Monday, 12 February 2018

A week of firsts.

It's been a good week. And when I have a good week, these days, it's often worth writing about. I have, after 6 months of agonising Rhuematic pain in my hands and wrists, finally been able to use them to some degree, to be productive, to get things done. So it has been a week of firsts.

I have been able to paint my kitchen cupboards (yawningly slowly with my left hand mostly) a pale blue grey, or Paris Grey as the colour is called. I'm not sure what it looks like in Paris but in my kitchen it looks rather lovely, certainly better than the 1980's magnolia that was there before! In fact, the magnolia cupboards weren't the worst design fail in my cottage. The previous owners last decorated in 1981 (bravely admitting that on my second viewing) and was a hotch-potch of hideousness... in the sitting room, one wall was a light pink terracotta, the opposite wall peach, and the two end walls pale yellow. The ceiling was white, the floor was covered with a dusky pink threadbare carpet and the curtains were navy blue. In the kitchen, magnolia loomed large, from the cupboards to the walls, with faux brick linoleum on the floor and wall tiles in a confused palette of dark brown, beige and tan. The hallway was bright yellow and the downstairs bathroom a sky blue with pale avocado sink and loo. Luckily, I was able to see through this nausea-inducing decor and imagine what it could be.

The first thing I did was to knock down the wall between the sitting room and the kitchen, which opened up the space and allowed the gorgeous morning and midday light to flood both rooms. The carpet and linoleum were replaced with oak wood floors throughout, I got a lovely decorator to come in and whitewash the whole of the downstairs, replace the skirting boards and paint the tan mdf doors. The boiler was moved upstairs and suddenly, after 2 months of chaos, the downstairs resembled something quite beautiful. White wooden blinds hang in the front window and gorgeous vintage curtains of soft blue and oatmeal are in the kitchen. This week, I finished the cupboards and I have finally been able to unpack some boxes and start living in the space.

I used my oven for the first time this week and cooked myself a fried egg on toast. That may sound rather disappointing for a first meal but you cannot imagine how vile microwave-cooked eggs are, so it was divine. I had my washing machine delivered and washed my clothes for the first time rather than taking them to the local laundrette which is a complete pain the arse, not only because you always lose sock and knickers in the dryer but almost always end up with someone else's pants as a bonus! I have a fridge for the first time too, having used an old ice box outside for the last 3 months to store everything... fine in the winter when everything is cold enough, not so pleasant when it's pouring with rain and everything in the ice box gets waterlogged. I painted the kitchen tiles myself and for the first time, I have been able to unpack and display all my kitchen things, from toaster and kettle to vintage cake tins and cook books. For the first time, my cottage is beginning to look like a home.

Being a home for the first time also means that I want friends and family to come and see it. My parents and sister all came round for tea last week and were able to all sit in the sitting room, in relative comfort, while we chatted. I was able to have my first dinner party a few days ago. It was only three of us, not a grand affair, but I cooked a chicken casserole and some fluffy baked potatoes, we had chilled prosecco from the fridge and we sat on chairs, like normal people, around the kitchen table for supper. It was divine and it was the first time I felt truly settled.

Now that downstairs is almost finished, I look at upstairs in horror. Upstairs has soooo many more problems than downstairs. Rotten windows, bare chipboard floors, massive holes in the walls, a mouldy bathroom with no shower, dodgy stairs and a loo that sometimes regurgitates its belongings up the bowl!!! I need to make a sign saying "Please be modest with your 3 P's", warning people not to put too much pee, poo or paper down the loo. It's terrifying. I am sleeping on a mattress on the floor even though I have a new bed leaning against the bedroom wall because it seems redundant to construct the bed when I will have to deconstruct it again when the floors are done. I can't unpack anything either because I will simply have to pack up again when the painting starts and that seems ridiculous.

But my week of firsts has been very very rewarding and it still continues. I have gardeners here today for the first time, cutting back my first ever wisteria, a job that needed professionals as it had been left for 15 years to grow wild and resembles an intricate 8 foot high web of 5 inch thick branches that span the length of the cottage and the 20 feet of wall beyond. There is beautiful old stone behind it apparently, which I can't wait to see. Later, the gardener Sophie has promised to show me how to prune the roses, another first for me. And later still, I will be going to my first ever Owl life-drawing class. Yes, it is as bizarre as it sounds but that's Frome for you, a town I'm discovering is full of the wild and wonderful, the beautiful and the bizarre!

I am turning 50 this year, and as exhausting and challenging as the last 2 years have been, mentally and physically, I also know that I might never have had the chance to do certain things the way I have, had I not been ill. It's forced me to slow down and appreciate things. It has shown me that a little can mean much more than a lot, and that the smallest act of kindness from a friend, new or old, can mean the world. I am never too old to do things for the first time and I hope to have a lot more firsts for years to come.