. I’m decorating the hallway – again. Most things in life can be improved by throwing 10 litres of Ivory Silk emulsion at them: death, divorce, existential dread. Nearly  everyone mooching around Homebase on a Saturday morning probably needs 10mg of Citalopram and a little cuddle more than they need a day up a ladder. It’s a service they should offer instead of that woman by the door flogging windows to people who are in a home store, so who logically already own windows.

Obviously, now that the possibility of owning a home is a preposterous fantasy for the majority of youthful things, it is strictly taboo to ever, ever gripe about its never-ending tedium. “Let me  accompany this on the world’s smallest violin,” flat-renters will say when you point out that, roughly speaking, owning a house is like being in charge of a truculent toddler with Donald Trump tastes who keeps wetting itself every five minutes before handing you a bill for £347 plus VAT.

Shonky boilers, flyaway garden fences, that thing where the radiators leak brown goo. The truth is that the very best bit of home ownership is like when you’re playing Monopoly and you move your silver Scottie dog on to Park Lane and clutch the card greedily to your chest. “Mine!” you think, feeling intensely mighty. From then on, home ownership offers such an endless drop-down menu of mournfully dull minutiae that it should only be encouraged for people over 40 who can no longer handle hangovers, comedowns or the emotional detritus of casual sex. It gives us something to do. Twentysomethings should be thankful that fortysomethings own all the houses because if we didn’t we’d be at the back of your nightclub doing that dance like we’re drying our backs with a big invisible beach towel, pulling severe funk overbite or trying to get off with you.

More Grace Dent:
The man-only panel is bad, but the token-woman panel is worse
Octogenarians head towards Scafell Pike. I watch them agog
Me, Jeremy Vine, Kay Burley and a long night of bantergeddon

Anyhow, I’ve no idea what was going through my mind 10 months ago when I painted the hallway Farrow & Ball “Middleton Pink”, but it didn’t deliver the restorative, sugary, salon ambience I’d hoped for. I’m repainting it Ivory Silk – the colour of quiet defeat, the colour the homeowner reverts to after fannying about with “feature walls” and “statement colours”, egged on by those tedious berks on the front cover of Livingetc – couples usually called something like Luca and Zizzy – who bought a dilapidated former chapel in Hastings and created actual earthly nirvana. You saw it, you wanted it.

People like Luca and Zizzy are not like us. They exist solely to hold up a huge mirror to our tasteless, colour-blind property dealing and womb-ly limitations. I mention Zizzy’s womb as she will invariably be accidentally pregnant with twins throughout the whole renovation, while still managing to select and import 800 square metres of Tuscan lava stone tiles. Zizzy is the reason I tried a whimsical “feature wall” in my back bedroom, plastering up tropical parrot wallpaper which now looks so creepily infantile it should come with a CRB check.

Of course, the thing no elders ever tell us when we spend every single penny we have on stamp duty, downpayments, mortage fees, insurances and moving costs is that a lot of your future home’s problems are insoluble. No matter how much of one’s income is transferred  directly to B&Q.

Why would they be soluble? You’d go mad. I’ve had rats in the roof of my kitchen extension for so long – a whole decade – that UB40 would have long since tired of singing about them. Not visible rats – oh no. They’re up high, hanging around the lovely warm spotlights, yet highly audible with their scampering little ratty feet. Rat Riverdance, if you will. Michael Ratley. These are the sort of jokes one has time to whittle away at during a 10-year rodent war.

Everything has been tried. Poisons, traps, playing very loud Nick Cave, an incident with a sewage outlet pipe that I can only talk about when drunk. Armies of men in boiler suits have appeared over the years, patted my head and assured me the problem was gone. Eventually, the reality set in that if I was idiotic enough to install a row of pretty yet functional spotlights into a flat roof, near marshland, then rats from as far away as Essex would arrive – carrying towels, wearing sunglasses – to use it as some sort of ratty lido. Zizzy definitely does not have a rodent problem.

But one of the things owning a home has taught me is that life will never be perfect. And that happiness, however wonky, is now – even with the crack in the living room ceiling made by the shower that flooded last December. And the sickly blue Cabbage White bedroom walls. And the big pot of Ivory Silk that I’m daubing over my latest error. House maintenance is like painting the Forth Road Bridge, but I’m at a difficult age, so at least it keeps me off the streets.

@gracedent

Comments