Monthly Archives: June 2008

and the budgies STILL live

First, thank you to everybody for their comments. I hope I answer all your questions as I trundle through, but first, where to start?

I think I’ll start by appreciating your comment, Cuileann, that you would have let out your house on the promise of restoration to its original condition, but I must say at once that this is not exactly what’s happened to us. In short, flood. Major flood. I won’t go into details since the details, close up on my hands and knees and seeping into my slippers, don’t really bear much description. Suffice to say that the bottom of our house is now in a state of some disrepair and the poor dogs, having returned from kennels at the end of the filming, have been summarily despatched back. So not quite the homecoming we hoped, although I must say that the upstairs looks very nice. The purple is no more. Now we’re all Jasper Crane and Marie Therese, both Victorian yellows. Some visitors will say ‘how brave’, others ‘how lovely’, others still will remark that the line between cheerful and laughable is a fine one. All I can say is that it is very striking and the hall, though surprised by its second makeover, seems to be adjusting well to its new persona.

We also had a change of colour for our son Cosmo’s room. It’s now duckegg blue. I asked him if he liked it. ‘Like what?’ ‘The new colour.’ ‘Has it changed colour?’
I think that means he likes it.

About the budgies. High above the flood, they rose, quite unperturbed. Then came the man with the chemical/medical spray to disinfect the place and strip it out. The budgies, about whom I had, in the stress of the moment, temporarily forgotten, enjoyed every minute. Then came their real joy: the drying fan and dehumidifiers. A choir! They all sing in chorus now, day and night. It’s quite dementing, but I take off my hat to them, or would if I was wearing one. Boots are more in order at the moment.

As for India, how long ago that seems now! One day soon I shall blog about my visit, which was not meant to be research but of course always turns into that. It was just supposed to be a holiday with my gap year daughter, Eliza, the gap year, Camille, being the year spent in limbo between leaving school and starting university – a peculiarly British institution, of which I’m not sure I entirely approve any longer, but which both our daughters have much enjoyed. I did discover something wonderful in India, though. You may already be familiar with the Indian/Canadian author Rohinton Mistry. I had never even heard of him. And there he was, not personally, naturally, but in book form by my Indian bed. I read A Fine Balance and Family Matters hardly drawing breath. Truly remarkable.

In fact, paddling about in my bottom hall, I may read them again and be reminded, amongst other things, of all that glorious sun.

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it’s nearly over

Filming is finished and the reinstatement has begun. Soon, really quite soon, our hall will be purple no longer. Now that it’s going, I’m growing quite fond of it – not fond enough to keep it, but fond. I’m also rather dreading leaving our little dolls-house flat and returning to ‘real’ life. Life without domestic responsibilities is really rather blissful, particularly now my husband and I have resolved the wallpaper issue (i.e. he’s given in). On Saturday, I shall pick up the dogs. I’m hoping it’s true they have no sense of time, but I fear I shall have to do a bit of crawling before they forgive their extended abandonment in kennels.

The budgies, who remained at home, have also had their own adventure in the shape of an unexpected visitor. Astutely realising that the dogs were no longer in residence, next door’s cat, who has long anticipated a budgie-shaped snack, availed itself of the dogflap and took a flying leap at the cage, plunging it, budgies and himself straight onto the floor. Flap flap flip flap. Miaow, piaow, miaow. Clang. Clang. Birdseed everywhere. Water everywhere. Feathers everywhere. Dignity shredded, the cat slunk off. Heart attacks were predicted for the birds. However once righted and back on the window sill, they appeared completely unmoved. Much discussion ensued. I mean to say, given that both birds should be dead, are ours particularly brave or particularly thick? Whichever, they are certainly survivors although once we move home again and things are back to normal, they’ll probably die immediately – of boredom.

Oh – and for those who wanted to know, I did go home during the filming for some sneak previews and can thus confirm that Gina McKee is as beautiful offscreen as she is on, and is witty and charming to boot, and that Jeremy Northam, though a little more weather-worn than he was as Ivor Novello, is just the sort of man who would grace a drawing room. But my goodness is it unglam, making stuff for tv. Hours of preparation for seconds of filming. You don’t just need acting skills, you need the patience of Job.

