When we first saw this house, though we loved almost everything, we were bemused by the doors to the upstairs rooms. We couldn't conceive what had prompted the previous owners to put folding, half-glazed doors in the bedrooms. Why would anyone want to be peered on while they slept (or worse)? And who would think to put a folding door in the bathroom, a door that rattled in its frame, while you soaked in the bath?
So when we moved here, almost a year ago now, the first thing we did was replace them, fitting doors that hung snugly in their frames and kept private things private.
Having expended so much enthusiasm on getting new doors, we had no energy left for anything else, so the old doors were stacked against a wall, until Philip got round to finding them a new home, and the new ones just hung there while we tried to decide if we should paint them.
The days and months passed; the old doors stayed stacked against the wall, the new ones hung on unpainted. There was always something else to do. Until today, when it rained, just as it has rained every day this month and I decided that rather than sit around bemoaning the gloomy wetness, I'd tackle the doors.
I've always liked decorating; I love the way a full paintbrush glides across the surface, leaving behind a trail of colour and the faint indentations of the brush. I'm pleased by the bright whiteness that makes the old paint look yellow and how it fills and flattens the nicks and dents of time. I like how the act of painting makes a room your own.
As often happens when I paint, I started to think about the people who'd lived here before us; the couples and families, growing up and growing old; all the things that might have happened. It was probably around eighty years ago that this house was painted for the very first time. I can imagine the excitement of the young couple who moved into their newly built home, who looked out of the windows at the long muddy strip of land that would one day become a garden. I picture them standing in the doorway of the second bedroom, choosing colours for the nursery. I wonder how many different colours the lounge and kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom have had since then, how many layers of paint have coated the walls. I like the thought that others before me have ended up with paint in their hair, on their elbows, under their fingernails.
Today though, there was something different. I've never painted brand new doors before; I've never been the first person to choose the colour, the first to leave my mark. And as I sit here tonight aching from the unaccustomed exercise, I can't help but smile at the idea that in eighty years time someone else will glide a fully loaded paintbrush across the wood. I wonder what image they might conjure up of the first person who painted them.
Now I just need to get Philip to move those old doors...