I’m reflecting on the last few months of disruption and chaos. Before me is a coffee table, which currently houses a frying pan, two tins of dog food, the vodka I’m infusing with blackcurrants, a bottle of chilli sauce, three glasses, my plates and mugs, my zester, the fruit bowl and assorted cutlery. To the left of the table is my Emma Bridgewater sale delivery in its box, to the right is 13 kg of tile grout.
My stand mixer has a layer of dust so thick it wouldn’t look out of place amongst the wedding breakfast at Satis House. There is a box on the pouffe which has an assortment of random stuff in it, always something that you can’t find but never what you need. My birthday cards are still up, and they are hanging off different surfaces, rather precariously perched on the radio, on a frame, wrapped around a light. Im looking up at the TV. Part of the screen is obscured by a jam funnel. If you are watching BBC Breakfast you can’t see Sussex on Carol’s weather map.
A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday morning cleaning up the lounge, meticulously going through every item and lobbing anything unnecessary. I’m thankful for my enthusiasm back then, as this room would be condemnable. Every time we get somewhere, a group of men enter our house and create a bit more chaos. I left them to it today, as I worked in the front room. I popped out mid morning to make coffees, walked into our beautifully painted kitchen, to find saw dust, tools, bits of skirting, shoes, flasks- detritus everywhere. My head was spinning. Three men outside were digging our back garden ready for a patio. Another man lugged a bag of concrete up our stairs into our lovely French Grey bedroom. I feared the worst. When they leave at night, you see you are another leap forward. We have skirting boards. We have pocket doors in our utility room and to our bathroom from the bedroom. Gaps are filled. Hardcore is down ready for patio slabs to be laid.
I have moments of pure joy and inspiration. Our rooms are formed, they have shape and nearly all have been painted by now. Bare floors, plugs wired and fitted, pendants hanging down- but the rest is up to us. Soft furnishings, furniture, art, final flourishes are all up to us. It truly is exciting. But as I read this, and as I think about it, I cannot lie and tell you this is still massively daunting. I still have to finish glossing the skirting boards, window sills, architrave, radiators and the doors. I then have to start painting the hall. I basically have all the painting to do. I hate painting. Every time you finish, you have to do it again. When you are just doing one room, finishing the second coat is quite nice. Voila, its done. But I’m facing room after room of jobs, of tasks. Sadly, we have no one who is going to show up with a bottle of wine, a paint brush and a weekend which they are happy to turn over to us to help us out. My friends have lives, family are miles away and it feels completely overwhelming.
When you live many miles from family, there are so many things you miss out on. Seeing your loved ones day in day out. On birthdays, on weekends. Visiting for Christmas lunch, but returning to your own bed. Dinner with family one evening after work to save you the job of cooking. Being there when news is bad, supporting everyone when its the type of news that never really gets better. Instead, you get something that you try to dress up as a lovely opportunity that is more often very bittersweet. Weekends away to your parents home, reverting to your teenage self, being charmed and annoyed by your family in equal measure. Christmas becomes a scheduled affair, never at your own home, splitting time equally between family members. Hours on the motorway with bags of presents and clothing and the dog in the back. And here, sat in the living room, compiling my lists but wondering if I will ever tick off all the jobs, comes the hardest one of all. It feels selfish to say it but I long for some help. Just a couple of hours. Picking something up from B and Q, coming shopping for furniture, doing some tidying or ironing whilst we get on with the decorating. Anything.
It will get better, I’m sure. I hate being so melancholy, but it has been 4 months. 4 months of being told it will be worth it. That I am being “impatient”. That I just need to stop being so uptight. That “these things take time”. It will be over 5 months from the start of the process by the time I have some semblance of a kitchen, of a wardrobe not a running rack, some space and solitude in my bedroom. Functional is all well and good, but god I long for nice. For exciting. For happiness. The best you can do is cope. Is living with everything, and making the best of things. But its not really living.
I really loathe social media, far more than I love it. It encourages gloating, pride, vanity, conceit. It justifies cruelty, aggression, bitterness, bullying. Whenever there is a low moment, a time of frustration, you can guarantee someone you loathe on Instagram is “living their best life”, out with friends or baking a cake, or not sleeping like a foetus for fear you may wake the dog as there is nowhere for the dogs bed so she sleeps on their side of the bed. I am fully aware that everyone is faking it. The cake probably tastes like shit. Just out of shot will be piles of crap that live on the work surface as the house is a pokey hole of a house. They probably say the harshest things about those friends you see around them on that photo. I bet they don’t even like most of them. But as I eat another stir fry, another pasta dish, another salad and piece of smoked mackerel, I’m buying a little bit of the fakery.
I’m impatient. I accept it. But after 4 months, who can blame me.