3/29/2004
 
Using a screwdriver to lever the lid, the final satisfying plop of air escaping from the tin before turning the cover over to expose the thickly coloured insides. Pouring paint into a tray and watching as it oozes relentlessly. The purr of a roller in the tray and then the sticky, deeper hum as it meets the wall. Flecks of graffiti snow that cover you and make lurid freckles which run and dry and smudge while you paint.

Right, that’s the romantic part done with.

“I’m two seconds away,” I tell Susan, already ten minutes late to meet her at the station.

She makes a barely audible confused sound and I realise that she’s forgotten about day light savings – putting the clocks forward - and so while I’m in the realm of eleven past ten, she’s still living just after nine.

“I was making a cup of tea! I had plenty of time!”

“It’s no problem, get here when you can. I’ll look at paint.”

Having spent Saturday running round getting quotes we’d organised a fool proof plan to get the coloured paint at one DIY store in Clapham before picking up the rest of the paint, brushes, etc at the cheaper shop in Balham. To stay in budget we realised that we’d either have to paint the two bedrooms a soporific pastel or paint three of the walls magnolia (DIY speak for beige) and then create a feature wall in a slightly more vibrant hue.

By the time Susan arrived I had sixteen paint charts folded in complicated combinations that would have made an Origami Master jealous. We paused at aubergine but decided it would be too much. A green would do but because we were resigned to boring beige for the majority of the rooms we dared for something bolder.

“This one then?” Susan asked.

I nodded.

“Are we sure?”

“Fuck it, they’re not helping us pay for the paint. Let’s do it.”

At the house we removed nails, puttied holes and generally beiged it up. The walls were already off-white to begin with so it was tricky to know where to paint. Susan was a dab hand with the roller, I had a keen eye on the skirtings, and having donned home-made rubbish bag aprons we looked the part. We had nearly finished the second room when the owner arrived. He looked very pleased when he saw the rooms.

“I didn’t realise you were going to paint it beige!”

I looked at Susan.

“Well… We’re painting this fourth wall something a little more - snazzy…”

We stifled our laughter until he’d left.

“What is he going to say?”

“It’s his fault; he should have asked what the other colour was. It’s going to look good. It is.”

This was our cue to open the final can. Using the screwdriver I tried to ease off the lid but it sprang off, falling paint-side-up on the black plastic that lined both rooms.

Susan squealed. I think I did too. Maybe it was all the fumes but after a day of beige the new colour was like a bomb exploding. It was mixed at the DIY shop so this was the first time we’d seen it wet and rich. The label called it “Victorian Red” but that was an understatement. It was lava red; crimson blood and fire.

I picked up the shelf bracket we were using to mix the paint.

“I warned him it was snazzy,” I said, beginning to stir, “so let’s paint us some snazzy.”

At nine o’clock we sat, broken but victorious, in front of a freshly painted Victorian Red wall - another drying in the second room – and summoning the last of our strength we slowly patted each other gently on the back.

 

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