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Date: 16/12/20

Putting A Gloss On Things

As part of the ongoing process of both finding something to do over the winter months and continuing the redecorating of Mental Towers, I have once more been wielding the paintbrush. In doing so, I may have plumbed new depths of pretentiousness. Read on...

It was the turn of the kitchen on this occasion. I don't remember when the door frames and skirting boards were last painted; I suspect that it was in the mad whirl of work I did throughout the house during my September fortnight away from the pickle factory in 2004, after the Council (or, rather, its contractors) put in the first gas-powered central heating system. Anyway, it was a long time back.

Now, as I think I've remarked before, me and gloss paint have somewhat of a strained relationship (perhaps I shouldn't have tried straining it). I was always astounded - in the days when I had a television - by those commercials for Dulux or Crown where some guy who is too handsome to be a normal husband wields a brush in an almost casual fashion and manages to produce a finish which you could use as a mirror...

...rather like the fabric conditioner ads where the woman flaps the bedsheet over the bed and it covers it in one movement, almost as if it had been magnetised...

...which I tried once, only for the sheet to wrap around my head and make me walk straight into the wardrobe door...

...anyway, I suppose it is naïve of me to expect reality to conform to the platonic ideals of product promotion, so I wasn't looking forward to doing the job that much, especially as - bearing in mind what I said about the passage of time since the last occasion I did it, and mindful of the experiences I'd had in the last year or two painting the door frames and skirting boards upstairs and in the hall - I knew that at least two, if not three, coats would be needed.

I had given the boards and frames in the kitchen the first coat some seven weeks ago, but then I had run out of white gloss. We were at that time at the beginning of the so-called 'firebreak' lockdown and, whilst neither Screwfix not B&Q were actually shut, venturing out on public transport for what was, let's face it, an utterly non-essential journey was something I wasn't prepared to countenance. So, it would have to wait.

Last Friday, I had to go two miles down the road to the surgery to provide a blood sample for my endocrinologist, as my hospital appointment with him had been cancelled for the obvious reason. Had the weather been dry, I would have walked it; but rain had quite definitely been forecast, so it was the bus. I then reasoned that, if I was going to have to go out anyway, and if I was going to have to buy a £4.60 day ticket, then I could at least take the opportunity to go down to B&Q to get a new tin of paint.

Which is what I did, smuggling the 2.5l tin of Leyland back on the bus in my big shopping bag to over-ride any potential objection from the driver (they don't like having stuff like that on their vehicles, and can exercise the right to prevent you getting on if you have it with you; what they can't see won't hurt them is my motto).

I had an unscheduled (and unwished for) nuit blanche on Sunday night, which meant that it was nearly noon before I got up on Monday. This ruled out any activity at all that day: for one thing, painting needs ideally to be done in the mornings to give the paint time to dry before evening; and secondly, I was knackered.

I can't say that I got up shortly after eight on Tuesday morning with any great degree of enthusiasm, but the bloody job had to be done so at about 9:30 I set to it. And here's where the pretentiousness comes in.

I knew from previous experience that having music in the background would be a psychological assistance to getting on with it. Estimating from my experience with the first coat (which I had thought would take no more than an hour and a half, only to find that I was still doing the door frames a full two hours into the job) that I would need some three hours worth of sounds, I searched my collection for something which would play for that long (it would have to be in one continuous piece, because I didn't want to get paint on the keyboard of my PC having to select something else). I found something suitable, set it to play (the PC is in the living room, I was in the kitchen, but I could have it as loud as I wished because the couple next door were both in work) and got painting...

...which is how I came to be painting woodwork to the background of Philip Glass' Music In Twelve Parts...all three and a half hours of it. My defence is that I like that sort of music, so it wasn't as if I was really posing; besides which, if I hadn't told you now, no-one would ever have known, would they (perhaps telling everybody is the pretentious bit)? The time passed quite smoothly; in fact, I finished about half an hour before Phil and his band of miracle workers did.

The problem which then arose was that I was going to have to stay in my decorating togs for the rest of the day, because I didn't want to make accidental contact with the door frames whilst wearing my standard clothes. The upper half of my painting uniform consists solely of a thin black t-shirt, which meant that I was prevented from having the extra layer of a sweater, and so I had to spend the rest of the day with the heating turned up.

It was, of course, inevitable that - whilst the skirting boards came up lovely after two coats - the door frames had dried in that all-too-familiar blotchy manner, so they were going to need doing a third time on Wednesday. I was a little late starting, but I finally got the job done by shortly after noon.

Of course I had music on again but, needing only a couple of hours or so this time, was able to choose something a little less outré.

One thing about doing things like painting, or something repetitive at the PC which requires a similar semi-distracting background, is that it enables me to revisit stuff I hadn't listened to for years. So, in recent weeks, I have listened to Jack Lancaster and Robin Lumley's concept LP Marscape (1976), which was almost a dry run for Brand X; and the first two albums by one-time John Peel favourites Foreheads In A Fish Tank, whose blends of hard-edged noise and sampling were really out there compared to their contemporaries.

Some twenty years ago, during a time when it seemed I was buying CDs every thirty-six hours, I had bought Showbiz Kids, an anthology of tracks by Steely Dan. I had listened to the whole thing perhaps once at the time, and scarcely played more than a couple of tracks from it since. But it was the right length, so on it went. And on I went as well. And I finished before Donald and Walter did, too.

Now, I'm firmly of the view that the music that you hear when you are between twelve and sixteen years of age is the music which implants itself most deeply in your memory; that has certainly been my experience. I remember Steely Dan getting a lot of airplay on Radio City from Liverpool in about 1975-76 on their late-night Downtown show hosted by Bill Bingham, and their music must have lodged quite firmly in my consciousness because, playing the album today, I could sing or hum along to tracks I hadn't heard in years (although this is as much a testament to Fagen and Becker's songwriting talent as to my own retentiveness).

I'm going to leave you with one of these tracks. It's not one of their hits (in as much as they actually had any biggies), but it reminded me that some ten years ago I had written a parody lyric to Steely Dan's Bodhisattva which described one of the then-new-fangled devices which people used in preference to using an actual map (something which offends me as a fanatical cartophile). Listen to the track (below), whilst partaking of my piss-take (belower):



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Bloody SatNav (with apologies to Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker)

"Bloody SatNav
Why'd you lead me down this lane?
Bloody SatNav
Why'd you lead me down this lane?
Won't you show me
The way back home again
It's pissing down with rain
And I'm stuck here.
Bloody SatNav!

Bloody SatNav
I just want to get to town
Bloody SatNav
I just want to get to town
I can be sure
It's a case of 'when' not 'if'
You send me off a cliff
"Take the next left...".

Bloody SatNav!
Bloody SatNav!
Bloody SatNav!
Bloody SatNav!......"