Thursday, 26 February 2009

Stripping


Ever started something and then thought, puck – wish I hadn’t done that?
I’m having that feeling all over the place since I started stripping off the wallpaper. It had to come off – all thick vinyl which was one clear reason for, oh, at least half of the damp problem.
‘I’d leave the lining paper on though,’ opined the builder. ‘It’s probably holding up the walls.’ Ho, ho, ho. What an amusing cove.
Trouble is, said lining paper was a bit tatty and snaggly and torn in places. Surely it would be far easier just to take off the lot?
I asked on Purplecoo about stripping machines.
‘Don’t bother,’ said Edward. Then added, ‘Wouldn’t take off the lining paper anyway. It’s probably….’
Holding up the walls. Yeah, right. Heard that one before.

It was a slack day. My deadlines were suitably far off and I had absolutely no inclination to do anything like as energetic as trying to rewrite the novel (for the nth time). So I thought I’d try just a corner. Dampened it down. Wandered off and lay on the bed, reading Bleeding Heart Square, waiting for the obligatory twenty minutes it’s supposed to soak. Gave up after five and went and dug at it with a scraper. Hurrah – a huge bit satisfying bit came flying off. It was lovely – I’d forgotten how much I love picking and peeling. One of my great sadnesses is that I no longer dare get sunburned – the sheer joy of peeling off bits of curly skin. I try to do it to Adrian (who stupidly still gets burned occasionally) but the misery-guts gets all antsy about it and pushes me off, saying I’m a skin vampire.
Anyhow, before I knew it, about six feet of lining paper was off the wall and in the bin liner. Then I hit problems. A lovely large bit swung off the wall and, yup, took several layers of plaster with it.

I knew the house was in a rotten state but I didn’t realise it was actually, well, rotten. I didn’t realise walls could move, sway, undulate, wobble. It’s like having Quatermass or the contents of his pit living behind your wallpaper.
Adrian was horrified. ‘Stop it,’ he said as I sliced into a juicy bit above James’ bed and showered the poor boy (who was in it at the time) in a snowstorm of 1970s plaster. But I can’t. I’m obsessed. I’ve done the bathroom, rampaged through the guest room, got halfway through the loo before getting bored and leaving it as it is really really tough (and I’ve done the bits you can reach while sitting on the pan). I’ve nearly done the upstairs corridor and am going great guns in James’ room.
James looked a bit worried. ‘I don’t think you should be doing that, Mum.’
‘It’s going to look bloody awful,’ said Adrian, holding up one finger to forestall my next sentence. ‘And don’t even THINK about saying that once the electrician has been we can decorate it.’
Ah. He knows me too well. ‘Once the electrician’s been’ has been my constant refrain for the last three or four months. Said electrician has gone AWOL following a holiday in Thailand (yes, the recession is obviously an unknown concept for electricians) and hasn’t replied to our increasingly desperate messages. There are rumours of nervous breakdowns, of marital disharmony but one can’t help but take it personally. Safe to say, the electrician isn’t coming any time soon and so we’re going to have to live with the results of my stripping mania. I had an idea.
‘People would spend a fortune getting a finish like that,’ I said, with a sweeping arm gesture at the mottled pink, white, grey and mould coloured wall I’d just liberated from its grey and brown floral paper. They looked unconvinced.
‘People where, Mum?’ asked James.
‘Er, people in….er, London….’ I said, and then picked up confidence. ‘An absolute fortune. In fact, you’re really lucky to have a wall like that. We shouldn’t paper it – it would be a crime. This wall could appear in World of Interiors…..’ Pause. ‘Well, maybe Living etc.
‘But we don’t live in London and I want blue walls and James Bond strip lighting.’
Philistine.
I know I should stop. I should call a halt before the madness descends down the stairs and into the rest of the house. Before the whole house maybe gives up the ghost and quietly collapses into a heap of rubble. But it’s like some awful compulsion. Hell, I even find myself eyeing up the brand-new paper in the breakfast room.
The problem is that stripping walls (even when they have a propensity to come tumbling down while you’re doing it) is a mindless, delightfully physical task. There is a goal in sight and one can move towards it (either in niggly irritating little scrapes or broad sweeps of sogginess). When it’s done, it’s done. It’s hugely satisfying and curiously soothing – unlike the rest of my life. So, for the time being, I’ll carry on stripping, regardless of the carnage.











