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The Writing Is On The Wall

July 23, 2009

We had decided to decorate the living room and were all ready to start one Saturday morning.  This was in early 1997, pre children, in our first little Victorian terrace, purchased just outside Newcastle.  The idea was to put up lining paper and then paint the walls the colour of our choice.  The walls were ready; we had completely stripped them and sanded down the lumpy bits and filled the hollow bits.  We had a funny wooden trestle table that would have been more at home covered with jars of homemade marmalade at a WI sale, rolls of paper, glue ready mixed up in a bucket and brushes for application.  Preparing the walls had been hard enough work in itself – surely hanging paper would be child’s  play in comparison.  Yet when I contemplated the task that loomed before us I was slightly awestruck.  For anyone out there who has ever attempted and successfully managed to master the art of wall-papering, these ramblings probably strike no chord of familiarity.  To the uninitiated, however, wall papering is up there with brain surgery and astrophysics, whatever they are.

We decided that we ought to try.  Lining paper, after all, has no complicated patterns to match up.  Surely it couldn’t be that difficult?  The appointed Saturday morning dawned and we set to work   We had checked the relevant chapter in the copy of the Reader’s Digest manual borrowed from Father-in-law and drew ourselves the regulatory plumb line from which to start.  We hung the first sheet.  Amazing!  It stuck to the wall.  It was not, however, perfectly aligned to our plumb line.  How could that be?  No matter – we knew that paper is easy to slide into place because it said so in the manual.   It did not slide.  Would not budge, in fact.  Not all of it, anyway.  The bits covered by our four hands slid where were pushing it but the rest stayed where it was.  So that was our first sheet – now in five unequal  pieces, rumpled and creased and totally ruined.  Off the wall it came.  Feathers began to become a little ruffled at this juncture.  We started again.   The second peice went up well after we made sure we had added further adhesive to the wall to facilitate sliding, should it become necessary.  It slid beautifully.  This time, however, it was full of lumps, bumps and air bubbles.  It looked as though we had papered over a climbing wall.  Down it came.

And so our papering progressed until finally, on the third attempt, we had our first piece of lining paper up.  Smooth and bump-free, it adhered to the wall following the plumb-line almost perfectly, except for the middle section where the line seemed to wobble precariously off to one side.  No matter.  Up went the second piece.  We seemed to have the application of the right amount of paste honed to a fine art by this stage but this second piece proved impossible to line up with the first.  They met at the top, they met at the bottom but in the middle was a gap the size of Wembley stadium.  Off came the second strip and with a flourish I produced a secret trick  learnt from my own good pater, may he rest in peace.  This new strip overlapped the first one by about half a centimeter.  A plumb line was drawn in the middle of the overlapping sections and a Stanley blade was used to make a neat incision from ceiling to floor along that straight line.  The two overlapping edges were then neatly peeled from the wall and the resultant edges were perfectly flush with one another.  Except that after the passage of a short amount of time, they were no longer flush and the gap had reappeared, as if by magic.  I was furious, convinced that we must have a vindictive little poltergeist who was sabotaging our work and adamant, unreasonably so in retrospect, that it looked crap and would scream at us from the walls.

‘It’ll be the first thing we notice every time we come into the room,’ I moaned.

Husband, in his usual calm, pragmatic and diplomatic way, suggested that there was a bulge in the wall which meant the unevenness caused the gap.

‘You can’t stretch the paper across an expanse that is wider in the middle than it is at the top or bottom.’

My temper was stirring, like a nest of vipers waking from sleep.  I think Husband had noticed and was starting to panic.  I clenched my fists hard, knuckles going white with the effort of restraint and suggested that our peace of mind was more important and that we should chuck in the towel and get a decorator in.  Husband concurred, at which point, in frustration and anger at our failure we ripped both pieces down.

So we paid a man to do it for us.  A professional.  And do you know what?  He started from the exact same place we did.  And there was a gap between his first and second sheet.  And he said that it was unavoidable because the wall bowed outwards in that spot.

‘That’s the trouble with these old houses.  The walls are often out of true.’

Bugger.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2009 11:42 am

    I have a fear of wallpaper. There is none in my house, although I love the big bold patterns that you can have these days. If I ever get my feature wall in the bedroom we will definitely get ‘the man’ in.

  2. July 25, 2009 9:48 pm

    I also have wallpaper terror. And as I age I have increasing aversion to decorating myself and like to get a little man in to do things for me. Don’t want to get the hands dirty – ugh (well, cleaning up enough shit these days)

    I am afraid I have TAGGED YOU for a MEME chez moi. Sorry. Hope you will still be my friend.
    Come over to get your punishment

    M xo

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