The viewing of great sporting events has a funny effect on the rest of us.
The local tennis courts are never fuller than when the pros are fizzing a ball across the grass at Wimbledon. Ice rinks resound to the clattering of amateur stones whenever the curling is broadcast from some arctic Winter Olympics capital. Inspired by the sleek, muscled sharks knifing their way to world records every four years, swimming pools are doggedly if lumpenly tackled. For a wee while, anyway.
I am not immune. Who could be when you see what can be done with the body that you have instead allowed to atrophy and soften and stiffen as the decades have passed? Somehow, your creaking, saggy carcass comprises the same basic components that Adam Peaty is fine-tuning on his splashy journey to Project Immortal. The least you can do is lycra up and stagger round the block.
So with the sun still (just about) out, the sap risen, and my telly filled with beautiful young people doing extraordinary things, I had been feeling the urge. Alas, with a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis (and a persistent case of lazyitis), my options were limited. And so I decided to paint the kitchen.
Preparing for a painting marathon
I understand that for many of you this is an unremarkable undertaking. People paint kitchens every day and do not write newspaper columns to mark the event. Understand, though, that doing so is for me the equivalent of jumping into the pool alongside Mr Peaty and shouting: “Race you, larda**!”
I am not a man about the house. I have no skills or aptitude for this kind of thing. I am a bookish sort who would benefit from maintaining a large staff to run practically every aspect of my life.
Alas, that kind of fortune has not smiled on me. My capable father winced and visibly paled when I announced my intentions, but I was determined to save the outlay on a professional painter and to bask in the ultimate appreciation of wife and children. “My dad did that,” my daughters would tell their visiting friends, pointing to sparkling, silken walls.
Friend, it did not go well. It began with a journey to B&Q to procure the necessary tools. My wife, perhaps sensing what lay ahead, made a list of what was needed. But amid the overalled and weather-beaten tradesmen that make up the shop’s regular clientele I discarded it. I stomped around, fondling brushes, comparing paints, nodding knowledgably at ladders and muttering about putty and caulk. I bought the cheapest of everything – no flies on me – and then I returned home, ready.
I’ll stick to spectating
If my ardour had cooled somewhat by the time I had done all the prep – who knew it would take so long? – I was not to be beaten. My wife helped out on the lower bits of wall and I took to the skies on my gleaming new ladder. It wasn’t easy, as we have beams across the ceiling which required me to contort myself into unnatural shapes. I started to sweat and hurt.
Next came the delicate bit, edging and dabbing like (I imagined) a Central Belt Cézanne. By this point my arms were a bit shaky, and so quite a lot of the paint found its way on to the wood and plastic rather than the walls. I discovered that quite a lot of emulsion had somehow ended up on my head, leaving me looking like a frosted ice cream cone.
‘It’ll be fine by the morning when it’s all dried,’ I assured my wife as we looked at the ominous streaks and patches
Then the dog came wandering in from her walk, her delight at seeing us again – it had been an hour, after all – resulting in an explosively wagging tail that gathered paint from the walls and deposited it both in the air and on the floor (and of course on the dog). I had left the Dulux sitting in the garden, where under the hot sun it had now congealed to the texture of jelly. Not only would it no longer stick to the wall, each stroke of the roller began to remove the paint that was already there.
“It’ll be fine by the morning when it’s all dried,” I assured my wife as we looked at the ominous streaks and patches. And indeed, the next day her sections were impressively smooth and complete. Mine resembled the aftermath of a bar fight. I returned to B&Q to buy the things she’d asked me to get and that I’d dismissed.
Six hours later on day two, exhausted, by now a little tearful, vowing in future to “hire a man”, I was done. I took great pleasure in dumping everything apart from the ladder in the bin. I cleaned the paint from the dog and eventually from myself. Lesson forever learned, I slumped on the couch and returned to the Olympics.
Chris Deerin is a leading journalist and commentator who heads independent, non-party think tank Reform Scotland