34 comments:

Lindsay said...

Good heavens - such energy - hope you do not strip bare?

Suffolkmum said...

I do know what you mean; I am normally one of the most indolent of people and DIY sees me running screaming, but I do love to peel and pick as well. Once when I had a couple of weeks off between jobs I got obsessed with sanding a floor, despite the noise and dust. It was so satisfying to see progress actually happening before my eyes (unlike most other things that I do!) As entertaining a blog as ever.

Pipany said...

Lord, how many rooms I have wrecked thus. Terrifying really, but I am a start and eventually (very eventually) finish kind of person. All the fun of the starting out gradually dwindles away to sheer boredom and despair at the mess created. Best of luck with this Jane and at least it si for the good of the house! xx

Elizabethd said...

Jane have you thought about getting one of those machines that you fill full of water, that then emits steam all over the place and practically takes the wall paper off for you?

lampworkbeader said...

Oh dear! Perhaps you should try biting your nails instead. Just as satisfying and far less destructive. Unlike wall paper and plaster, they grow back entirely of their own accord.

Ivy said...

Once you run out of wallpaper did you ever chisel off tiles in a bathroom or kitchen? Oh it's so much fun too. I am great at taking bits down but leave the restoration to hubby :-)
And yes to people paying a lot of money for this kind of style I have several books on Scandinavian and French interiors where they have walls like that too so it's not only London

bodran... said...

Love it can't seem to help myself infact do you need a house guest ?

Frances said...

Just the other day I got an e-mail message from Real Simple magazine. It wished to offer me secrets to stripping off old wallpaper. Did RS check with you on its secret methods?

I admit, Jane, that when I read that e-mail, I thought of you!

And now I see that you have been hard at it, perfecting your skills. Exactly how many more walls are currently left with paper on 'em right now?

Whatever the answer, you have amused me with this report of renovating fun.

xo

Pondside said...

Don't stop Jane - that's the worst thing to do. You'll be left in that awful half-finished stage and it can last for years.
I'm with Elizabeth - get a machine and put Adrian to work for a weekend and then buy gallons of paint.
I fear for you and your Bonkers House if you leave it half-peeled.

Elizabethd said...

Re machine, Jane, I think it goes like this....fill with water, switch on, and lean heavily against wall pressing machine firmly against the paper. Wait while the steam runs up your arm. Remove and peel paper easily away.
The longer you leave it on the wall, the more chance there is of the wall collapsing....no, didnt mean to say that, the longer you leave it the easier it is to peel off the paper.

KittyB said...

Come on, chop chop lady, don't forget I'm expecting the whole house finished and 5* hotelified by August.

Maddie Grigg said...

You should do it to the theme tune of The Stripper. Seriously, you're welcome to come and indulge your obsession at my house any time. I will make sure Number One Son is away from home and not in bed though. I laughed out loud when I read that.

mountainear said...

I've done my share of stripping wallpaper - far better than stripping treacly paint. Give me a wall, a good play on the radio and a sharp scraper; almost heaven.

Sorrow said...

Carnage, thats a word.
~laughing~
need to find you a sticker book or something
to peel away at.
Your house begins to sound like the makings of a delightful book in it's nth stage of remake.
so good to read you!

Liz said...

That feeling when it comes off in a long strip ... mmmm.

Calico Kate said...

Oh a girl after my own heart - sunburned skin, wall paper, scabs, splitting nails.
Didn't have the energy to strip the walls when we moved in but I did paint 5 rooms in a week!
Poor James, is he still picking plaster dust out of his hair?
Jut think how you will be drying the house out without the ghastly vinyl. I think Adian should be thanking you not haranging you!

elizabethm said...

Ah yes, I recognise myself here! I am so lucky that there is no paper in this house. The absolute worst kind is that blown vinyl stuff, first because it looks so awful anyway and then because even if it is basically sound it shouts at you to pick at it with its horrible bobbles and bibbles. Mind you, perhaps you should stop now.

