Imagine my excitement: once again, I was living the dream. Baby and children safely looked after (ie somewhere else), I felt certain that anyone who saw me in Bridget’s black 4×4 would be bound to mistake me for a WAG being chauffeured around London in search of Expensive Things for my dream home. Just so long as I didn’t get out and reveal the inevitable Cotton Traders slip-on shoes, Lands End jeans, the Latvian granny rolling gait, the spots and the bad hair, I would be fine. And so we trailed from one end of the Fulham Road to the other, down the Kings Road, round Chelsea Wharf and all points between, miraculously managing to move the car from meter to meter, collecting swatches and brochures and ideas and – in my case at least – having a blast. As the day wore on however and my bones became ever more sore, it dawned on me that we hadn’t actually achieved anything: lots to look at and think about, sure, but in terms of decisions made and orders placed: zilch. Time was pressing and my real life of school runs and fishfingers was beginning to loom large, as I realised that we didn’t have long to make it back to King’s Cross.
And then I saw it. The Sofa. Huge and inviting and (ominously) in the very front of the window of an hysterically expensive shop in Walton Street. As I yelled, and the car screeched to a halt, I leapt out and lurched in while Bridget guttered the motor and followed me, seemingly oblivious to the hoots and bad temper all around. I wasn’t, and tried to look like a Bob Geldof, I-don’t-care-what-I-look-like-and-don’t-need-to-either sort of Chelsea fixture. With hindsight I think it’s unlikely I carried it off, but at the time my excitement and eagerness finally to buy something was such, that it didn’t matter much.
I stood in the hallowed building and gazed at a spectacular leviathan of soft furnishing. At least a mile long; good and high; beautifully finished in a fine, supple leather – this last could also have applied to the slim, black clad girls freshly out of Heathfield who homed in on us and hovered elegantly as they smelt a sale. Intimidatingly beautiful, they were kind enough not to laugh in my face as I tried to look as though I belonged in their world.
‘Wow Bridget!’ I enthused. ‘What do you think?’
‘Mmmm’ said Bridget, tellingly.
I sought to ease her troubled mind.
‘Just imagine: in the drawing room, back to the big window, facing the fire ….’
‘Yesssss …. ‘ she drew the word out and up , leaving me in no doubt.
‘…. or the sitting room, half way down, making it into two distinct areas …’ – a cunning one this: throughout, both Bridget and He Who Knows had sought to teach me about giving rooms Zones, and Multiple Uses.
‘Yessss …’ she was at it again.
‘Or in our bedroom, at the foot of the bed, facing the window … ‘ I wasn’t going to give in.
I lost my nerve.
‘Bet it’s comfy!’ I almost begged, as I dropped into it.
Big mistake. Something in my hip pinched and I gasped, grabbing my side. I squeezed my eyes tight shut as white light shot across my vision – and finally opened them, to a Damascene revelation.
‘The walls!’ I puffed.
‘What?!’ Bridget and the Heathfield lovelies, all now worried and bending over me, were equally confused.
‘The wallpaper! It’s fab!’
Bridget straightened and looked about her. I could see the relief in her eyes. ‘Ah!’ she said, in a completely different voice. ‘I see what you mean. Yes …..’ thoughtfully this time, with no clanging undertones of despair.
Suffice it to say that we left having ordered four large squares of the stuff in different colourways. Unspoken, it was understood that the sofa was staying put (Bridget’s victory) but the hall walls looked to have a real future as things of great beauty (mine), and honour was mutually satisfied. By the time I limped down the platform and collapsed onto the train, my heart was set on what I had already told Eeyore was the ONLY paper for us, and I had in my mind a clear picture of the front hall, stairwell and landing resplendent in the full, finished glory normally only to be seen in the palatial residences of Europe’s crowned heads.