It’s going to be a short blog this week. Time is even more my enemy than normal, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get done everything that has to be done. Sometimes though, I really feel a bit like my old laptop. If I open too many tabs on it at once, it will freeze, I’ll get the spinning blue doughnut and there’s nothing else I can do but close everything down and start again. My life is a like this, I have so much to do that sometimes I freeze just thinking about it all and end up doing nothing!
On top of the normal duties like work and home, there is the stress of trying to prepare the basement room ready to reactivate my add for a new lodger. As you all know, my last lodger left some very unsightly brown stains all over the mattress and I put in a claim with the insurance company. I had taken out the service plan on the mattress when I purchased it. Well, they came out to inspect and ummed and ahhed quite considerably about it.
They felt there were simply too many stains and that clearly a mattress protector had not been used. Well, two protectors are provided with the room and there was one on there when the lodger moved in, but as to whether he used it all the time or not, I don’t know. When did these stains occur, they asked, and I had to be honest and confess that I didn’t know. They could have happened the night after he moved in and have been sitting there ever since. What caused the stains they asked. Again, I couldn’t answer because I don’t know.
The lodger denied that he had done it but then immediately offered to buy me a new mattress – not the action of an innocent person. It plainly was him, not only was the mattress practically brand new when he moved in, but of course I inspect the mattress carefully between each lodger and I’m the one who dresses the bed between each one, so I would have noticed massive brown stains all over it.
Personally, I think it’s cola. He was in the habit of eating lots of takeaways in his room – judging by the amount of packaging that came out of it, that was pretty much all he ate. So, I think he upended a carton of cola in bed, washed the sheet and mattress protector, and thought he’d get away with not mentioning it to me. Perhaps he thought I wouldn’t notice, or care that a pristine white mattress now looked like a painting by Jackson Pollock. I can get my nose right up to the stains, so they’re not anything radically unpleasant. Sweat stains yellow, so it’s not that either. Plus, the stains are on the side of the bed he freely admitted was the side he slept on and the stains are in the pattern of a body – you can plainly see the outline. I think what happened was he fell asleep in bed eating his dinner and dropped a carton of cola onto himself.
Anyway, the insurance company weren’t having any of it and have refused my claim. So, I’ve had to resort to Plan B. My own mattress is an old cheap one bought many years ago. It’s really thin and you can feel the springs sticking out of it. Even with the brown stains, the mattress in the lodger’s room is still a far superior one. So, once the insurance company said “no” I had a go at the stains myself with a fabric cleaner and most of them have come out. Then Miss F and I nearly killed ourselves getting that mattress up two flights of stairs and onto my bed, and propping my old mattress up against the wall on the landing. I have now slept on it for two nights and it’s a great deal more comfortable than my old mattress so I’m keeping it.
Meanwhile, I have ordered a new mattress from work and it’s being delivered next Friday. The lodger should think himself lucky that I get really good staff discount so instead of losing all his damages deposit buying a new one, he only lost half. When the new mattress is delivered, they will take away my old one.
So that’s sorted, but there’s still the room itself to turn around. I borrowed a big dehumidifier from a friend and every time the window isn’t open, that has been churning away drawing any moisture out of the room. After over a week of this all trace of damp has gone and the air is fresh again. We’ve made a start scrubbing out drawers, and yesterday I put another quick coat of cream paint all over the actual room – nothing like the smell of paint to make a room smell clean.
I also decided to paint the stairwell leading down to the basement. Now, this was last painted several years ago, and I can’t remember who did it. But I know it wasn’t me. Painting the room itself wasn’t a problem, the ceiling is reasonably low, and I can reach the top of the walls by standing on a small stool. However, the stairwell is a different matter. It goes up to quite a considerable height and I can’t use a stepladder because there’s nowhere to stand it, there not being enough room at the top of the stairs.
I can’t leave it any longer either. Up until now there hasn’t been a light in the stairwell, the lodger depending on the light in the actual room itself to see to go downstairs, and because the stairwell was obviously a little gloomy, it had been painted a bright shiny white to compensate. Well, I decided to have a light installed in the stairwell to make it more welcoming, so my brother who is an electrician came round and fitted a light at the top of the stairs.