Fennie said...

What a wonderful tree at the top! That will give you courage. Magnificent grey and angry sky. Now, as to the paper, isn't this a case of talking to the house beforehand and asking its permission? Did you do that? And what does the house feel about it now? But you will get an article out of this: the house will see to that! Have fun!

claire p said...

Your house sound like it's in the same state ours was 15 years ago when we moved in, and still looked until last summer. Wallpaper stripping is soooo satisfying, especially when the paper is really grim. What was it with the 1970s? What made them think that purple and lime green were good together, on the walls and the carpet, in the same room!?!?!

You will come out the other end with a lovely home. Just hope it doesn't take as long as 15 years (or give your husband a heart attack!).

Fern said...

I used to share your addiction. However, I was cured when on moving into an old farmhouse, I had to strip kitchen walls covered in several layers of wallpaper which had then been heavily gloss painted over!!

Arcadian Advocate said...

Go for it... and send a pic of the results...
We have all become very good with paint, decorator's caulk, foam and polyfilla in this a tied farmhouse!
thank goodness it is not ours, very good luck and agree get some extra help or a mcahine!

HER ON THE HILL said...

Yes Jane, I can relate to that. It's like me just emptying and refilling the dishwasher - mindless but satisfying! Remember the days, too, of peeling huge sheets of skin off N's burnt tummy. We were in a tent in a campsite in northern France, our first holiday together (ooh the glamour, ooh the excitement) and it seemed like a good way to pass the time. I was fascinated by how much you could peel off in one large strip and then held it up to the light to see all the little perforations that were the pores!! I'd have had it under a microscope if I'd remembered to pack one in my rucksack...

HER ON THE HILL said...

Ps: seem to have the same problem with plumbers that you have with electricians. Don't they want the bloomin' work? Drives me insane.

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh, SO with you on the stripping compulsion. I'm exactly the same, and (touch wood) none of our houses has actually fallen down because of it - even the one with quite bad subsidence - despite some very dodgy plaster. YOu'll be fine.

Mopsa said...

As a child my bedroom had orange vinyl wallpaper - it was gross and I loved to lie in bed and pick at the edges, daring myself to whoosh it all off; I'm so with you. But I can't EVER remember thinking or saying "Puck" it!

Unindicted Co-Conspirator said...

You're ready for the Firesign Theater Classic "Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him"
Surely you knew that the wallpaper was holding up the walls. Sorry. Didn't mean to call you Shirley.
Hope you escape Kafka's castle someday.

CAMILLA said...

Hey Jane,

Do you want to come and do my walls, William Morris and heavy lining under, I am thinking something gloriously pale-duck egg blue, HL just sits and stares at it and say's it will do for another year, noooo, want it done now, so it's next on the list.

I love your long hallway in the photo you posted, love long hallways.

xxx

Tessa said...

Stripping...mmmm....much more fun - and infinitely more satisfying - than lap dancing, methinks. And yes, your naked walls sound very London-chic.

LOVE your new header. That is a sensational photograph.

Jude said...

Come over here....you'll enjoy renovating the piles of stones they laughingly advertise as "ripe for renovation"...

Visit again soon

Woozle1967 said...

Now THAT is a tree at the top of your blog!!

She smugly smirks and runs her hand over her freshly painted, SMOOTH walls - the filth and dust a distant memory!! Sorry! Couldn't resist. Not really rubbing salt in. It will be worth it. You know it will.xx

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Well, think of it like this, if you keep going and enough bits fall down, you could end up with a truly designer open plan home...

Milla said...

how come I've missed this one, Janey? And nearly a namecheck, too, well a married one. And what's BHSq like, as have just bought it and have you finished stripping yet? and do another blog, quick, I want some more, please.
(oh, first word verif - I HATE word verif! - didn't work, it was "innit" and I wrote innit. Now, it's sperms!)

Karen said...

Hello Jane!
Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind compliments.
I know what you mean about starting something then wishing you hadn't.
I have the exact same habit!
We have a bedroom floor half stripped and jobs all over that need finishing :)
x

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