Many Hands Make Light – If Paint-Splattered – Work

Today I am deeply, sincerely grateful to one Hubert Cecil Booth, who in a stroke of brilliance in 1901 invented the vacuum cleaner (apparently he tested his hypothesis by putting a handkerchief over his mouth and sucking on a restaurant chair. History does not record the reaction of his fellow diners. This is one of life’s random facts that bring great happiness). Yesterday I spent two hours on my hands and knees scrubbing paint from a violently purple ridged carpet, and came away with chapped hands, grid-patterned bruises on my knees, and what felt like an iron bar across my shoulders and neck. Consequently this morning I walked around with an angular, flamingo-esque stiffness in my head and got hand-cramp trying to peel potatoes. Imagine living as a woman before Mr Booth got his brainwave and started sucking on restaurant chairs. I think I would have scored rather low marks in a society where your competency as a wife was assessed by the state of your freshly-scrubbed front step.

So very excited to be vacuuming. Nice one, Mr Booth.

So very excited to be vacuuming. Nice one, Mr Booth.

Aside from my deviation into 1890s housewifery, our Helping Hands service project yesterday went very well. Tim was Reading’s team leader, so we arrived at the care home in Oxford at 8.30am, after an obligatory McDonalds breakfast, for the health and safety briefing. Having noted all the places where people could potentially fall off ladders (usually places where ladders were), we got to work painting our allotted three bedrooms. Predictably, the rooms were brown, purple and bright blue, respectively – paint colours that must be used with exquisite, non-NHS-funded care if they’re to be used at all – so we had large tubs of magnolia waiting to freshen things up. First coats were done everywhere by lunchtime, when we paused to eat sandwiches lovingly (if rather eccentrically) prepared by the primary children. Tim was disappointed to note that the chocolate bar he was allocated was orange flavoured – forbidden under the Timothy Code of Fruit and Chocolate Abhorrence – but the very lovely Julie Kennedy dug through all the leftover bags and rescued two plain bars instead. Very gratefully received.

The worst part of a day like this is the part near the end where most people have gone home, and the ones who are left realise how long the fiddly clearing-up jobs are going to take. This is why I found myself on hands and knees scrubbing paint stains out of carpets. Timothy had a similarly left-over job washing up paint trays, and emerged hours later with callused, wrinkly alien fingers, wincing. But it was amazing how much 90 or so people can get done in one day. New fences were put up, the garden cleared and a new raised flowerbed created for those in wheelchairs, paving slabs cut, a new handrail erected, every room freshly painted and the curtains replaced. It made an incredible difference, and watching so many people working hard alongside us was a huge morale-booster. Volunteering boosts more than morale, apparently: according to the Corporation for National and Community service, those who volunteer experience ‘lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life’. So despite all evidence to the contrary, scrubbing that floor will actually make me live longer. I won’t bother with the neck brace then.


7 thoughts on “Many Hands Make Light – If Paint-Splattered – Work

  1. Seb says:

    Bryony and I violated the Timothy Code of Fruit and Chocolate Abhorrence by sharing a chocolate orange yesterday.

    Just thought you ought to know.


  2. Bryony says:

    Funnily enough, though my original comment had nothing to do with this, I have to admit that my first thought about Tim’s apparently violent disinclination to mix fruit and chocolate went as follows: “If only Sebastian would have been there, he’d have eaten it *for* him!”

    Really, I just had to express solidarity at the thought of sharing low-status in the pre-restaurant-upholstery-sucking days of homemaking.


  3. racheljeffcoat says:

    Ha. Seb, I’m SURE you told me once you can’t eat fruit and chocolate either. I have a clear memory of you dipping bread in chocolate fondue. Congratulations on overcoming that particular barrier 🙂

    Poor Tim. We were at leadership meeting one evening last week, and the look on his face when I told him the rocky road had cherries in it was heartbreaking. What a hardship to live under such restrictions.


  4. Seb says:

    Just to set the record straight I despite fruit and chocolate and bitterly resent the fact that I will never be able to partake of rocky road for that reason.

    Chocolate orange doesn’t count, though, because it a) doesn’t contain actual fruit; b) tastes nice. The vile Quality Streets and Roses that are always left in the bottom of a near-empty box don’t qualify as they fall miserably short in point b).


  5. Seb says:

    That should have read “I despise fruit and chocolate”. By which I mean in combination, rather than individually (which is not the case).


  6. Bryony says:

    I love that you’ll eat something as vile as marmite, and yet something of the ilk of a chocolate-covered strawberry is outside the bounds of reason. I suppose that leaves more chocolate and fruit combinations for the likes of Rachel and myself. 🙂


  7. racheljeffcoat says:

    I love the fruit flavoured Roses that are always left in the bottom of the tin 🙂 In our house we always fought over them; I was most surprised to discover their unpopularity with almost everyone down here.

    The Pearsons once collected a whole bag of the strawberry ones and left them on my desk. Turns out when you eat lots at once, you feel a bit sick. Lesson learned.


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