The time has come for Fish Towers to be re-painted: inside and out.  In the interests of transparency, I should perhaps admit that the time actually came two or three years ago – but sometimes I take a while to move forward with a project (as perhaps the rather patchy recent updating of this blog might suggest).  Still, my procrastination has allowed time for the walls to settle properly and future movement should be very modest – well, unless they find shale gas in CB22 and frakking creates rather more exciting seismic conditions than have been our lot for an aeon or so.

As I am less than keen on either heights or dirty hands (though in both cases, only as they impact me directly) I decided it was time to find a chap (or chapess) to do my (high and) dirty work.  After a little research, I have found myself a absolute gem: the excellent Dan Alder.

The somewhat excessive precipitation this year has been well documented as has its impact on farmers and wildlife (among others), but there had been little mention of the dreadful effect on our painters (exterior rather than still-life or portrait).  My poor painter has had a very difficult year finding any days when it has been dry enough to paint outdoors – and gloss needs many hours of dryness if a decent finish is to be achieved.  As a result, work on Fish Towers started a little later than hoped.  Still, despite the rather erratic weather in the last few weeks all of the exterior has received at least one coat (and is protected from the elements) and most have a full three coats and look quite splendid – literally better than new as the original work was done to a much lower standard.

I have also learned a huge amount about exterior painting in the last few weeks – and am now even more glad that I didn’t attempt it myself.  There is so much more to painting properly than the layman would imagine – and I say this as the grandson of a painter and decorator.  It starts with selecting the right paint: Fish Towers is being coated in Dutch paint which is guaranteed for eight years (whereas “British” paint only lasts for five – though interestingly is made by exactly the same company) and which contains rubber.  There is then a huge amount to learn about brushes – and the number and type that you need to do a decent job.  New brushes have to be run in for several months on emulsion before they can be let loose on gloss – and the oldest, most worn-down brushes are the best for lining in.  The most extraordinary thing is brush maintenance: no white spirit or turps (or worse water) for these gloss brushes.  These are kept in their own special air-tight storage container which holds them all separate and vertical and which includes a small vessel of solvent: as a result they do not dry out and so are not cleaned from day-to-day.  This is both labour-saving and produces a much better finish with the brushes – and is something I had never even imagined might exist.

Still, a couple more dry days (which have been largely absent for the last fortnight) and the outside will be finished and it will be time to tackle the interior.  This has led to me poring over paint colour charts to pick a suitable new colour scheme for my domestic realm.  The plan is to stick with something vaguely beige – but there are so many shades of vaguely beige from which to choose!  I’ve bought houses with less consideration than on my choice of a suitable taupe – but I think I’m going to go with Natural Hessian for the bulk of the house.  I am planning a feature wall or two in a more exciting shade – probably something in the terracotta-red colour space – to give the inaccurate impression that I am an exciting, dynamic sort of cove.  For the ceiling I’m going to stick with plain white, I decide to eschew the Creation of Adam or any other visual hits from the Book of Genesis (it was never the same after the Archangel Peter Gabriel left) – and, as I recall, the Sistine Chapel did take quite a while to complete.

The only downside of this internal work is the need to move the furniture – and, in particular, my unfeasibly heavy piano (some 280kg worth) – away from the walls.  Still, my painter seems a young and fit chap – so I reckon between us we should be able to shift things without too many subsequent lumbar problems.  It will all be worth it as the walls are becoming rather shabby in places – and there are some quite sizeable cracks in the plaster (though as yet, no sign of Prisoner Zero).

In a few short weeks, Fish Towers should look very swanky – and as the paint will be wipe-clean, it should stay that way for quite a while even given my occasional (OK, frequent) clumsiness.  All without any DIY!  I would seriously recommend hiring a professional painter and decorator – there is so much more to the job than you might think and the results look wonderful and will last for many years!


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