In 2006 I was off and away from small-town Warwick to big-town Newton Abbot. My friend Polly and I had found a small two bed apartment on the High St, not too far away from our university. It needed a bit of work, but who doesn’t love a project? We were young and excited, our heads full of dreams and our bank accounts full of student loans. On our way to pick up the keys we made a quick stop off at B&Q to purchase purple paint for my room. At home my room was pink, but I was an adult now, embarking on my very own Devonshire adventure. Purple was sophisticated, mature, classy. We had a blessing from the landlord to paint, as long as we returned the walls to white when we moved out again.
Now, the house didn’t have any central heating, or hot water and we soon found ourselves flung in to the ferocious British winter, with only an electric heater for comfort. Icy mornings were spent boiling the kettle enough times to fill a bath. Frosty evenings were spent huddled on the sofa under duvets, directly in front of the heater with hot water bottles pressed against our bellies to try and keep the warmth in. I wish I could say it was an intrepid adventure, but it wasn’t much fun at all. We had no fridge, freezer cooker or washing machine. A lone microwave stood in the corner of the kitchen – Asda ready meals churned out from it’s depths evening after evening.
By Christmas, enough was enough. We handed in our notice, booked train tickets home, and dug out the white paint from the stair-cupboard to send the Purple back from whence it came, as agreed in the contract. With a bargain ticket home I was due on the 14:24 to Birmingham International, thoughts of home (and hot water) had never been sweeter. I’m a last minute kind of a girl, so on that morning, once Polly had left with a van full of my stuff, I opened a tin of white paint and began to slap it on those purple walls. It was kind of smeary, the purple was still streaking through the white, and painting takes longer than you’d think. By lunchtime only half of the room was done, and the paint tin was almost empty. No time to buy any more, my train was in just over an hour. I ran to the cupboard under the stairs. There was another tin of almost white paint under there, I pulled the lid off. Phwoar. A thick layer of mould sat triumphantly on the surface. I stirred it in with a knife. It looked sort of yellowy. It would have to do. I began to paint. Close up, it looked okay, you could barely see the join between the two types of paint. As two o’clock approached my painting became more frantic, slapping it on and rolling like a mad woman. Almost done, just a tiny bit of purple left in the corner. No paint left, that would have to do! I stepped back, and it was then I saw just how different the two colours of paint were. One was pure white, the other was sort of yellowy- peach and you could still see splotches of purple through all of it. Damn. No time, no time, my train was speeding up the track from Penzance, time to get out of the Newton Abbot igloo. Relinquishing responsibility I left the keys on the kitchen counter and fled. Would we get our deposit back? Who cared. It was CHRISTMAS! Finally. Home to Warwickshire pubs, friends, mince pies and presents.
Now I wish there was a good moral to this story, like we didn’t get our deposit back and the landlord took me to court for being a terrible, terrible tennant. But it never happened. The deposit arrived back in my account just in time for a good old booze up on New Years Eve, and we never heard from the estate agent or landlord again.
But I learnt a lesson. The stress of trying to paint a room in a rented house in a short space of time was enough for me to consider ever repainting any rented property again. If you plan to be somewhere for a long time and your landlady/lord has okayed it, go for it. But may I suggest that in your early 20s, especially if you’re moving around a lot, maybe just decorate with soft furnishings, pictures, bunting – things easily removable and much less stressful than pretending you’re Carol Smilie.
(Remind me to tell you who Carol Smilie is sometime, Lottie.)
A more enjoyable paining adventure