A mistake or just bad timing?

Way back in 1961 I passed the exam and interview to go to Bury Grammar School for Girls, a Direct Grant school (the equivalent of an academy in the modern UK). It was a very traditional establishment with a strict policy on school uniform so my Mother took me to the one shop which supplied it to kit me out. Gym knickers (horrible scratchy woolen things), shirts and socks were the limbering up exercise. On to shirts, tie, and gymslip (yes, gymslip! The original one-size-fits-all unflattering passion killer) and finally to the main event THE BLAZER! It was navy blue, made of heavy woolen cloth, fully lined, with the school crest on the breast pocket and it cost a fortune. It was so expensive that my Mother needed very little encouragement to buy one with ‘room to grow’. It had it in spades! I was still wearing it, admittedly straining at the seams somewhat and rather short in the sleeve, when I left school seven years later. I don’t know what happened to it but I suspect it was passed down to a new girl.

My house feels like that blazer at the moment – waiting for me to grow into it.

When I was widowed 9 years ago and had got a builder in to finish the renovations, I was faced with the decorating. What I really wanted to do was to crawl into a deep dark burrow just big enough to turn round in and curl up in a little ball. There I would hibernate until the world found its way back to normal. Of course, I knew that normal would not be back. My beloved was dead not just in hospital for a bit. The decorating and the rest of life had to be faced. But perhaps inevitably I was drawn to dark, warm colours, lots of clutter (a.k.a. security blankets) and a ‘cosy’ ambience.

By last autumn it was all looking rather scruffy and dingy. Me, two dogs and three cats carrying in dirt, brushing against walls, sitting on the furniture, and all the everyday wear and tear had taken its toll. Touching up the paintwork was no longer an option – the original paint had faded in the sunlight. So it was time to do at least some rooms again.

I no longer needed my burrow. Like the blazer when I left school it was too tight. I had built a new life for myself and was more outward looking. Time to lighten up as well as freshen up.

I looked at dozens of paint charts, trawled through endless DIY stores, perused interiors magazines and made some tentative choices. Then Beccy, my neighbour who had recently painted a whole house for a friend, suggested I use paint from the Laura Ashley shop as it was much better quality than the stuff from the DIY or builders merchants. Expensive per tin but needing only 2 coats at most she thought it worked out no dearer and was less work. The range of colours is not huge which actually made the job of choosing easier!

I did the fireplace wall of the sitting room before Christmas and have continued round the three living spaces since. I need more paint to do the bedroom but at the moment can’t go out to get some and the shop isn’t open anyway. Of course, it isn’t just painting is it? Everything has to be taken off shelves, pictures taken down, curtains and other soft furnishings washed. And in the process there is a decluttering exercise, stuff is rearranged. Most of my home is lighter, brighter, cleaner, clearer, more spacious.

Externally I am constrained by lockdown. I am at home much more than usual. There are no visitors coming in to use the space I have created. There is ‘room to grow’ but I feel slightly un-contained by it. It’s all a bit discumbobulating! Have I made a mistake or will it all feel right in a few weeks time?

17 thoughts on “A mistake or just bad timing?

  1. tialys May 29, 2020 / 11:50 am

    Well done – I feel as if I have ‘grown out of’ decorating and don’t enjoy it one little bit any more. I think you will definitely come to love your new look rooms – everything is a bit ‘off’ at the moment isn’t it but once you can have people in to visit again and can show off your new colour scheme, it will feel more like home. My study/dining room is painted in almost that exact shade of green you have there and I find it to be a nice calming colour but fresh at the same time.

    As for school uniforms – I also went to a grammar school but in London and a bit later than you – we also had to go to a ‘posh shop’ for the uniform. In winter we had to wear a navy gymslip for the first two years and then we could dispense with the detachable bib section and just wear the skirt which resulted, of course, in the waistband being turned over and over to make the shortest possible skirt once the school bell had gone at the end of the day. In Summer we could wear a summer dress in any blue and white print – fortunately, the straw boater had been done away with the year before my arrival. We had to change out of our ‘outdoor shoes’ on arrival and into a pair of Clark’s sandals – remember those ones with the punched out design in the leather ?
    Aah, thank you for the little nostalgia trip and sorry, I seem to have practically written my own blog in your comments.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:12 am

      And it was lovely to read Lynn! I do remember Clark’s sandals – I had a pair every summer. I’m just glkad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

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  2. Laurie Graves May 29, 2020 / 1:41 pm

    Still cozy—my best thing ever—but lighter and brighter. Just the thing for these covid-19 times. Moving to read of how previously your home was painted for comfort and solace when your husband died.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:13 am

      Thank you Laurie. I don’t think I will ever be able to do minimalist! Cosy is definitely right for me – just hot quite such a tight hug as before.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves May 30, 2020 / 2:11 pm

        Perfect! And I’m with you about minimalism, which often looks cold to me. But, there. People must do what feel comfortable to them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. tidalscribe May 29, 2020 / 6:27 pm

    It looks good, bright colours will see you happily through autumn and winter – who knows what things will be like then.

