The man in the sauna offers little home maintenance tips. He has just sanded and re-varnished his front door. Ah yes. The joy of a lick of varnish before the winter takes a grip. I think of our front door. Of the hole where the doorbell is supposed to be. Of the austere faced knocker which has to be hammered on to win our attention. If I join in on this conversation the whole de-stressing point of the sauna will be gone. I bide my time. He moves on to how he’ll give the wood around the windows a good old lick too. Just on the outside, mind you. I think of our windows. I feel the stress levels go in the wrong direction. The window where the burglars got in. They just had to sneeze at it, I’d say. How we taped it back together on the outside. Lovely brown duct tape. So that when it rains it sounds like several mice pit pattering across the floor. All right, all right. Time to join in. Maybe I’ll pick up a trick or two.
‘We’ve a few bits to do ourselves’ I admit. And it sort of pours out of me. Except for the subsidence. I spare him the image of mid-section subsidence which has literally been dragging us down. It would be unkind to inflict that on a poor old soul doing his best to lift the general load with varnish. Anyhow, we’ll get the subsidence sorted ‘presently’ as my darling English grandmother used to say. Presently, so full of action and promise. I tell my sauna man instead about how we were supposed to do a whole lot when we got the house at first. Even the estate agent selling the house told us we’d need to put an immediate 60 K into it. It had been owned by an elderly lady and, on her passing, it was let to students. For years. The picture is, perhaps, a little clearer now. So I tell him about how we chuckled at the lurid green lino in the poorly built kitchen extension. How the kids kept coming and everything got put off. How we really need a bit of insulation. Re-wiring. A functioning kitchen. Windows. Etc., etc.,
‘You have double glazing though?’ he asks, eyes widening as I shake my sorry head.
‘Well that’s where you start. Do a few at a time’ he suggests.
I feel the stress levels evening off. Yes, yes, take your time, I say to myself. But then again, that’s what has got us where we are. The laughter about the green lino eleven years ago has dissipated and transformed into a tacit acceptance. We’ve even managed to lead ourselves to believe that it has acquired a certain retro-charm. The cortisol surges in the blood again.
He mentions a couple of good window suppliers. I nod and thank him, reminding myself to play the lotto, and he wishes me the best of luck with it all.
I arrive home after my de-stress swim and sauna, bowing my head, trying not to look at the windows or the front door. But then it opens and I am greeted by a gaggle of sunny sons. There are hugs. They wish to show me what they have done with their bedrooms. Furniture has been re-arranged. Marque 2’s tiny room looks double the size with the bed along the window now. It is bright and clear and he is thrilled. Marque 3 & 4 call theirs an apartment. They have thrown down colourful rugs and cushions.
Downstairs in the make-shift kitchen marque 1 is busy preparing a surprise Sunday lunch. Garlic and steak wafts all around the house. Marque 5 is running around with an orange butterfly net. He is throwing objects up in the air and catching them in it. He comes up to me asking if I’d like a hairbrush – maybe I look a little dishevelled after the sauna – and he tosses one up out of the net and hands it to me.
‘Love ya’ he says and runs off again.
So thank-you sauna man. For making me take stock and realise, once again, where things are really at. That behind the dour faced door, within these topsy-turvy walls there’s an abundance of colour, energy and light. That the new windows etc., etc., can most certainly wait. I think I might just get that doorbell though. Presently.