Wednesday, 11 November 2009

No Changing Rooms

I am forever told to get on and redecorate my house - mostly by women who look around with a mixture of incomprehension and disgust. I think I understand what they mean. It would be nice to not have a carpet in my living room which has inexplicable black patches on it; or get rid of the peeling patch of wallpaper. But basically, I'd rather not, because it is all such a hassle. Do you know how many books I would have to make homeless before getting at the walls? [Answer: too many.]

It is probably quite telling that the one bit of what you might call DIY I have done recently was not to strip down the nasty woodchip paper on the ceiling and replace it with magnolia, nor to retile my kitchen. Actually, it was to go mental with an electric drill, a good ten metres of copper cabling and many wireclips in the attempt to replace the sad, and possibly malfunctioning, cable that snaked along my hallway to my ADSL modem/router. Yes, my internet connection is very important [it took nearly two years to get BT to fix the real problem - but that is another story].

In turn, I have a lot of incomprehension at the sheer amount of time, money and effort put into doing up houses. And it's not just the madmen and madwomen shown to us on programs such as Property Ladder (now topically renamed Property Snakes and Ladders). I have friends who seriously think nothing of coming home from work, and immediately start grouting above the sink. It's bad enough having to do without useful rooms, like bathrooms, whilst you have the builders in; but it is far worse if you have to spend four hours of evening work for the next six weeks. I'd rather spend this time reading through my backlog, writing code, or playing my guitar.

And, whilst I am on this subject, don't get me started about conservatories. My house is a mid-80s build, with nice cavity wall insulation. Why on earth would you deliberately want to add yet another room that you'll have to heat, and which is less energy efficient than the rest of your house to boot? If I was going to dig up half my garden, I'd do something useful with it, like grow more potatoes, carrots and rhubarb.

So it was massively satisfying to me on Saturday, when I visited the house of a friend (who will remain nameless) for the first time, and I discovered that his house had remained in the same unimproved state for even longer than mine! The house had previously belonged to his grandmother, and walking through the front door was like falling through the Time Tunnel into an earlier age: the 1950s, possibly. I loved it: it had the original wallpaper, some of the original electrics, and original furniture. It even had old wooden armchairs with antimacassars (and that was the new word for that day).

However, in my heart, I know it cannot last. As a broken Winston Smith awaits his killing bullet, I await the time when the pressure finally breaks me, and I give in. I shall make a bonfire of my books, comics and clothes - my previous life dissipating into the finest of ash. For the first time, I will pass the threshold of B&Q or Wickes without reacting like Damien outside Guildford Cathedral. I will actively relish choosing the new shade of paint with my partner. I will enjoy the sensation of stripping wallpaper. I will sing with joy at the installation of my second bathroom. I will finally learn to love it all.

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