What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: February, 2015

The Chair Part One

Because I’m going back to work next week, and have to write some tutorials for the two hundred students I’m about to meet to stop them from tying me up, shoving me in a cupboard and running around the classroom in their underwear, because I’m starting a research project, because it’s AGM season and I have a whole lot of Treasury stuff to finish and reconcile, because I’m on the quest for the perfect bathroom mirror, because I’ve got to make a metric buttload of jam for the upcoming fete, hang on, I’ve lost track. Oh yes, I thought I’d renovate a chair.

I may have mentioned that we’re putting in an attic. We’re at that agonising point where I’m about to bid a fond farewell to the builders, but the painting isn’t finished, the wardrobe guy might be able to get drawings to me next week, the shower screen man had to go to a funeral so can’t fit me in for another fortnight and the alarm man has gone on holidays so can’t connect the smoke detector.

I’m sure we’ll move up there eventually. I plan to have a workspace in the new bit, and a new workspace needs the perfect chair. I’ve had the same chair at my desk (when I’ve had a desk, not much in the last decade) for as long as I can remember.


It was once one of a set. One of the fondest memories of my childhood is of our morbidly obese next door neighbour sitting fairly gently one on of these and smashing it to pieces. Precious moments.

Anyway at some point someone, probably my mother, painted this one white and gave it to me. It is just about due for its second paint job.

I don’t know if you’ve had a crack at this yourself. I’ve really only painted new stuff. I had a fair idea that sandpaper would be involved, any excuse to go to Bunnings really – did you know you can get these cute little pointy hand held sanders that you Velcro the sandpaper onto? A very comfortable lady’s sander you’d describe it as if you were irredeemably sexist. Excellent workout for the triceps as it turns out.

But the – how much do you sand? Just enough to rub off the stickers that tiny hands have put on there that have since become one with the paint? Get down into smoothing off the dents and chips? Half sand off the paint even though shabby chic has been and gone and I never liked it anyway?

I hoped to resolve these questions with a visit to the local paint shop, and even pick up a pot of paint so I could start Part Two. I foolishly chose one of those fancy shops which, as it turns out, are rather reluctant to sell you paint and would much rather point out very carefully how much of a feckless idiot you are for even contemplating such a project. “Do you even know what type of paint is on the chair right now?” asked the blonde assistant who, possibly from weeping out the back at man’s inhumanity to man, had a smudge of mascara under one eye, making it very difficult for me to concentrate on what she was saying. What would James Valentine’s form guide suggest in such a situation? Offer her a tissue? Come at her with a Wet Wipe? I went with what I was comfortable with, the slightly open mouthed stare. “That finish? Well, you’d need to apply this primer, then this crackle medium and a couple of layers of top coat, then sand it back, then another coat and then black wax it”. Ahahahaha. Ha. Yeah. Nah. Do they ever sell anything to anyone?

What she had convinced me of is that the paint should come off. It did appear that my mother just slapped on the one coat all those years ago, which meant that most of the paint was coming off very easily. Showing the original colour below. Originally, it had been stained a fetching olive green, not a colour you very often see in chairs any more.


This does mean that I need to let go of any idea I had of just roughly sanding it back and lacquering it. It looks like something the perpetrators of the Zombie Apocalypse would relax on after a hard day amongst the brains.

So my choices are to sand it enough to get a smooth surface, then prime it and paint it. Or sand it back enough to remove all trace of zombie and stain and lacquer it. At my advanced age I know myself well enough to realise that I’m capable of getting the larger surfaces smooth and a lot less green, but there’s no way I’m getting into those nooks and crannies even if I get involved in a whole lot more things to procrastinate about. So primer and paint it shall be.

No I don’t know what colour. Didn’t you read the title? I’m only up to Part One. I do hope there will be a Part Two, the desk I’m having put in isn’t one of those standing desks that are so very 2013. I’m going to have to wait for another burst of enthusiasm to come along.


Six shades of Grey

I did think I’d have a lot more to tell you about renovating.  I’ve put off renovating our house for years for a number of reasons – should we just go zen and chuck everything out and make the kids all sleep in the same bedroom? Would we ever get anything past the local council who likes to think of our suburb as a museum which shouldn’t have garages because when the houses were built there were no cars?  But the main reason was the experiences of my friends who have been through a renovation themselves.  One had to fire a builder half way through and have much of the work redone.  One almost made it through to the end before having a minor nervous breakdown.  One said it was worse than having cancer, and she’s had cancer.  Twice.

