There comes a time in every householder’s life when unwelcome tasks can be ignored no longer.
In our case it was the smallest room in the house, the downstairs loo, which after five and a half years of occupation finally got scheduled for redecoration.
All the other rooms in the house had been done. The previous owner’s taste in acid shades of apple green had been washed over in more Bathonian tones of cream and white, courtesy of those jolly expensive paint people at Farrow and Ball. (No doing things by halves in our house.)
We’d even added a loft extension and decorated that, but somehow the loo had escaped the loving attention of the sandpaper, brush and roller.
But your ever-willing columnist had a week off at home, and top of the list of Hugh’s Jobs put together by Mrs D in celebration was the inevitable: Pull Your Finger Out and Sort Out the Downstairs Loo. Nothing for it but to break out the decorating kit, chisel the lids off the half-empty paint tins that have been cluttering up the garage for the last three years, and get splattering.
It’s a well-known fact that the painting bit of home decoration takes up the least time: what really bites into your day is the preparation, which in the case of our loo meant getting the old school and college pictures off the wall (it’s quite eerie doing the necessary with the beady eyes of PKB Noseworth bearing down on you), and temporarily removing all the door furniture, ready for a light zapping with the orbital sander.
Now here’s a top tip for aspiring loo decorators everywhere, gleaned from personal experience: do not, under any circumstances, take the inside door handle off, leave it outside the loo, go back inside and close the door.
Can you guess what’s coming? You’re right. To paraphrase that lovely old song: “Oh, dear, what can the matter be? One middle-aged man locked in the lavatory.”
Inside the loo were the spindle thing which turns the latch, a screwdriver and a berk.
Outside, in no particular order, were freedom, lunch, Mrs D who needed picking up from work at 4pm, and various smaller Dixons who had to be collected from educational establishments all over town.
The spring in the latch was too stiff to be turned with the fingers, even using the spindle thing. The screwdriver wouldn’t go in far enough to push the catch back. And barging the door down wasn't really on the cards, as the potential damage to the hall would have meant further redecoration projects stretching away for at least to the middle of 2015.
Initially the only way out seemed to be shouting. But the loo window is at the back of the house, and even if anyone heard there was the nagging fear that letting the neighbours know about the situation would clear up any doubts they might previously have had about the complete and utter idiocy of him next door.
Eventually, after a bit of digging and poking around in the door frame with the screwdriver, the latch worked loose. Freedom at last, but at what cost? Embarrassment, extra filling round the door frame, and complete paranoia about letting the same thing happen twice.
(The trick is to keep the door handle inside the room, and slide it back onto the spindle thing when you want to get out. But then you knew that, didn’t you?)
The project is finished, bar a couple of small patches of acid green still grinning through the subtle Dorset Cream, and yours truly has got over his sudden fear of confined spaces. But all further decoration projects are on permanent hold.