Back at home I got a large piece of plywood and put it on the floor of what I still fondly believed would one day be an elegant drawing room. Bare boards and wet plaster challenged my optimism but in my mind’s eye there was a certain faded grandeur to it …. It took me four days of meticulously moving and placing 100 tiles to achieve a patch of the dashingly casual random pattern I wanted repeated on the walls until the area was covered. Anyone fool enough to come to the house during that time was roped in to check that no adjacent tiles were the same colour and to offer an opinion – and if anyone minded that their views were scorned on the spot, they were too wise to mention it. Only Eeyore knew me well enough to steer clear completely.
Finally, I was happy that the Krypton Factor was over, and that I was victorious. Unca Pete was called and he came in with The Chef (his son) in tow, to carry the board into the kitchen prior to taking the whole lot off one by one, and sticking them on the walls. The Chef was between jobs, and as a man of some years’ tiling experience, had agreed to undertake the not inconsiderable task. All went well, for about three minutes.
‘Ah.’ said Unca Pete.
‘What do you mean ‘Ah’?’ I enquired, with a deep sense of foreboding.
‘It’s just that … I’m not sure we can get the board through the door without tipping it.’ said Unca Pete, bravely.
There was a pause. Obviously, I should have thought of this.
‘Tipping it, how much?’ I asked with restraint.
‘Too much.’ he said, succinctly.
I breathed in and out, slowly.
‘Right.’ I said. ‘French windows.’ We could take them out, along the side of the house and back in through the hole in the wall where the door into the kitchen should have been for the last two weeks.
‘Nailed shut. New cement round the frame.’ said the man who had just moved a few feet further away from me, in case.
I breathed in and out, slowly.
‘Right.’ I said. ‘Plan B?’
There was a pause.
‘We nail a batten to the bottom of the board, and they rest on that as we tip it.’ Unca Pete saved the day.
‘Fantastic. Absolutely brilliant. Thank God for that – see?! There’s always an answer. On you go!’ I was sunny and jolly and back to being the favourite (current) client.
Except that it didn’t work. The tiles were so heavy that the board flexed alarmingly when picked up, and the whole thing was so big that it had to be tipped at a very acute angle even to approach the doorway. At which point the tiles at the top started to move, pushing those below them out and risking bringing the whole lot crashing off. Quite apart from the cost of replacing the stupid things, I couldn’t bear the idea of another trip to the back of beyond and another four days of trying to be arty.
‘Right.’ I said, much more calmly than I felt. ‘Plan C.’
We stood and thought. Then I stood and thought, while Unca Pete went and put the kettle on.
‘I’ve got it!’ I said, to the empty room. ‘A photo!’ So while Unca Pete and The Chef had a brew, I dug through boxes and piles and rooms of clobber and displaced essentials until I found my digital camera. Triumphantly, I marched into the drawing room and in the fading light took a couple of pictures of the board on the floor – true, they had to be a bit small to get the whole lot in, but if you concentrated you could work it out and it was with a great sense of having overcome the odds that I went triumphantly to find Unca Pete and The Chef.
‘Great!’ said Unca Pete.
‘Except ….’ said The Chef hesitantly, looking sideways at his dad who buried his face in his mug.
‘Except what?’ I enquired.
‘Except … I’m colour blind.’ said The Chef.