The fireplace wall in Kirkwood Way

There is a house in a street called Kirkwood Way around these parts, and no, I will not declare the house number, that holds a terrible secret that one day will surely result in death for someone.

Well actually that house has two secrets, the first of which is that there is a natural spring underneath the ground floor floorboards, lift those boards anytime during any winter and you’ll find that you have a new indoor swimming pool right there underneath your house.

But thats not the deadly secret, not unless you fall through the floorboards anyway.

No, the deadly secret is that the first person who removes the wallpaper that I stuck to the chimney breast in 1993 will perish underneath an avalanche of useless plastering, for the wallpaper is the only thing that is holding the plaster to the chimney breast wall.

It all started with my wife, as all things do around here, when she declared that the fireplace in that house was quite rubbish and that what we really needed was one of those new-fangled “Living Flame” ones, the gas fires that burn real gas in your fireplace while looking to all the world like you have an old fashioned log fire burning, but without the mess to clear up every morning.

So we paid a gas showroom a handsome amount of money to purchase one of these miracle imitation log fires and then we paid a gas fitter another handsome amount of money to come and fit it, and all was well with the world.

“We need a new fire surround” she said.

I groaned inwardly for I correctly sensed another DIY project arriving on my doorstep, there was no point in arguing and so off to the fire surround shop I went and purchased with a handsome amount of money a nice teak one, they delivered it a few days later, for more cash money of course.

And the very next day I installed it to our fireplace wall.

I could tell that this wasn’t going very well even as I fitted it, and then with it all fitted and done I could tell that it would not pass inspection from “her” because while the fire surround was flush to the wall on one side, you could actually put your hand down the gap between it and the fireplace wall on the other side, seriously, there was a whole inch worth of discrepancy from one end of the fire surround to the other – it was what we professionals call “not square”.

I suppose at this point I could have removed the fireplace from the wall and examined it closely, all these years later I suspect that maybe the top shelf bit of the fire surround had warped or was not in some way “true”, thus causing it to meet the wall at one end and be a million miles away at the other.

But I’d spent all day fixing the bloody thing to the wall and I wasn’t about to pull my handiwork all to pieces without putting up a bit of a fight.

“Its just a small gap” I assured her when she spotted the discrepancy within nanoseconds of walking in the room, “what I’ll do is strip the chimney breast of this awful woodchip wallpaper, replaster it and then we’ll pick some nice new wallpaper, one with flowers on and other such women-things, eh ?”

She agreed, so a result there then.

And thats what I did and with no plastering experience whatsoever I set about plastering our chimney breast wall so that it was one inch deeper at one side than the other.

Now at this point I can hear all of the professional plasterers spitting out their coffee and screaming at the computer monitor “YOU DID WHAT ???”, but yes, I can assure you, thats exactly what I did.

It wasn’t easy of course although I thought that it should be easy, it looks easy when you see them do it on the telly, but making plaster stick to a wall is not easy at all. Oh sure, the first skim sticks to the wall just fine, but thats where normal people would stop the plastering for plaster is supposed to thinly coat the wall in a flat-natured finish, but I pressed on with several more coats of plaster on one side of the chimney breast.

On and on through the afternoon I pressed on, coat upon coat of plaster, not only was I filling the gap at one end of the fire surround but of course to make sure that it did not look like some dolt had just slapped a dollop of plaster to fill up a hole, I had to skim the wall on that side of the chimney breast, one inch deep, right up to the ceiling – yes I know now how stupid that was, but life is full of experiences isn’t it ?

Finally it, and I, was done for the day and I stepped back to admire my handiwork. I’d had a hell of an afternoon getting the heavy side of the chimney breast to stay stuck to the wall but eventually it appeared to be done and I instructed everyone in the house not to slam any doors that night for fear that it would all fall off again.

The next morning I almost didn’t dare to come downstairs, would my new chimney breast wall still be stuck to the wall or would it lie on my floor and a bollacking to earn ?

To my surprise it was still stuck the the wall and not a bad job done even though I say so myself, however when I touched the new plasterwork it was patently obvious that in fact it was not stuck to the wall at all but was in fact a free-standing structure, a column of one inch thick plaster, five feet high and three feet wide, standing on top of my fire surround.

There was nothing else for it.

I wallpapered over it.

It looked smashing when it was done and the wallpaper seemed to stop the plasterwork from wobbling quite so ominously when you touched it, good work that, piece of piss this plastering job.

And so, to the best of my knowledge it still stands there today, some old people bought the house from us and in time honoured fashion old people do not redecorate every year like we young people do, old people do not follow wallpaper fashions, that chimney breast has 1993 Laura Ashley flower wallpaper on it, they like it , and they are not going to change it, not in this lifetime anyway – and what a good job too for if they ever start to strip off that wallpaper they will reach a critical mass at some point when the remaining wallpaper can no longer support the mass of loose plaster behind it and they will be engulfed in an avalanche of collapsing chimney breast.

I’m sorry is all I can say, I’m sorry in advance.

It would be good if they could film it for YouTube though.

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