I have not been doing as much weekend reading as I normally would, because I have been arguing stridently with the kitchen cabinets. They were originally painted Sea Foam, that lovely mint-green shade which is so bizarrely popular in New England. The entire house, including the outside, is that color; when we first looked at it, by the time we got to the master bedroom and its slightly darker shade of Sea Foam I was giggling hysterically. But it is most egregious in the kitchen, where not only the walls but the cabinets, and the basement door, and the bathroom door, and the window frames, are all minty fresh. It is like living in a toothpaste tube or a bridesmaid's dress.
I've hated that color for four years. And, this winter, I realized that I was spending no time in the kitchen, despite my love for sitting at the table by the window looking out into the yard. A long, pale kitchen with a tile floor is a cold, cold room in wintertime. I want it to be cosy. I want to settle into that room with mugs of tea. And I do my best writing at that table, not at the big-ass inherited desk in the living room.
So I started stripping paint. The top cabinets turned out to have nice wood under the two layers of paint (beneath the Sea Foam was an amazing pink), so I scraped and sanded and slapped on some stain, and won the alliteration prize, and am quite happy with the way they turned out.
The bottom cabinets are a mess. The wood is battered and pitted, and it looks terrible uncovered. It was very discouraging to look at them Sunday night, after ten hours of work over two days, and realize I'm going to have to paint them anyway. Oh well.
It is not just the worn-out wood which is making this project spawn others. Of course at this point in my life a change is enormously appealing, and reclaiming the space in which I now live alone is symbolically important, but the additional projects are for the most part caused by my own incompetence. Despite the use of tape, paint stripper made it onto the walls by the cabinets and did its job, so: paint the walls! The undersides of the cabinets are refusing to release their paint to either chemical or manual persuasion, so: paint the trim! The little crevices of the windowsill are defeating my patience, so: a nice curtain! (Seriously. I'm going to keep scraping at the damn thing but I have already accepted that my fix will consist of covering it.) There is dog hair in the wood stain, so: live with dog hair in the wood stain! (There isn't much.)
Of course, this attitude may result in a situation that never ends. Friends might come over in two months and ask why there are no light fixtures and the dogs are shaved, and I will say, "THINGS KEPT HAPPENING."
So, like I said, less reading than usual, and things may continue that way for a while as I slapstick my way through further adventures in home alteration. I did read The Babes in the Wood, by Ruth Rendell, one of her Inspector Wexford mysteries. Rendell is a terrifying writer, to the extent that I have decided to only read the Wexford series out of her large oeuvre. As with most British police procedurals, they are pessimistic about humanity, but not vicious; her stand-alone books are beyond disturbing. The tipping point, for me, was Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, which features characters in the grasp of OCD and disordered eating, and has awful people doing unbelievably awful things to people who don't deserve them, and reading it makes you want to never, ever speak to another human being again. The Babes in the Wood was a perfect rainy-afternoon read, after putting in the morning's requisite amount of swearing at stubborn paint.
I am about thirty pages from the end of The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Catherine Parr is generally making herself useful, being the sensible woman that she was.* Good times. Reading it concurrently with watching "The Tudors" is very odd, because that show is sometimes incredibly faithful to the historical record, including using dialogue set down at the time, and then within the same scene will decide it can just make crap up. (Apparently Henry VIII slept in Royal Boxer Shorts. You think I am making that up, but I am not. They are black silk with gold embroidered crosses, and look like something David Beckham would wear in a mildly blasphemous ad.)
In a completely random language moment, I finished watching a "Tudors" episode and headed to the bathroom to prepare for bed, musing on whether I want Cromwell to be the hero because of Hilary Mantel or because I find James Frain weirdly sexy (it's a little from column A, a little from column B), and then musing on why he's sexy given that he looks a bit like a frog, and then trying to remember what the word for resembling a frog is, you'd think I'd know it, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is my favorite Lovecraft after all, and then I glanced down at the New Yorker pile and right on top was the sci-fi fiction edition, open to the essay by China Miéville, and at the bottom of the page it read, "our batrachian hero...".
I would have whistled the "Twilight Zone" theme, but I had a toothbrush in my mouth and I can't whistle.
Up next: I have, from the library, Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life, and another Inspector Wexford. Should be good reading for a rainy week.
*At one point, because she schooled the king in a theological argument and he was a dick, she came within about five hours of being arrested for heresy. On learning of this, she immediately flew to his side and said, "Oh no, I was just trying to take your mind off your illness and the best way to do that was to play devil's advocate to your brilliantly reasoned argument! If I had acknowledged your superior intelligence, the discussion would have been over, you would have been in pain again, and I would have learned nothing." Smart lady. He bought it. (The officers showed up with her warrant a few hours later and he came very close to having them sent to prison. It sucked working for this guy.)