Artists-in-residence

Friday 8th April 2011

SASH windows can be a worry. Mine suffer from all the symptoms listed on that internet encyclopaedia everyone consults when too lazy to reach for an authentic reference work: ‘rot, swelling or distortion of the woodwork, rattling in the wind, and problems brought on by careless application of paint’. Hmph.

A few years ago, Dave and Roy, decorators to my landlord, came to repair and re-paint all my windows.

They were an interesting double act: verbose Dave, whose enthusiasm for establishing a rapport was an extending ladder with rungs of chat, repeated jokes, stories and goodwill to all men, women, children and passers-by in the street, which, being narrow, allowed no-one to fly under Dave’s radar.

And taciturn Roy, who spent much of the day up the ladder. No. That’s not quite right. Roy spent nearly all day going up and down the ladder.

They always parked their white van bang opposite the house, heeding not my suggestion to move it further along the street, which, being narrow, meant no vehicle could pass between house and van when Roy’s ladder was in position, its feet being on the tarmacked surface of the road.

Roy, therefore, had to descend the ladder in order to move it out of the way whenever a vehicle entered the street, which happened not infrequently. Each time Roy started his descent, Dave took the opportunity to engage in polite, philosophical discourse with the driver and any passengers. His repertoire included all manner of illuminating topics, ranging from the weather to the weather forecast, from how long paint takes to dry to what constitutes appropriate ladder etiquette in a narrow street.

The job was scheduled for two days. They were artists-in-residence for six.

The sash windows continue to rattle in the wind. The top halves can’t be moved at all. The bottom halves have to be propped open. They also suffer from the ‘careless application of paint’ referred to above. The landlord says he’ll see to it soon.

I may take a holiday this year after all.

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