Its no place to celebrate your birthday, up a ladder, looking like a tar baby.

When we moved into this house, five years ago, there was one major thing that we wanted to change about it and that was the fact that previously, some idiot with absolutely no sense whatsoever of taste or colour appreciation, had painted the soffits of the house turquoise.

Yes, turquoise, we bought a turquoise painted house.

What, Soffits ?

Its the bit that goes around the top bit of your house, the bit that sits just underneath the roof and rainwater gutters, yes, that bit, its usually very high up unless you live in a bungalow in which case you can probably stand on a chair to paint the soffits.

Anyway, we had turquoise soffits, horrendous.

Five years later and I’ve run out of excuses.

“Its too high” just won’t work anymore, its been too high for five years and frankly, its not getting any lower.

“I’m too scared” just results in a “So what ?”

“You do it then” just results in a “In these heels ?”

And whats more is that the paint is now peeling off the gutters and its peeling off the soffits and its starting to look like a tramp lives here, a tramp scared of heights who can’t afford to pay for someone else to climb up a very tall ladder and paint his soffits for him.

So last weekend I had booked three days holiday from work, for last Monday was my birthday and last Monday was also our 29th Wedding Anniversary and in the spirit of being nice and a loving husband I had planned on taking my darling wife (she may read this) away to somewhere romantic, like Staithes for instance, I had even almost booked the cottage, but not quite.

In the event she was working at the weekend so I had five days holiday and nothing to do.

And so I rang up Smithy and asked “Do you still have those ladders ?”

And he confirmed that yes, he did still have those incredibly long extension ladders, the ones that had scared us both silly when we painted the house before the last one that we lived in twelve years ago (we’ve lived in lots of houses), so silly had we scared ourselves up those bloody ladders that he’d put them in his garage and never took them out again, but last Saturday I walked around to his house and together, one at each end, we walked the mile or so back to my house with the ladders, walked 30 foot apart carrying an end each and having to shout for conversation so long were those ladders.

And when we got to my house he made an excuse and ran away, leaving me with the ladders staring up at the eaves of the back of my house which were looking higher by the second.

So I propped the ladders up against the house and shoved the extension ladder up until it was touching the soffit and then I stood back and stared at it for a very long time indeed whilst trying to persuade myself that actually it wasn’t that high really and if I didn’t look down at all, ever,  then all would be fine.

And thats how I found myself 30 feet up a ladder clutching a bucket of paint and a paint brush staring hard in concentration at the wall four inches in front of my face and repeating “Don’t look down, ever” and tentatively I reached above my head with the paintbrush of black paint and started to daub it onto the soffit.

I only dared to reach a few inches either side of the ladder and would not look up to see which bits I’d painted and which bits I’d missed for when you look up you involuntarily lean back too and suddenly it feels like you’re flying, or falling as the case may be – I painted the whole of the back of the house without actually looking at what I was painting at all and when I finally stepped down for the last time and looked up I thought that I hadn’t done half bad.

Okay, so the gutters were still peeling paint because I wouldn’t reach up that far not for all the tea in China, but gone was the turquoise soffits and in its place was a nice glossy black painted one instead, she’d be impressed.

And by the time she came home I’d done all down the side of the house too, I was getting brave now for the driveway slopes downwards so not only was the ladder leaning precariously for most of the time but the height at the front of the house was more than at the back – and thats why I invented brush-on-a-stick, a brush, taped to a stick, for those awkward moments when you get too scared to go up one more rung on the ladder but still need to reach your soffit with paint.

“I’ve done well haven’t I ?” I asked as she strode up the drive

“Have you looked in a mirror yet ?” she asked

And so I did, and for a moment I thought I’d stepped into a marvellous time machine and gone back to the 1970s, the days when hair adorned the top of my head instead of skin, then I realised that the “hair” was just black paint and I’d discovered by accident what Michael Jackson had paid a trichologist millions to learn – that you can disguise bald patches by simply painting your head black.

In short I was covered in black paint, absolutely smothered in it, I had thought that the paint job was using a lot of paint up and now I knew why, it was because I was painting not only the soffits but myself too, I looked just like Brer Rabbit’s Tar Baby.

Shortly afterwards I also discovered that when you get turpentine in your eyes it stings like buggery, but worse, she then asked when I was going to finish the job by painting the turquoise front of the house.

I’d lost my nerve, for the front of the house is where the slope of the land really kicks in and not only does the front garden slope viciously away from the house but its covered in decorative shale as well, loose shale, slippery when wet, no place to stand a ladder then, I really should have thought this through better.

It rained on Sunday, perfect excuse then, “Can’t paint in the rain my dear” I explained, it cut no ice, “You’re on holiday for two more days” is all she said and it was obvious that before I went back to work then she’d expect the house to be finished.

Despite my rain dance on Monday morning it dawned fine and sunny, ideal weather for painting a house and yourself again, but wait, Monday was my birthday and I couldn’t be risking life and limb up an increasingly taller ladder standing on loose shale, could I?

The look on her face told me that, yes, I could, and after all, what better day to fall off a very tall ladder and kill yourself than your birthday, make everything nice and even, “How old was he?” the coroner would ask her, “57, exactly” she’d reply “when can I expect the cheque from the insurance company?”

Three hours later the front of the house was done, I admit, in a rather slapdash manner for it was also a bit breezy and what with being further up the ladder than ever, standing on shale, and glancing over at the airport two miles away on top of the next hill along and realising that actually you’re now at the same height as the 11.40 flight to Malaga, I was ready to come down.

I’m still scrubbing the now red-raw skin on top of my head to rid myself of the Michael Jackson look hairstyle, but we now have no more turquoise paint and folk don’t point and laugh as they walk past anymore.

And Smithy you can have your fookin ladders back.



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