I take far more time thinking about my choice of music than I do about the decision to start stripping in the first place.
Before we go on I must clarify that I’m talking about wallpaper here and not clothes (loses half of readership). As you may have gathered this isn’t strictly a bike related post but I feel that in these strange times it’s good to branch out. It’s good too, as it turns out, to have another Lockdown project to get stuck in to.
Here in the UK we’ve just re-entered a 4 week period of lockdown in an attempt to bring the infection rate back under control. Having completed a minor avalanche of home and bike and self improvement projects during the original restrictions in the spring and summer I’ve been at a bit of a loss for things to do this time around, especially as the dark evenings draw in and a year’s worth of rain begins falling.
Like all good things this project came about accidentally, as a result of sit ups. Following a programme to shape up muscles, grown squishy from too much home working, I’ve been attempting a daily regimen of sit ups. To vary this activity and provide some much needed motivation I’ve been moving my core workout around the house, bedroom, kitchen….
During a session in the seldom used spare room, sticking out like a papery tongue a corner of wallpaper caught my attention. With every crunch I completed it was staring at me, daring me to do something, taunting me to just pull at it. At this point I should have just left well enough alone but, like that loose thread or that big zit I just couldn’t leave it be. I tugged at the corner, a bit. And a bit more and….With a satisfying, sighing sound a whole strip about an arm’s length sheared cleanly off the wall leaving a large, sticky looking gap.
At this point I could conceivably have glued the strip back in place and walked away. But I didn’t. I carried on. In a small frenzy, about 10 minutes later I’d decimated an area of wall about a metre square. Two things had now become apparent however.
- Only that first strip would be coming off cleanly – the rest left a papery backing residue welded to the wall.
2. The wall beneath was not in good shape, shedding large, powdery chunks of plaster along with the paper. It looked a complete mess and there was no chance of repairing it.
“And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
In this case, going forward involved borrowing a wallpaper steam-stripper, scrapers and selecting enough music to distract from the task ahead. For years now the only time I seem to make to listen to music is when driving and since there’s no need to drive much nowadays music gets missed out.
My playlist is an eclectic mix involving a back catalogue of long forgotten artists from my childhood, teenage years and beyond. Brought up on a diet of folk, classical music, country, protest songs and power ballads it’s a strange soup ranging from opera, though Dolly Parton, Dory Previn and Meatloaf to Billy Joel.
Kicking off the stripping, as Dolly bemoaned her “DIVORCE”, scraper in hand I attacked the first wall. Classic Dolly, first listened to long ago on my parents old 45 vinyls, has me waving the scraper around like a microphone, far less stripping is done than dancing. I need some serious work songs so switch to Opera, “O Mio Babbino Caro” I fire up the wall paper steamer and then blast the volume for the “Temple Duet”, songs and steam rising to a crescendo and probably deafening the neighbours. After 3 hours of Dolly and opera classics come to an end wall number one is now naked save for some ingrained wallpaper patterns and patchy holes. My patience and arms muscles pretty much give out at the same time too. holding up 2 kgs of wallpaper stripper and scraping like a loony have left them feeling like limp bits of string. Clearing up after day one takes a further hour peeling the sticky scrapings from the floor coverings, my feet, the furniture, my hair.
Days 2-4 progress in a similar fashion. I can highly recommend the power of power ballads to get some swing into your stripping and the same with rock. Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner lent their support along with Bonnie Tyler and Celine Dion, Meatloaf however proved less helpful as “Bat out of Hell” coincided with the worst plaster collapse yet where a significant part of the chimney breast came off with the paper leaving dust, debris and several large holes to be dealt with (another day).On the bright side I am developing my technique and, whilst I’ve currently lost the feeling in my puny arms, I may yet come out of this with biceps of steel?
The final 2 days are a struggle, the room is a half stripped mess and most areas of the house are carpeted in sticky scraps of paper despite my best efforts to contain the mess. The big guns are called for. Luckily I dig deep through my music collection and discover a whole back catalogue for Dory Previn (former and much put upon spouse of the great Andre) she wears her heart and her emotions in her songs. “Lemon Haired Ladies” and “Beware of Young Girls” are sung with much feeling. As Dory describes, with heart-breaking simplicity, her husband’s affair with/desertion for Mia Farrow I join with her in song and push on.
But, for the last stand, the final stripping, nothing is going to beat some Billy Joel. I’ve already shown my age with the admission of vinyl records and can vividly remember saving up for some of Billy’s singles as a teenager. Excited at the first playing and of hearing the song on the B side! “We didn’t start the fire” joins classics like “Uptown Girl”, “Always a Woman” and “Piano Man” to accompany the final hiss of the steam stripper and clogging wheeze of the vacuum as the job is, at last, concluded.
Every muscle I possess aches and I have enough bags of rubbish to fill several week’s worth of bin collections. The room, whilst bare of wallpaper is looking pathetically shabby with chunks of plaster missing and several large cracks. These are things for another day however as there is a real sense of satisfaction in a project completed. In a way it’s not so dissimilar from cycling either. Long days spent exerting the body in perpetual motion, but the repetition is also soothing, meditative, allowing the mind to wander free. Physically it has certainly been a pasting (no wallpaper pun intended) but I’ve loved the opportunity to get lost in music I haven’t heard in decades. Each song brings memories and often emotions back in full force and I’ve discovered some new tracks too. On the whole the result has been surprisingly therapeutic. Now if anyone can recommend a good plasterer and decorator…..?!
What music would you strip to?
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