Variations on the theme of aargh

Dot writes: we’re having some issues with blog/life balance at the moment, which is to say that there’s rather a high proportion of life to blog and posts are in danger of sounding like Christmas letters, only perhaps without the usual relentless catalogue of achievement (not that our Christmas letters are like that. Not that I get round to writing Christmas letters). I have given a lot of lectures and seminars and read a whole PhD thesis for my finishing PhD student and generally run about in circles. Meanwhile Ken and the boys have been industriously working on the house in their own ways. Ken has painted our bedroom a gorgeous intense shade of green, which pleases us greatly, bought and constructed an IKEA wardrobe, chest-of-drawers and bedside tables, painted the inside of the shed white and put shelves in it for his beer things, and started on the bathroom. The boys have posted felt figures into the radiators and covered the front room in baked beans. Our lovely builder came and put in the new windows at the back of the house on Thursday, then disappeared off somewhere else on Friday; but we don’t mind because he is lovely. He will be back on Monday to start knocking holes in the walls, and it probably is a good thing he didn’t leave us with holes for the weekend.

So. Today. I took the children to church, specifically to the children’s activities that run in the church hall during the service. Last week I took them and it was a miserable failure. Hugh didn’t want to do any of the activities and alternated between rolling around the floor and plaintively asking if he could go home to watch television. Frank ran about like a mad thing pushing the chairs. I was mortified. But we tried again today and after a rocky start it was much better. Hugh adamantly refused to join in the singing and the physical exercises at the start, and Frank continued to be dangerously drawn to the furniture, but both boys then settled happily into stories, colouring and drawing. After church we were in such a good mood and the day was so sunny and inviting that we went to the playground. So that was all very positive.

Unfortunately, while we were engaged in our godly gallivanting, Ken was rather less pleasantly occupied. He’d decided to go for a run, and very sensibly to make it a short run because he knew there were some effortful jobs in store for him later. However, he was on his way back when he tripped, fell over, and sprained his ankle.

Now, I mentioned earlier that the builder is going to start knocking holes in our house on Monday (tomorrow). One major hole is going to be between the dining room and the kitchen, and we’re also getting the kitchen wall dry-lined which means ripping out the sink and the cooker. So this afternoon we needed to move two bookcases and a filing cabinet out of the front room and upstairs to the study, and then move the fridge-freezer and some of the existing kitchen units into the front room to make a temporary kitchen. This kind of thing is somewhat challenging for a person with only one fully-functioning foot.

Being Ken and a kiwi and good at pain, instead of immediately putting his foot up and slapping ice on it he spent most of the afternoon up a step-ladder painting the bathroom orange. (We have now decided this was a mistake – the colour, that is – we were getting bumptious after our bold colour-choice in the bedroom.) But he did realise that lifting filing cabinets was likely to be beyond him. I was left rather hysterically trying to rearrange the kitchen and dining room by myself. In some ways I am very good at this kind of job, because I do think things through and work out what has to be done first so as not to create difficulties later. I think about things like what we will need in which place and how furniture will fit into the space. On the other hand I am prone to a kind of infinite regression by which I can always think of the job that needs to be done before the job that needs to be done, and the job that needs to be done before that, so I’ll start with the goal of hanging a picture and find at the end of the day that what I’ve done is reorganise an underwear drawer at the opposite end of the house. I did about an hour of this sort of thing, but the filing cabinet and the bookcases remained stubbornly downstairs and the units and the fridge refused to walk out of the kitchen.

Oh, and then I discovered that, while I was busy flapping around sweeping up half-eaten bagels and so forth, the children had gone into the greenhouse and had a jolly game of throwing earth at each each other. Frank’s blond hair was caked with soil. Did I mention Ken had just painted the bathroom wall? So we couldn’t use the bath?

With respect to the bookcases and that part of things we were rescued by our very lovely friends Niall and Meredith, who live round the corner and are to some extent the reason we decided to move here, since we wouldn’t have thought to look in this area otherwise. They came round and whisked the furniture into place, and my organisational streak became useful with two extra pairs of hands to do all the jobs I kept thinking of. Hugh was extremely keen to help, too (he thinks Niall is marvellous). Ken was persuaded to stop hobbling around and finally rest; by this point his ankle had developed an enormous swollen lump. And the paint, although an unbearably bright colour, dried quickly enough for me to give the boys a scrub-down before bed after all. Though it would have been good if Frank hadn’t then done a little poo down his leg before we managed to get him back in a nappy. He never normally does that sort of thing; he was just making his own contribution to the hectic collage of the day.

This does, however, leave us with a couple of questions, and the smaller of them is how we are going to repay Niall and Meredith, who also babysat for us on Friday night. The boys really need to be out of the house all week while the heavy building work is going on; but how on earth is Ken going to manage this with a sprained ankle? They have playschool from 9 to 12 each day, but it’s not enough. To complicate matters even further the car failed its NCT last week and will be in the garage on Monday, so whatever Ken does tomorrow he will have to do on foot. It looks like it could be the saintly Niall and Meredith picking up the pieces again, but what about Tuesday and the rest? Work is extremely busy at the moment: can I justify taking time off because my husband has sprained his ankle? But how can he chase around after the boys when he can only walk in a painful hobble? We could ask if the playschool would take them in the afternoons as well, but this would be a pretty unpopular solution, not to mention expensive.

Answers on a postcard, please.

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7 thoughts on “Variations on the theme of aargh

  1. Katimum

    Never have I wished more that we were living closer – although as I start actually doing my new job this week, time off would not have been popular. We will utterly refrain from commenting on the dangers of vigorous exercise. As to the debt of gratitude – I have often noticed that there are time in life when you have to be the one to accept help rather than give it, and hope over your life things will balance out!

  2. mairij

    Katimum, I can’t think of a wiser response; as you so rightly say, there are times in one’s life when we have to accept (with gratitude) the kindness of others. Thank goodness for friendship. Niall and Meredith sound as though they are kind and decent friends and have the little bit of extra fat in their lives at the moment to give out to Andrew and Alice.

  3. Are you recovering? I thought this bit was brilliant, so pricelessly apt (I do it too, though without as much complication and juggling and stuff going on as you…):

    On the other hand I am prone to a kind of infinite regression by which I can always think of the job that needs to be done before the job that needs to be done, and the job that needs to be done before that, so I’ll start with the goal of hanging a picture and find at the end of the day that what I’ve done is reorganise an underwear drawer at the opposite end of the house. I did about an hour of this sort of thing, but the filing cabinet and the bookcases remained stubbornly downstairs and the units and the fridge refused to walk out of the kitchen.

    Loved it.

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