Painting a fence in the hot blazing sun is not the worse chore in the world, but it is in the top ten for tedium. I have been putting off painting our new fence for weeks, always blaming the onset of rain as the reason I can't get started. However when that excuse wore thin, I knew I had to get on with it. So suitably dressed in my decorating scruffs (a pair of old tatty jeans and a very unflattering T-shirt) I set about painting the fence.
Living in a small village puts a self imposed restriction on ones choice of paint colour. If I could have indulged my taste for the outré and the unusual I would have gone for purple, a deep sensual purple. But imagine the gossip in the village store...it doesn't bear consideration..walking the dog would have been impossible as I would have been given the evil eye by everyone and be known as "that woman with the purple fence..ruins the looks of the village that fence does". So the fence is being painted non offensive dark 'rich oak' and predictably gets approving nods from all dog walkers passing by. I also get some helpful hints ..." you might get it done quicker if you use a bigger brush.." ...."you'd be better off spraying, rather than using a brush.." ..."you've missed a bit..". All this I can put up with, after all the fence is a step closer to a bit more privacy, I think of witty and cutting responses in my head as I paint, ignoring the growing ache in my painting arm after two hours or so. I am just considering stopping for a tea break when the neighbour from across the street, comes over.
Of all our neighbours which number just five, these are the neighbours: Mary and Malcolm, I like the most. This is because they always say a cheery hello, don't get involved in village gossip and basically mind their own business whilst being open and friendly. So it was with some trepidation that I greeted Mary, added to which I looked like a dog's dinner and sweaty to boot.
"I've been meaning to come over to have a word for a while..." she starts..."like your fence by the way, you're doing a good job" Mary smiles, I smile back and wait for the blow from the blunt instrument of other people's opinion. "You may have notice that we've not been out and about with Marcus lately..." Marcus is their very friendly black Labrador retriever. Strangely enough I spend no time at all wondering what my neighbours are up to, but I do not say this, I just nod and put the appropriate concern expression on my face. "Unfortunately Marcus had to be put down last month..spinal problems." "Oh dear," I say genuinely upset...dogs are often the best neighbours to have, they can't be held responsible for their owners. "Well.." says Mary bravely "we've got a new dog, a puppy. I wasn't really ready, but Malcolm was adamant we replace Marcus right away..he's called Magnus...the new puppy....would you like to see him?" I can see her bottom lip quivering and sense tears are hovering. I put down my paint brush and agree. It is only when I'm in their house, which is the top end of posh, that I become aware of my scruffy clothes, sweating armpits and paint splattered arms. I immediately feel like a teenager, gauche and awkward. My body betrays me by sweating more and I wipe my face on my T-shirt, which I realise immediately after doing it, that it was the wrong thing to do, as Mary's face crinkles slightly with disapproval.
"Would you mind taking your shoes off" Mary asks politely, with horror I look down at my muddy wellies and the mucky foot prints I have left on her pale green hall carpets. I apologise profusely and feel a blush of menopausal hot flush proportions. "Follow me.." Mary instructs. I do as I am told.
I can't help but cast a sneaky eye at my surroundings. I am caught doing that too. "Would you like a tour?" Mary asks with a hint of sarcasm. I decline and place my interest back on the fat wriggly black lab puppy squirming in my arms. He's beautiful I tell her and he is. I make my standard comments one makes for moments like this and gratefully leave. As I resume painting the fence, I can't help thinking that the impression I made on Mary will probably result in her avoiding me forever. Its not fair, I was just minding my own business and painting the bloody fence!!