One day when it’s looking all tidy and beautiful, I will show you the work our Hebe did on her room.
When we came to this house, her room had 1970s floral wallpaper, dark russet nylon carpet tiles, a sink set in a fitted pine vanity unit coated thickly with that de rigeur orange 1970s varnish, a humungous fitted wardrobe made of melamine with fancy gilt handles and containing a huge hot water cylinder; and plenty of damp stains in the corners.
That was nearly six years ago. We’ve done a lot of work on the house since then.
When we first moved in, we tossed out the ghastly floor tiles and re-carpeted, and Hebe painted the walls. At the time we put the solar panels and solar tubes on the roof, Hebe had to accommodate an even larger hot water cylinder – so big that one of the awful melamine doors had to come off her wardrobe and be replaced by a blanket hung on a net curtain stretcher, even with some of the cylinder insulation shaved off.
So. Time went on.
One of the things we did was create a boiler room up in our attic. We laid a floor, and there re-located the boiler and hot water cylinder to join the inverter for the solar tubes that heat our water. So now it’s all easily accessible for servicing and not occupying rooms in the main house. The boiler with its penetrating blue lights used to be in Alice and Hebe’s art studio. Not any more.
Then we fixed the problems with the roof, left us as a legacy by the first men who fixed the roof, and finally stopped the ingress of damp, from the initial buckets-in-the-attic and the later slow seepage, to zero water. Glad of that. It’s raining.
When these changes happened Hebe, now water-cylinder-less, took the opportunity to have the wardrobe and plumbed-in vanity unit removed. She tore up the carpet – now a few years old and well-trodden. She had the room re-plastered so all the dodgy bits resulting from age and long damp were sorted. Into the gaps between the old Victorian floorboards she hammered wood slivers to give a gapless floor. Then she had a man with a machine sand it for her. She chose a beautiful white stain through which you can still see the wood grain, and a white wax finish. The floor man didn’t do a brilliant job, but okay. She wished she’d done it herself, but at least this is one more bit of evidence that one need never be daunted by the hallowed territory of Professionals.
She replaced the original eBay curtains, now rotted by sunlight and torn by agile cats, with white linen lined curtains over finest white linen nets, through which sunlight filters like fairyland.
A floor sleeper, she got huge and beautiful beanbags for herself and visiting family members to relax on, and the Badger built her a low-level unit out of old sanded gravel boards, to store her clothes. She got a set of ladder shelves for her books.
The whole room is now airy, peaceful, calm, pale, light-filled, elegant and Zen.
Egged on by her example, I have begun the much needed work on my own little room. The carpet that was new when we came was now stained, grubby and trodden. And I prefer floorboards because I hate vacuum cleaners with a passion. The old over-painted wallpaper and the polystyrene coving (Yes. Why?) need to come off, but I don’t feel up to that yet. So I just started with the floor.
The Badger took up the carpet for me and the underlay and hardboard and gripper rods, and took it all to the tip. I pulled up staples until my hands were all blistered, then Hebe and Fi pulled out the rest (ie most of them). Then I scrubbed the floor with sugar soap and bleach to get out all the dirt accumulated there since 1910.
The Badger is going to sand it for me too, and then I’ll rub wood balsam into it, and buff it, to get a rich protected well-fed finish.
But all that was just me getting round to what I really wanted to tell you – well, show you really.
While we were doing all this I found two things.
Digging out the impacted dirt of aeons from between the floorboards, I excavated this old rusty hairpin.
This room of mine was most likely a maid’s room for the original Victorian family. I wonder who she was – pinning up her hair early in the morning by the light of the rising sun through the window, dropping a hairpin that fell down between the floor boards to be lost for a hundred years.
She had another mishap.
The floor had a dark stain I originally took for the remains of dark varnish inadequately sanded off.
Then I realized as I looked at it carefully, having scrubbed the surface dirt away, this floor had never been varnished or stained – the boards were in their original condition (apart from all the dirt). The stain was where the hairpin owner had another accident. She knocked over an oil lamp. The dark patch is where the oil caught fire and nearly set the house alight. You can see, if you look at it, how it splashed and puddled and ran – all alight.
Someone put that out mighty quick – or maybe it fell onto a rug and set it alight, so the patches are where it burned through.
When the Badger sands the floor for me, I’ll ask him to sand round that patch. That’s precious. Along with the hairpin, it’s part of my room’s history, silently waiting there in its bones, undiscovered until now.