I’ve never been too bad at not taking things for granted. I’ve experienced enough so far to understand what people have and do not, and that all lives are hugely different, for different reasons. For most of last year, the house we (very fortunately) bought was in flux. We built a bathroom in a bedroom, built a dining room in a bathroom, knocked down walls, drilled into foundations, sealed up doors, sanded floors, painted walls and, eventually, washed away the dust. I say ‘we’ did all of those things; what I actually mean is that four men were employed to do it. If you want something doing properly, and it involves knocking down the entirety of the bottom of a house, and you have your own job, it’s usually best to employ an expert. The project was difficult for them – there were many obstacles – and it was difficult for us – we lived in a room for six months eating toasted snacks or boiled noodles washed down with bath water. The process was enlightening in many ways. It literally lightened the house, which was the point, but also I learned a lot about our builders’ lives. One of them in particular, a 22 year old, had a lot to impart. Putin, Trump, guns, war, Donetsk, Kiev, billionaires, fighting in Shoreditch, the arts, coffee, business, Bieber – he had opinions on them all. And he spoke numerous languages so was able to tell me how many Moldovans lived next door (12, apparently). Whenever I would feel a bit sick of eating another cold brioche at the foot of the bed surrounded by boxes of dusty ephemera, I could think about something interesting the young builder had said that day and it would remind me that I don’t have to live in a room with four other people, or exist in a civil war, or fight to stay in my country or get a passport because my life is in danger. And now that all the hassle is over and the 22 year old has moved to the next job, I have a large, light-filled space, beautifully painted, sanded and oiled, to remind me that I am very lucky indeed.*
*On a practical note, unrelated to #blessed, I can highly recommend Danish floor oil, if you want to make the room even lighter, without going for that total white-out paint effect. It rolls on as oil and you need two coats. It creates the bleached Swedish effect but is much quicker. If you pay someone to do it for you, make sure they think it’s a good idea. The bloke who did mine was completely grumpy about it for two days and it made everyone miserable.