Sunday, 29 April 2012

A new coat

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...



19 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Nothing like a fresh coat of paint.

IJrdn said...

The only thing I can remember about painting my room was the pain in my neck and complaining about it. I guess I should stop seeing the bad side of the cube and start enjoying whatever bits life throws at me.

BarkyMag said...

I was painting today too. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as you though. I liked that you thought about the previous inhabitants and made it an enjoyable task. Next time I'll try it your way!

Zahir Shah said...

The same goes for another scenario, a reverse incident... My younger brother (Sabir) at the age of 15 painted the new section added to our traditional house in Hunza Pakistan, the doors the wall and the windows. But, an incident on Jan 04, 2010 blocked the Hunza river which ultimately submerged upstream areas of Gjal (uper Hunza). 100s of houses got submerged, new ones and old ones (100-150 year old traditional houses). When I visited my village, Gumit, after the incident (the water still holding large area) I sat by the ruins of our traditional home and reflected back on who built it first, how much labor was put in (during the unmechanized time), with what zeal Sabir had painted the new section recently and our childhood activities in each section of the house. At such moments one takes a deep breath and thinks of how unimaginable things could surprise and shock us.

Beautiful write up as usual :)

Zahir Shah said...

Correction: It is Gojal, not Gjal

jill said...

Decorating will take on a whole new meaning now, I am currently stripping back layers of paint from our doors, they are beautiful wood doors and I stupidly painted them in white gloss a few years ago, I will not do that again.
I love the write up

The Elephant's Child said...

What are you planning for the old doors? Any ideas?

Pat said...

Now I just need to get Philip to move those old doors...

Good luck with that:)

Recently we had the core of the house from attic to bottom redecorated but the attic doors still had the old blackish varnish, patina from the twenties and something made me tell the chaps to leave them so that something of that family remains.

Susan said...

When the world seems out of your control, painting is a small way that you can control your universe. I recently repainted our kitchen and yesterday deep-cleaned it, including a lemon polish treatment on the exposed wood floor. This post really resonated with me. Beautifully written!

Young at Heart said...

I tend to paint rather than clean....when things get too bad a coat of paint over everything is one way to get rid of the cobwebs....and it's very relaxing I find!!

Cle Reveries said...

That's incredible, if we think that other's home may easily become our house! To become our home it's a bit harder. New doors with their smell of wood, colours we have chosen for them and the walls,our new coat of paint all together made with love, so magically clean up all the previous signs of the old family lived before, and becomes the place where to live with our dearest: HOME!

raymond alexander kukkee said...

What a beautiful and reflective piece, Sharon. I don't know what it is, but you help everyone inspect the world from a peaceful, insightful and reflective point of view. Amazing. I really enjoy your writing--it is special.

Sharon Longworth said...

Thank you to everyone who's stopped by to read, but especially to those who've stayed to leave a comment. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your messages.

mybabyjohn/Delores - I agree - there's nothing quite like it!

ljrdn - I'm sorry it turned out to be a pain in the neck - hope you get to enjoy decorating a bit more one day.

Barkymag - now there's a coincidence - I hope you're pleased with the results.

Zahir - I'm so sorry to hear of what happened to your house. I guess we never know what's around the corner, perhaps that's a lesson to all of us to appreciate a bit more what we've got while we've still got it. I am at least glad that you have such strong and evocative memories of your home.

Sharon Longworth said...

Jill - Oh my, I read this and thought "nooooo" that I'm painting our doors while you're telling me you regret having done just the same. But to be honest, ours aren't beautiful doors - they look better for the shiny whiteness. I hope I still thank that in a few years.

The Elephant's child - I'm not sure we have anything as concrete as a plan for the old doors - just a feeling that, apart from being completely wrong for our house, they're too good to simply throw away. Perhaps I'll do an update here when we finally get round to it.

Pat - I was hoping you could join me here in applying a bit of pressure in the door-moving issue...
I'm glad that you decided to keep the old attic doors - proper links to the past.

Susan - I think you've capture that really well - it is a form of gaining control isn't it.
And I'm very impressed at your kitchen deep-clean - I'm positively slovenly in that direction!

Sharon Longworth said...

Young at heart - aah, a woman after my own heart!

Cle - it's so hard to define the difference between a house and a home - but I think you've described it just right. Thank you.

Raymond - that really is such a smashing thing to say - thank you so much.

The Jules said...

And then some teenage kid will want to paint it black to represent their inner pathos and originality.

HerMelness Speaks said...

Oh, my! I've fallen in girl love this morning.

I didn't realise I had the capacity to feel so much about paint and painting. My father was a painter by trade, so many colourful memories (some grey) came back to me today. Who knew this would be the piece to take me there?

And lots of memories of my first house and just starting out in The Land Of The Grown-ups.

Superb piece. I loved it.

(Send this to all the paint companies. Get them to make adverts based on this piece of simple, yet evocative writing.) I'd buy paint and let the kids go hungry.

Already thinking about what I can do with my Garden Study.

Wistful start to my morning. Thank you.

ND Mitchell said...

Loved this Sharon. There's definitely something about painting a door for the first time and you've captured it beautifully here. As ever, you manage to turn the potentially mundane into something of great significance.
David

Dicky Carter said...

I remember when I was a kid, loving writing my name on the wall behind the wall paper when my dad was decorating. A couple of years ago when he redid the hall he found 'Dicky! Stop running down the stairs and bring your cup down!' written on the plaster behind the wallpaper. He must have done that in the 70s.