Big mistake! With the stairwell now lit up like a football stadium, the bright shiny white paint burns out your retinas and illuminates the dodgy paintwork and grubby marks. It had to be painted, and a colour other than stark white. No problem, I thought, I still have that soft butter yellow paint left over from doing the kitchen, that will be warm and inviting. So, yesterday I painted the lower half of the walls in this yellow.
Another big mistake! The butter yellow which in the kitchen is soft and warm, in the stairwell has turned onto a dayglo, neon, high vis jacket yellow which lights up the stairwell alarmingly. I wasn’t sure about it at all! So, I went and bought some soft grey paint to maybe tone it down, and that’s when it struck me – how the heck am I going to reach the top parts of the stairwell?! I’m only little – 5’1” – so there’s only so far up I can paint, and like I said, nowhere to stand steps or a chair or anything.
So, this morning I am going back to the shop to buy a roller tray and a telescopic roller. I hate painting with a roller, I much prefer a brush. Yes, I know it takes slightly longer, but I don’t think rollers are much cop unless you’re painting vast amounts of flat, straight surfaces. In a small old house like mine, that is all curves and corners and awkward bits, you spend more time cutting in with a brush than you do actually painting anything. Also, roller painting makes such a mess. It tends to splatter everywhere, so that means I’ve got to mask and tape everything up. And using the roller method to paint means you use twice as much paint as you do with a brush.
But I have no other option. A telescopic roller is the only way I stand any hope of reaching the high bits, and that’s always supposing this grey looks okay. As to what to do with the bits I have already painted yellow – I’ve decided to do the grey bits first and then see what it looks like. It might be that I will then have to paint over the yellow bits with the grey, but as the yellow is so aggressive it could take several coats to cover it – and I’m running out of time. I’m back to work tomorrow for three days, so really there is only today to do it, and as it’s now 11:30am half the day is almost gone and I still haven’t even been to the shop to buy the roller, let alone covered everything up, let alone started painting, and…. agghhh… the blue doughnut is spinning!!
Time is always against me. I look at other people, and they seem to have the whole time-thing figured out. On my social media accounts, I see the pictures they post of them relaxing, cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other, and I am left stunned with admiration that they have time to sit down and do nothing! The only time I ever sit down is in the evening when I eat dinner and maybe watch an hour of TV with Miss F. The rest of the day is a constant race against time to get everything done. And as for having nothing to do! Please tell me what that feels like because I genuinely have no idea.
On top of my usual anxiety about lack of time, there is the feeling that I must get the basement finished and a new lodger installed as quickly as possible. The news in the UK isn’t good. The second wave of Corona is upon us and the infection rate is over 4000 cases per day again which is comparable to May’s rates when the country was in deep lockdown. And that’s just the people they’ve been able to test, because the testing system is shambolic. Nothing is accurate or up to date.
I have that feeling again. The same feeling, I had mid-March the week before we all went into lockdown. That sensation of waiting for the other shoe to drop, that something is going to happen soon, but no one is quite sure what. Medical experts are urging us to go back into a nationwide lockdown and do it right this time, but the government is resistant. The truth is the country simply cannot afford another lockdown. They cannot afford to pay us furlough again. And if people aren’t receiving wages or furlough, and presumably won’t be entitled to any kind of benefits or compensation, then it will be a hard, cold Winter for us all.
Most people, me included, do not have the savings to last more than a month without any kind of income. People will go into serious debt, they will be unable to pay their mortgages and rents, utilities, and insurances. They will be unable to buy food and other essential supplies. People will panic. Parents unable to buy food for their children will be desperate enough to do whatever it takes to get by. There could even be the case that people are forced to put their homes on the market, but if enough do that, then that could cause the housing market to crash, and so on.
It’s a scary scenario, and one that I desperately hope it won’t come to. Despite the rising infection rates, the death rates are still low – at the moment – and it still seems very geographically based – at the moment. But who knows what the colder weather will bring? When the flu and cold season is upon us, what impact will that have on the virus? Will it make people more susceptible to catching it? If you have a cold and corona and you’re sneezing more, then surely that increases the chances of spreading it?
