The lacquer red of the front door was scraped when an infuriated neighbour had a go at it with a brick. The red was covered by a rather nice shade of bulrush (browny-green) which its fashionable makers then abandoned.
It needed repair so, probably inspired by a friend who is good at this sort of thing, I decided I would strip off the paint, anoint the wood with linseed oil and have it as natural wood.
Cue for hysterical laughter.
This story is revealing in equal parts of ineptitude and hope and probably explains as well as any other way why I regard hope with such suspicion.
I prefer to expect the worst and have a nice surprise.
But occasionally I become drunk with hope and the almost mystical conviction that everything will be all right, whatever context we are dealing with, though it doesn’t happen very often, thank heaven.
The painter/decorator next door helpfully removed what he called the door furniture (letterbox, handle, etc) and told me I would need a particular paint-stripper. “The paint will just come off as you rub” he said.
I should have known then. No paint surrenders. It is not a felon, it does not come out with its hands up. It is not passive, it fights back.
After two abortive attempts with different products, I put my pride in my pocket and asked Wal the decorator who referred me to the Paint Man ( he only paints inside). “Strip it” he said darkly. It became clear that this was the trade name of something that did work, used over and over and over again.
“Brussels” said Sam in the suppliers’ shop regretfully. “All those things used to smell horrible but they worked. Then the EEC got hold of them, deponged them and now they don’t work. I can’t tell you the complaints we’ve had.”
A crude sander helped though the third layer of paint was closer to glue than gloss. And it was while I was attacking this with equal parts of determination and ineptitude that Peter the postman came along.
No, not Postman Pat. Our postman is 6 feet square, good looking and a benign presence. Yes, this is South London, not a bosky village and our postman is called Peter.
He stood and laughed. He laughed for so long that I took off my mask with dignity to say that I was pleased to have made him so happy.
He asked what I was doing ? I explained. “You need a heat gun” he said. “I’ll bring you a couple of things.”
Apparently the family business was painting and decorating for 40 years, till the firm went to the wall last time things got tough.
He doesn’t like doing it, he told me, but he knows what he is about and the next day, good as his word, he brought the tools and showed me how to use them.
Things moved on, not fast, but they moved.
However, like the owner, the door has seen better days. And I learned all over again that, while it may have been a compliment in context when one of my erstwhile swain referred to my “dolls’ house hands”, they were of limited use in the mixture of dexterity and sheer physical strength this endeavour seemed to require.
Philosophically however, the door has been quite useful.
I can’t tear it off and throw it away. Winter is here, it needs to be sound and I need to be able to shut it without unnecessary air getting in. I can neither afford to replace it or to have it professionally done.
So I have had to persevere, bit by bit, with patience. I can’t do it in a whirl of energy (a) because I haven’t any longer got that kind of energy, (b) I am truly clumsy and (c) my back has to be respected if it is to continue to function.
No money is saved on the door if you have to lay it out on physiotherapy for the back. False economy.
Up to one coat of primer and two of base coat, I just about got over wanting to run away because I haven’t done this very well.
The do it yourself friend told me that I must do a neat job and make my peace with it, so that’s what I am striving for.
Just like school – must try harder.
And I have just remembered: door is a four letter word.
Another good piece Anna
Had exactly the same experience many years ago. Nothing was fully effective against the layers of paint, despite the many claims to the contrary, and it was hard, unrewarding work. Gave up in the end. Did you succeed in the end?