It’s tough to reinvent yourself when you’ve got flu. It’s also tough reinventing yourself when you live in the House of Doom. No, the builders still haven’t come. ‘Why are you surprised?’ says Verity. ‘They’re builders. Their job is not to come. Their job is to drive you to psychosis. Come to think of it, they’re probably getting paid a packet from the local psychotherapists.’ Maybe in Marylebone, but not down here matey. There was only one psychotherapist and we viewed her house. Why was she selling? ‘Not enough custom,’ she complained, ‘Down here, people either get drunk or top themselves if they get low.’ On Exmoor, if you go mad, you go mad alone.
The house isn’t helping. A drawer in the kitchen gave up the will to live and collapsed and then three others decided, lemming-like, to copy it. The cabinet doors thought this looked like a fun game and two dropped off. Copycats. Mysterious holes keep appearing in the walls. Strange stains erupt on the carpet (and not even sure it’s Asbo Jack this time). Huge drafts are blowing through the windows and up through the floors and in through the ill-fitting doors. The fluorescent light in the utility room has started flickering in best horror movie style.
The dehumidifier has been chugging away in an exhausted fashion and we have been frantically emptying it. How much water can one house generate? An entire reservoir, by the looks of it. So much, in fact, that as I was coming up the stairs from the front door I put my hand on the wall and my fingers sank into several inches of soggy wallpaper. I’m one of life’s natural pickers (scabs, peeling sunburnt skin, candlewax, I’m not fussy – if it’s loose, I’ll pick it) and so my fingers naturally tugged and two yards of molten wallpaper collapsed onto my head. Adrian was outside, talking to someone about beer (naturally) and, in the time it took him to debate the merits of Pale Ale over Porter, I had excavated almost the entire lower hallway. I also gained an insight into life in 1963 – as under three layers of thick wallpaper the walls had been lined in the Daily Express.
‘Bloody hell,’ said Adrian, choking on a miasma of dust and mould spores. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
‘Look at this,’ I said, trying to distract him. ‘There was a time when the Express didn’t talk about Princess Diana.’
He didn’t fall for it. ‘That wall’s going to collapse now. The wallpaper was the only thing holding it together.’
He had a point. We all walk Very Carefully up the stairs now as the slightest heavy clump of a boot sends another pile of dust and plaster cascading down.
Anyhow, getting off-point now. I have realised that, if we ever want to get this house sorted, it’s going to cost a darn sight more than our meagre savings. I am going to have to work MUCH more. Walker and my agent have vanished into the ether together and aren’t responding to emails. I bought two lottery tickets – on the basis that once in a while you have to give Fate a chance - but have somehow managed to lose both and am now convinced of course, that they were the ones that would have made our fortune. So I have to get back to work properly and Earn Money.
This, of course, would be easier had James not purloined my computer during the holidays. My desk is now piled high with notebooks covered in code, test-tube aliens blinking viciously and sweet wrappers. When I turn on my PC I find I the Northern Lights gleaming biliously at me. Every key makes zoo noises and my cursor is blinking yellow. A rash of weird icons litter my desktop and if I gaze out into space for more than ten seconds multi-coloured bubbles bounce mournfully over my screen. Nothing is sacred.
I write a feature on ‘creating a sanctuary in your home’ and laugh hollowly at myself telling people to ‘find a space that can be entirely your own.’ I don’t even have a desk of my own anymore. Hot-desking in your own home? It’s ridiculous.
Summoning the energy to do anything is virtually impossible. I can’t even be bothered to bitch about semi-famous people anymore. Who cares if newspaper columnists lie in print? That’s what all journalists do, right? Maybe that’s why I’m finding it so hard to get back into journalism – I’m sick of bending the truth, making things sound better or worse or wilder or madder than they really are. Maybe I need a new job altogether. Perhaps I could fill the natural void and become the Only Psychotherapist in the Village…. Then again, maybe not.
For the moment, my solution is to lie low, wrap up in a large blanket and sip sloe gin while watching episodes of Ugly Betty back-to-back and thanking my lucky stars I don’t work at a fashion magazine. Reinvention can wait until spring.