Now do you understand why it’s important I get the basement room finished and advertise for a new lodger? Although, I never would have thought this time last year, that the next time I was letting the room again, one of the questions I would be asking during the interviews would be – “During a global pandemic, if we go into lockdown, what will it mean for you? Will you still be able to pay your rent?” Because the truth is, I cannot afford to have anyone live here rent free. And if the potential lodger does not have a good enough answer to that question, then it will be a case of – Thank you for coming. Next candidate please.
I’m also trying to beat the clock with my latest book. I have made a really good start, at present the word count is over 80,000 which is excellent. But I haven’t had time to write a single word this week, and I probably won’t have time to write next week either. And then we’ll be at the end of September with the book still unfinished.
I really want to publish this year, and to all you non authors out there it probably seems ridiculous that I’m panicking because there are still over three months left of this year. But I have less time that you would think. December is a no-no for trying to publish any book not entitled “How to Plan the Perfect Christmas” or “Christmas Cooking for the Family” or maybe “Frozen Hearts at Mistletoe Cottage”. I have learnt from experience that it is pointless trying to publish a fictional, non-Christmas themed novel anywhere between the 30th of November and the 1st of March.
During December people are all tied up with the holiday season and have neither the time nor money to bother with buying new books unless they are for gifts. Then during January, everyone is broke, and depressed and so many people are on book buying bans. February is dank, dark, and depressing, so don’t even bother thinking about publishing then. It’s not until Spring hits, the nights start pulling out, and people have had a couple of pay packets to get over Christmas, that there’s any point to publishing a novel.
So that takes the time I have left down to just a shade over two months. I haven’t even finished writing the book yet, and although I’m close, I will need at least two weeks of intensive writing to finish it. Okay, so say by some miracle I do manage to get the book finished by early October, then it ideally needs to sit for a week or so before I go back in and start making my own edits. These could take weeks of reading it over and over, picking apart every single line, going over it backwards and forwards until I am sick of the sight of it.
Then it has to go to my editor, and depending on her other commitments she could take weeks, maybe even a month to get it back to me, and then I have to go through all her suggested amendments with a fine toothcomb. Then it goes to my beta readers for them to go through and give me feedback. This could also take weeks, depending on how busy they are. I then have to go through all their suggested amendments.
On top of that, the novel has to be formatted into paperback and eBook versions, which takes time, especially in a book like this one that will have at least thirty chapter title page illustrations to insert, and illuminated capitals at the start of each chapter to be inset. Then there is the cover to sort out. And it all takes so much time. And the clock is ticking. And… there’s the blue spinning doughnut again!
That was the one good thing about lockdown. I had time. For the first time in forever, I wasn’t constantly chasing my own tail and juggling all the things that needed to be done. There was time to do them all, because if I didn’t finish a task one day, why then it didn’t matter, there was always the next day and the next. I have never felt so healthy and relaxed as I did in lockdown. I was sleeping longer, because there was no need to be up at 6am to try and cram everything in before going to work. I was still up by 8am, but those extra two hours sleep made me feel so much better. I wasn’t stressing about anything during the day, I was able to set my own pace and work to my physical limitations, instead of until I drop, which is my usual practice.
But ever since I went back to work my life has been lived at a hundred miles an hour again, and all the good that lockdown did me now counts for nothing. It only made me realise how much I want to retire, but unless anything drastically changes – like I suddenly start selling enough books to actually live on – this is how my life will be for the next twenty years!
But, as a wise person once said – suck it up, buttercup. So, I’m going to make a cup of coffee, then go to the shop and buy a roller tray and a telescopic roller, get Miss F to help me start covering and masking everything up, and then I will make a start on the painting. Oh, but I need to upload and schedule this first, oh and then I have to unload the dishwasher, sort out the laundry, and iron my uniform for tomorrow, and think about what we’re having for dinner tonight, and make my posts for Instagram ready for tomorrow… and, yep, there’s the blue spinning doughnut again.
Have a great week everyone and I look forward to chatting with you next Sunday.