But the kids are starting to take up a lot of space, and I’m studying and working and trying to do both without actually having a desk or a spot to put one and it was time.  And apart from the council being predictably ridiculous and taking six months to approve something perfectly straightforward, it has been smooth as. I am going to write the project managers a glowing recommendation to put on their website. We’re nearly finished, my hallway no longer looks like this:


Well, actually, it does a bit, only with stairs and the odd plasterer.  There is still quite a bit of tidying up to do.  Which I’m sure will take eternal weeks before we can move up there and never come down. But I’m at the point where I have to choose stuff. Toilet, taps, tiles, paint colours, carpet. Ugh. How can anyone have a strong opinion about a toilet? Here’s the one I chose.


I did rather enjoy watching a selection of tradesmen deciding exactly where in the bathroom it should be located by drawing a circle on the ground, then squatting over it. They were a bit concerned about knee room, it is a tiny bathroom. Talk about attention to detail. Also, quad strength.

Anyway, I shall tell you about tiles. You go to a tile shop. They have a dizzying array of tiles. But you must always choose something whitish for the walls and something brown on the ground. I’m not sure why they bother having the rest of them, fills up the space, I guess. The first time I went in the sales assistant spent a long time agonising over the comparison between a large white wall tile and another large white wall tile that looked identical to me. Then showed me what must surely be the most boring brown tile on the face of the earth. I almost couldn’t look at it. I asked to look at something else and she again showed me what appeared to be the identical tile, only a bit more matte. I muttered some excuse about having to go and stab myself in the eye and fled.

I did, dear reader, venture back to that tile shop, because whores must have their trinkets and time was a ticking. I drew a far more vibrant shop assistant this time. Possibly too vibrant. She kept dragging me by the arm to look at more large white wall tiles, and you know how I feel about that kind of thing. Then when I managed to say “uh..” she’d shriek “you’re right! Come over here, you must look at this, you’ll love it!”. You know, don’t you, that I ended up with a large white wall tile and a brown floor tile, after quite a lot more dragging and shrieking. But they weren’t quite as boring as they could have been.

I should add, as a coda to that story, that tiles for quite a tiny bathroom will only just fit into the back of a Subaru station wagon.


At a rough calculation, they weighed four hundred kilos. “You dribe carepul, you too low” was the helpful advice the storeman at the tile shop gave me. He was quite right, I’m fortunate to still have an exhaust pipe. Lucky I had the Muffet to help me lug them into the house, grrl power.

And similarly with carpets. I actually wanted a green carpet, but was politely informed by the carpet lady that that was toasted insanity. Or words to that effect. To give her credit, she was right. The lighter green ones, when flung onto the daylit floor all looked the colour of something that may have come out of your nose. The mid greens looked disturbingly like astroturf. She only had plush in dark green, and while I loved the colour, it looked as though every bit of fluff and dandruff that had ever floated in the door had chosen to settle on that beautiful green square. Again, do they only keep them in stock to service the mentally disturbed of the Inner West? Or as some kind of solemn object lesson? But you’ll be pleased to know that there were choices other than brown. There was also grey.

I took home six different squares of grey carpet, having culled the selection down from well over ten. I’d gone into the shop imagining I’d get a wool carpet, because you know, natural good, plastic evil. I was quickly talked out of that. Our new bedroom has three skylights in it and apparently the new nylon carpets never ever ever fade, but wool will. And you go and try it, even the trés expensive wool feels scratchy and produces volumes of fluff, but the nylon is very cuddly indeed. I did say to the lady that I obviously wouldn’t be sitting on it, but that was a lie. The family overwhelmingly voted for the darkest grey, so the next stage was to pet test it.


No visible pet hair and any drool wiped right off. So that’s that done. Hang on, my phone’s ringing.

“Hello, this is Giselle from Carpets R Us. We’re out of stock of your carpet and it will be four months before new stock comes in from the outer asteroid belt. Would you like to come in and make another choice?”