Tuesday 9 September 2008

Being Bohemian....

‘We’re Bohemians,’ said Adrian, swigging a glass of something to prove the point. ‘We don’t follow the rules of normal society.’ He crinkled his nose and waved his hand airily in a dismissive fashion as if the mere thought of doing things properly, decently or cleanly was simply too appalling to contemplate. Being Bohemian is shorthand in this house for any poor behaviour – drinking too much; squandering money on duck when we should be eating haslet; wearing uncoordinated clothes with bits of croissant attached; not going to church; not having a regular salary (no, not even one between us); dropping clothes wherever you exit them rather than deigning to put them in the laundry basket (James and Adrian); wearing strange earrings and too much dark eye shadow (me, not Adrian or James).
We’ll haul out the Bohemian excuse book at the drop of a hat - for not joining in, joining up and for running wide-eyed and gibbering from any kind of communal responsibility or anything involving wearing ties and long dresses.

However, while that’s all well and good and I will avoid a committee like the proverbial plague, I find that I lose the laissez-faire attitude when it comes to entertaining. Adrian can’t give a toss. He’s of the school that people take you for what you are (yes, yes, Bohemians, we know) and are grateful for whatever you plonk in front of them, providing it is washed down by enough booze. I (silly fool that I am) happen to think that a house should be warm, welcoming and look vaguely presentable (ie not inch deep in dust with tables perched on joists rather than solid floorboards) and that food should be
a) plentiful (I still cringe at the time A tried to make a small chicken feed eight)
b) hot (he tends to the Greek habit of leaving things a hanging around until suitably tepid) and
c) decently presented (at least without dribbles of gravy over the edge of the plate).

So, I have made excuse after excuse (and I think bare joists - see left - and a Greek chorus of firemen builders are pretty good) but now the man is getting restless and dreaming of cassoulet. It sends tremors to the depths of my soul. Last time we did this it was following a dream of paella which in reality clanged onto plates like cannon balls and ended up with me phoning round the pubs to find Adrian and the other two men who duly returned so drunk that one of the women was decidedly chilly for nigh on a year afterwards.

‘You’re falling into the yummy mummy trap,’ he complained. ‘Keeping up with the school gate bollocks.’ Cruel and unfair. I have long accepted that I have not the faintest chance of looking trim in Boden and that my hair will never flick under neatly into a bob. I don’t do coffee mornings and I will never be invited to join the girls’ trip to Antigua. All my own fault of course as I rarely adorn the school gate and, when circumstances demand that I make the trip, I tend to arrive incredibly early and park in the perfect spot – clear sight-line to the exit gate but tucked away from general view. I slump down, nose in a book, until I see James at which point I shoot out of the car like a greyhound from the trap (the only time you’ll ever see me sprint), mobile clamped to ear to forestall any possibility of chit-chat, sunglasses rammed on to cut out the possibility of eye contact and smile broadly yet blankly in all directions while yanking him back to the car. All within two minutes flat. It’s not that I don’t like the parents. Far from it. But I really truly hate the minutiae of the school gate and the inevitable questions, particularly at the start of term.
‘Go anywhere nice on holiday?’
‘House finished yet?’
The answer to both is, of course, a bald no. The staycation didn’t work, but then you knew it wouldn’t. Adrian got a ton of work in and I got panicky about a book deadline so we did precisely nothing. Our proposed days on the beach or loitering around National Trust garden centres or even lolling in our own garden fizzled away due to the sheer miserable fact of Having No Summer.
So while everyone else was off swanning round the South of France or galloping over the Alps, we painted shelves as downtime inbetween researching unusual forms of divination and Hindu deities and their vehicles. The house is sort of progressing (for those who have asked) – we now have the following:

- a kitchen (stern, Teutonic, vaguely threatening) - see below - floor isn't really day-glo yellow by the way and yes, that's Asbo's basket with the offending duvet cover with the vicious buttons.
- a breakfast/dining room (rather lovely except for the scuzzy fish tank)

- the Oak Room (or, as we should more accurately call it, the dodgy Pine Room) which is looking pretty fabulous - see below but ignore colours which are all horribly wrong - I am SO not a good photographer.

We have scrummy oak floors (apart from in the Oak Room, natch) and radiators that look like industrial art installations and miles upon miles of bookshelves (but still piles upon piles of books awaiting a home). However what we don’t have is a boiler (or even the Rayburn now) and there are still one-inch gaps in the window frames so it’s ploody freezing.
At which point (after a long excursion elsewhere - apologies) I return to where we began and ask you – can you truly inflict Siberian cold on guests? I think not.
Given which, I reckon I've got at least another few months' grace before we can even t hink about dishing out invites - let alone cassoulet. However, naturally we will accept all invites to other homes (better insulated and floored) – after all, we do have a freeloading Bohemian reputation to keep up.

PS -apropos of nothing on this blog - reassure me, won't you - you have all heard of Joy Division? The band, I mean.