The silence was deafening. Not in my head, where I was screaming, but all across the building site you could suddenly have heard a pin drop. Again.
‘Right.’ I said, with frightening control. ‘So what exactly was the point of the last four days?’
‘Well I did wonder ….’ he said. Bravely, I thought.
I breathed in and out twice – in through the nose, out through the mouth, as you’re taught for labour. It didn’t work now, either. ‘Back in a minute.’ I muttered, and left at speed pausing only to scoop up No3, who was chuffed to bits with the turn of events: off we went down the lane to count the rats in the copse we call Rabbit’s House.
That night, I hatched a cunning plan. I gave each colour a number and labelled each box of tiles – on every face, just in case. (I was learning.) Then I made and copied a master list of the tile serial number, name, colour (pointless, but just in case) and the number I had given it. Then I drew a grid of 100 squares and numbered each one according to the tile I had decided should go there. Genius. And it worked! It took a very long time to do but slowly slowly with great care, much checking and a very accurate eye, The Chef applied 352 whole tiles and innumerable slips to bits of the kitchen wall. Where, as I write, most of them are currently obscured by drying washing, or dirty washing-up. Heigh-ho.
It was around now that Eeyore suddenly decided he had An Opinion. The attentive Reader will have noticed how very hard I tried throughout this whole moving malarkey to make the dear chap think he was being involved, while actually keeping him far from any sort of decision making role: of course he was allowed to offer a view – of course! But when push came to shove, when a commitment had to be made to a definite plan …. well, obviously I was the better placed to make it. After all, his pretty little head was very full of numbers, and interest rates, and trade deficits and grown up things like that. Bless.
So when he first said that we could have any colours at all on the walls but absolutely no grey anywhere (my favourite), I smiled obligingly and continued to go about my business. After all I had managed to manoeuvre him away from red carpets or swirly patterns (he is Northern, after all) and I remained confident that if I employed my usual method – smile, distract, carry on – all would be well. How wrong I was.
The tester patches on our walls proliferated. For a man hitherto almost totally uninterested in matters domestic, he suddenly became two things I had always assumed he would never be: involved, and informed. Imagine my horror. I tried offerings I knew he’d hate, in the hopes that I would win a war of attrition and he would lose patience. Violent oranges and purples were suggested; ochres and vermillion, fluorescent greens, black and ultimately a funny sort of metallic yuck. He saw through the lot and had the temerity to call my bluff by picking a screaming yellow that made our eyes burn to behold. As the painters became more insistent, and rooms actually started to look as though they might just one day be real, habitable spaces if only they had a couple of final coats, I became desperate.
His nemesis, and my salvation, arrived in the form of a two week business trip to South Africa. In the days before the instant, amazing technology we all now use as a matter of course, I took to reading him the names of the colours I was considering – and for the first time ever, I thanked the gods for the idiot names Fallow & Bell use. From a distance of 8,400 miles he followed as I once again led him by the nose and he sanctioned the use of about four shades of elegant, soothing grey. Parma Blue, Great White, Parchment, Wevet … he never knew what hit him. And to this day he thinks they’re blue, white, cream and slightly iffy pale green, and loves the lot.
Except the drawing room.