shades of white

JP and I went out to our local DIY store this morning and bought what felt like enough emulsion and gloss to paint a small battleship. New brushes and rollers were also thrown into the shopping trolley as well as a large dust-sheet, brush cleaner and sandpaper. The plan is to paint every room in the house  but as we couldn’t decide on a particular colour, we settled for ‘brilliant white’ as the best compromise. Yes, it’s safe I know, but it also looks fresh and clean and will be easy to touch up and it might otherwise have taken us weeks to decide on anything else. At least we know what we’re getting with ‘brilliant white’. It will be white. It will not be apple white or jade white or rosemary white or blossom white. Neither will it be sand white or champagne white or cream white or any other ‘shade’ of white. It will just be white. And brilliant.

We start tomorrow – JP will paint the ceilings and walls and I will do the woodwork. This is not an equal partnership. We have lots of skirting board and both sides of nine doors to paint (well, I might ignore the inside of a cupboard door or two) and it will take me considerably longer to apply gloss than it will for him to slap on emulsion. JP says I volunteered to do the gloss and I know that I didn’t but we both know that I make fewer gloss paint drips than he does.

We spent the first week of our marriage decorating and a few years later, when we’d now painted and wallpapered several times, I remember thinking that it was good that we had an established routine for it. When I thought about it in detail, however, I realised that there was a slight problem as far as I was concerned…

This was the typical wallpapering routine:

I mixed the wall paper paste. I set up the pasting table. I brought the bucket of clean hot soapy water and cloths for wiping the table of excess paste. JP asked where the  ladder was. I told him. JP fetched said ladder and positioned it close to the wall. JP climbed up said ladder. I placed a roll of paper on the floor against the wall close to the ladder. I unfurled the roll and JP held the end against the ceiling. I marked where to cut at the skirting board. I took the roll to the table and cut a length. I cut a few more lengths and placed all but one under the table. I applied paste to the length on the table. I folded it up decorator concertina style and left it at the end of the table while I wiped the pasting table clean of any excess paste. I passed the folded length, paste side to the wall, to JP (still at the top of the ladder). JP positioned the length against the wall. JP smoothed the top half of the length free of any bubbles. I did the same to the lower half. I marked a crease line at the skirting board. I then carefully peeled the paper away from the wall a little and cut the excess off. I smoothed the paper against the wall again. I put the waste in the refuse sack. I went to the pasting table and selected another length of paper. I pasted the length. I folded the length. I passed the length to JP. We did the same as before a few more times and when two rolls had been hung, JP suggested that we have a break for tea. I went to the kitchen. I filled the kettle. I turned the kettle on. I made the tea. I brought two mugs of tea back into the decorating area. We drank our tea. I took the mugs back to the kitchen and then returned to the decorating and we repeated the same processes, over and over until the papering was complete. I then emptied the bag of paper scraps into the outside bin. At some point during the day I also prepared and cooked the lunch or dinner as appropriate. When the room was fully papered, JP stood back to admire his handiwork. I pointed out that he hadn’t actually done very much. He took umbrage at this but as I talked him through each process, realisation dawned and he apologised, promising to do more in the future.

Each time that we hung wallpaper after that day, we always had a chuckle over our unequal division of labour. One day, we showed our sons how to hang wallpaper. We haven’t hung any since.

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