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    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:13 am

      Who knows indeed! One thing is for sure – the weather will be cooler and we might even get some rain!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. anne54 May 29, 2020 / 11:18 pm

    That’s a fantastic choice of colour. The things you have, like the mirror and the plates break it up, so that it becomes a way to show them off while still being bright and interesting.
    Your thoughts on your school uniform brought back memories for me too. Oh those ugly old box-pleat tunics we had to wear. We also had to wear grey undies. I was too much of a goodie-two shoes to ever wear any other colour! And gloves whenever we were outside and in school uniform, even in the heat of summer! The Good Old Days? Not in that regard!

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    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:17 am

      Thank you Anne. Knowing your expertise with colour that is very reassuring.

      I wonder if today’s schoolgirls will reminisce about their uniforms in the same way when they are our age? Somehow ‘any navy skirt’ fels quite a different demand!

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  5. DawnGillDesigns May 30, 2020 / 7:46 am

    I love the way you display that quilt – do you rotate it, or swap it for others? And I always think that the edit of possessions that occurs as a direct result of some decorating is the best part!

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    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:23 am

      Thank you Dawn. I made the quilt on a 2 day course several years ago and at the end of day 1 decided to make it to fit that space. It is reversible so when one side gets grubby I turn it round until that side too is dirty and then it can be washed. The course was on quilts inspired by the ladies of Gee’s Bend in America – an Afro-caribean settlement where they made quilts to insulate the walls of their cabins basing the designs on newspapers with their columns, headlines and pictures. I really enjoyed the course, perhaps because I had done very little quilting and enjoyed the ‘freestyle’ approach, but some of the other women who were used to being much more precise found it really difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. nanacathy2 May 30, 2020 / 7:52 am

    I was at an independent school and we too had uniform like that. Years later as part of a Business Studies course I worked in a department store and sold school uniform. Oh the tact I had to show between stroppy pre-teen and parent. In a new home you finally finish decorating to your style and it’s hard to raise enthusiasm to re-decorate, but in your circumstances it must have been hard. It will soon feel right though.

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    • Going Batty in Wales May 30, 2020 / 10:30 am

      I seem to have struck a chord with a number of people with my reminiscing about uniform! I seem to remember the shop assistant just bossed both Mum and me about and we were both so in awe of the school and the long list of things I needed that we let her!

      You must be just starting to turn your new house into a home that suits your lives and likes. I hope you too soon find yourselves feeling that you have got it how you want it.

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  7. Victoria Callen May 30, 2020 / 2:01 pm

    It was over a year before I was able to go back into my daughter’s bedroom after she died. When I did I thought it would help to repaint it, in colours that she would have loved but not making it into a shrine. So I went ahead and painted it in a wild red on 2 walls and moved furniture around, adding new things. I then was fired up to redecorate the other spare bedroom and so I did. After it was all done I was appalled at what I had done. It felt like a betrayal and so very alien to me.It shocked and depressed me and frankly I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t afford to repaint so I chose to ignore and I kept out of the room as much as I could. A few months later friends wanted to come and stay so I had little choice to open up the double bedroom so they would have space. I realised how lovely the colour was and how Bryony would ave loved it. I put flowers in the room, hoovered, bought beautiful bed linen and looked again. Not so bad. When my friends arrived they were blown away by the room, absolutely loved it and we sat and had a little cry together. I haven’t looked back. Now I love the room, feel close to Bryony there and it’s become a happy memory place. I think what I am saying Sue is that it can take a while to re-love something but I feel you will.From the pictures it looks beautiful and I think John would have been delighted. As will you be.

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    • Going Batty in Wales May 31, 2020 / 10:41 am

      Thank you Victoria! I hadn’t heard the sory of your red room (which is beautiful – both room and story). When we are allowed to met up again you and John must come and see for yourselves. You are both brilliant with colour so I will really appreciate your thoughts.

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