Friday, 15 August 2008

DIY Nation (or Nesting: Part 2)

In the almost two years since I have been living in the U.K., I have realized that this country really is obsessed with DIY. As far as I'm concerned, British home owners can pretty much be lumped into two categories. There are those who are constantly having extensions built, conservatories put in, and kitchens installed – whether the house needs it or not. It's as if the constant presence of builders and the smell of paint is some kind of status symbol. And then there are those who constantly talk about doing things but never actually seem to get anything done. I think these people must feel like if they actually finish a task they'll have nothing left to talk about. Even non-home owners can get swept up in DIY mania. I thought American TV was bad when it comes to decorating shows, but at least these shows seem contained to specific channels like HGTV or TLC. Nearly every time I turn on the "telly" here, there is some show on about property development or buying a holiday home. And they all make it look so easy. Yes, you can build an entire house from scratch in just three days! I'll confess my sin, though: some of these shows (like "A Place in the Sun") have become my guilty pleasure. Even I have been seduced by the idea of buying a run-down chateau in the south of France or a seaside villa in Croatia and "doing it up." See: I've been brainwashed! My real dream is actually much simpler than that: to one day be free from the shackles of wallpapering and painting so that I can flit between here and Europe and, instead of worrying about renovating, enjoy a nice glass of Bordeaux or a refreshing dip in the Adriatic.

In the meantime, our own decorating saga continues. Just when we think we have made real progress, we seem to uncover another layer of old lead paint that needs stripping (don't worry – I'm staying well away from the fumes) or another bit of skirting board that needs filling. What might seem like a two-step project suddenly turns into five steps. With old houses, one is never really “finished.” Thank goodness we have recently employed a reliable new cleaner: Henry.

Despite my frustrations, I can finally see a dim light at the end of the tunnel, which is good because I'm sure our Crumpet is thinking the same thing...

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