Sunday, 05 July 2020
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Switching off and working with my hands for a change

By  Mar 23, 2019

Those fatal words, that fatal sentence, drifted in the air for a few seconds, until it was repeated again like an echo bouncing around the inside of Minčeta. “I think it’s time we painted the house again.” Were my ears deceiving me? Had the P-word been mentioned? Yes!

We have had a few disasters on the painting front before and this time I wanted, no needed, to avoid another one. We’ve somehow managed in the past to buy pink paint, to buy enough paint to keep Jupol in business for a decade, to buy façade paint and to cover everything, from the sofa to the TV, in white paint.

I remember all those years ago when the only colour you could buy was white. It is a simpler time. Everything was bright white. Now there are shades of this, hues of that and all of them have fancy names.

We plumped on “Curry 50.” For a few reasons. Firstly, it was an easy name to remember. It was also my favourite food. And, probably more importantly, it was a nice colour. It seemed like a strange name for a paint colour, it wasn’t exotic or even that descriptive. And yes of course I asked if they had a Curry 49, but I was met with a blank expression from the shop assistant. Experience is the best teacher. So far more important that the paint was the protection so that, as it had done several times in the past, the paint didn’t fly everywhere and colour my dogs “Curry 50.” Reels of Tape and some kind of huge nylon sheet that looked like a serial killer would roll it out before chopping up his victims.

How nice it is to work with your hands sometimes. Maybe I should have changed my profession and become a stonemason or carpenter, although I would need some serious training. It’s always the hardest to work with people. A big lump of stone of a plank of wood doesn’t complain or have a million excuses. So there I was in front of the first blank wall, if I was an artist a blank canvas, but an artist I am certainly not. I had covered the whole room, in mean the whole room, with plastic sheeting. A serial killer could go wild and CSI wouldn’t have a clue afterwards.

The first dunk of the roller in the paint and I aimed at the ceiling. I say aimed because when the roller hit the ceiling the majority of the paint flew off and landed right over me. The only thing in the room not wrapped up like a salami in a plastic coating was me. I fleetingly considered rolling in the plastic sheeting, like a huge condom around me, but instead went for the natural approach and stripped down to shorts and a T-shirt. “At least the paint will be easier to wash off me than all my clothes,” I said to me already laughing wife. It seems that we spend a lot, or maybe too much, of our decorating time laughing. Dressed for the beach I slopped the paint up on the ceiling again. Yes, I got sprayed but at least this time most of it hit flesh. Paint just has a magnet, or an affection, for me. Every time I looked up a blob of paint would find my head. I wonder if Michelangelo had the same problem when he was painting the Sistine Chapel.

He was just going in to put the final touches to Mary and Christ and a dribble of paint rolled from his brush and into his eye. A few hours later and the first room was painted, and although there was a fair amount of paint of the sheeting, and of course all over me, it didn’t look too bad at all. I’m not likely to get a job painting other people’s houses or even painting the white lines in the middle of the road, but the first room had turned out above my low expectations. And like I said there was a strange relief about painting, about working with my hands for a change. I could switch off and just concentrate with what I was doing.

As one of Michelangelo’s colleagues, Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” Strangely enough I went away for some relaxation whilst painting the rooms (and myself.)                       

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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