It’s the fiddly bits that get you when painting. The parts between wall and ceiling where you can’t rely on your rollers anymore. Where you have to stretch arms, strain your neck, stand on tip toe to ensure your paint brush doesn’t fleck the ceiling or corner wall as you attempt a neat finish. A perfect line between purple, white and green. It helps to have a bottle of turps and wet rag handy, ready to wipe away splodges and mis-strokes. You’ve been doing this for years now, you know the score. Still, these days you come down with lower back ache, sore calves and aching shoulders. You are not as young as you used to be.
Later in the bath, as you sip a glass of wine, you remember watching Jim paint that first house in Blenheim Yard. You were hugely pregnant, happy to watch him as he turned the nursery blue for the boy you imagined you would have. As he came down from the step-ladder he tripped, knocking the paint which splattered blue stains across the new white carpet. He fell in it, rolling around till his face was covered with blue woad. You laughed, and laughed. You could not stop till your waters broke and the next blue was a flashing light. Jenny was born at three in the morning. You never did have a boy. Perhaps that was part of the problem. And when you arrived home two days later (for these were times when mothers were allowed recovery time) Jim had cleaned the carpet and the walls were perfectly pink.
It was when you moved house to accomodate the expanding family (Alex, two years after Jenny, then Sophie, and finally Emma) that you needed to take up the brush yourself. Jim was too busy earning a crust so you could all eat. You didn’t begrudge his trips abroad, the long evenings by yourself. It paid for ballet lessons, drama clubs, school trips. The least you could do when you were alone and the children were sleeping was give the girls’ bedrooms the makeovers they deserved. Pink, purple, red. The colours changed with the ages, and the fads they went through. Though you drew the line at black when Sophie and Em went all emo just before they left school.
It’s funny, you think, as you get back to the job the next morning, in all these years, the one room you never got round to was your own. It takes a husband leaving to do that. Now as you finish the final corner, you step down from your ladder and look round with pride. Purple, green and white – suffragette colours.