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unexpected places continued: all out but the budgies

I haven’t told you the worst about the purple (see previous blog). Our house was finished in 1872 or so, as part of a graceful Crescent. Light being at a premium in grey Glasgow, cupolas were installed to illuminate generous halls. The wall space is large, encompassing two floors, leading the eye forwards and upwards to show off the house’s generous proportions. When we first moved in, we went mad and decided to give the house a present. We would wallpaper the hall in its entirety – and not just wallpaper, but Zoffany wallpaper in gold and blue. An investment? Rubbish. Just one of those splurging impulse designed to give you, post-ordering the stuff, several metaphorical heart attacks. Not my husband. The prospect of a hall papered from top to toe in Zoffany filled him with delight. Up it went. Jaws dropped.

For fourteen years the paper glowed and shone and gave the house a certain distinction. Then along comes a film crew and in two days it is gone. I gaped.

Now, let me make it plain at once. The slapping of paint on paper was not done surreptitiously. In the many meetings we had before the ‘dresser’ got going, changing our house from a family home into a, er, family home, we discussed exactly what they were going to do. But theory and practice are not quite the same. As the Zoffany sighed ‘what did I ever do to you?’ and gave up the ghost, I felt a vandal.

Good news is that there is a glorious thing called ‘re-instatement’. That’s when they have to put your house back exactly as it was. Yup, paper and all. And then I wondered if we really wanted paper. I mean, did we? My husband was appalled and at once rushed off to get samples. ‘Look!’ he cried, ‘Look how beautiful paper is! How can you even speak of paint?’ In all the shenanigans – the decanting into a tiny flat, the depositing of the poor dogs into kennels, our son’s room turned into a false kitchen during his exams, the downstairs loo deciding it didn’t want any part in this nonsense, the neighbours’ houses having to sport Christmas trees in June, to say nothing of the troublesome and difficult subject matter of the drama itself which caused us both to gulp – the only thing that has caused any actual friction in our household is wallpaper.

For those who want to know what the troublesome subject of the film is – it stars Gina MacKee (The Street, the Forsyte Saga, Notting Hill) and Jeremy Northam (Emma, The Tudors, Gosford Park) – I shall soon post a link to the press release. That’s a whole other story, and leads me to wonder, if the production team had approached you for such a drama, would you have agreed?

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unexpected places

I find myself in a small flat about ten minutes walk from our house. I said as much over the telephone to a friend and before I knew it, the rumour had gone up that my domestic bliss was bliss no longer and that I was living solo. ‘And her husband seemed such a nice man,’ exclaimed another friend, truly horrified. Oh, what assumptions we make in a world of Chinese whispers! In fact, my marriage is in fine condition, thank you. We have all simply been decanted from our house by the BBC, who, for the past six weeks, have been using it as a film location. Simply? Ha!

When we got that fabled ‘note through the door’ saying that our house had been spotted and might possibly be considered and and and, I so nearly put it in the bin. Had I done so, our hall would not now be purple and there would be no loo in our garden. But ‘it’ll be fun’, I said to my reluctant husband. ‘If they want the house, we should say yes.’ Now, my husband is lovely, but since childhood parties which forced him into group laughter, he has viewed ‘fun’ with distinct suspicion. I backtracked. ‘No, not fun. It’ll probably be hell.’

That did it. We agreed and I promptly went to India for nearly three weeks with my gap year daughter leaving my husband to cope with the first excitement, which was that Health and Safety condemned our bedroom ceiling. ‘It could fall right now, tonight, tomorrow or in five years’ time,’ he said. I must say that we don’t worry much about that kind of thing. Ceilings come, ceilings go. We fix these things in our own good time. But even we could see that a lump of bony Victorian plaster on the head of a star of stage and screen might hold filming up a bit. But mikeyoreilly, the mess! I knew things were pretty bad when my husband stopped emailing me in Delhi. The silence shrieked ‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO US?’ quite eloquently, even over 3,000 miles.

By the time Eliza and I returned from India, the ceiling was fixed and ‘prepping’ was in full swing. ‘I’m sure it looks lovely,’ I said. It was not until I saw the purple that I realised the enormity of what we had done.

The excitement continues …

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