You may or may not know that I am a librarian by profession. Over the years, I have gathered my own book collection and both cherished and yet ruthlessly edited it as only a librarian can, to fit whatever space I have had to store it. When I first met D, one of the things that reassured me that we were right together was the overlap in our books. Different enough to be interesting, similar enough to be able to share worlds and fictional friends that we had discovered during our earlier lives. Add to this a large combined DVD collection, though and it meant a lot of boxes in the move.
One thing that we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on in Aberdeen was suitable shelving for the books. D is, as I have said before, immensely practical so he had a range of mismatched and chiefly flat-pack shelving in his flat. I, on the other hand, had decided some years before that my flat-pack years were done and, if I couldn’t afford solid shelving, I would prefer not to have any at all. Fine ideals, but probably a bit silly, looking back, as it meant most of my books had been packed up ever since.
So, when it came to the Yorkshire move, I was adamant – the flat-pack bookcases were either binned or have been relegated to the shed. Equally, he very sensibly refused to pay hundreds of pounds for a bookcase, especially given the size and number we would need. He declared that he had always fancied getting back into the woodwork he had done at school, and that he would make the shelving we needed himself. He had already claimed the garage as a workshop, even before we had moved in, so he couldn’t wait to get started.
After a few nights of busy drawing and design work, he knocked up his first prototype back in January, before he was working and while I was in Aberdeen – a small bookcase for the kitchen, designed specifically to fit my cookery books. In the interests of economy and practicality, it was a mix of timber and MDF – not my favourite material, but I reassured myself at least I could paint it. (Several months later, it still only has undercoat on it – I was far too excited to finally unpack and made the mistake of putting books on it when unfinished. Never, ever put books on a bookcase until it is finished – you won’t be able to pack them away again once they have escaped from their box.) I had to admit that, not only was it made exactly to the size I has asked for, it was sturdier than anything you can buy, flat-pack or otherwise. The thing seemed to eat screws …
He then refined his design on a bathroom cabinet, tackling doors for the first time. Again, it isn’t perfect, but it is clearly made with love and both pieces makes me smile every time I see them, a solid representation of the home and future that we are building together.
More recently, we decided we really needed to tackle the study – the last room to be decorated and unpacked – so D started drafting his blueprints for shelving of mammoth proportions to house our precious books. Armed with his measurements and materials list, he set off for B&Q. Fortunately, it was a while since he had – erm – perfumed the place with the bags of manure he took all over the store, so it seemed safe to go back.
By the time he returned, he was on first name terms with the staff that operate the automatic saw. They had been fascinated to see the plans – ‘you want it how big??’ There was still fine tuning to be done though when he got home, and he set to with enthusiasm. I was again away but got regular updates through the day and he created the most solid, enormous bookcases I had ever seen in record time, all under the supervisory eye of the Calamity Cat who added Quality Control to her many job titles.
When I got home, the sheer scale of them took my breath away, especially when my thoughts turned to the work involved in painting them. After the kitchen experience, I was determined that these would be finished before we unpacked a single box but it was a daunting task. Undeterred, we popped back to B&Q (rapidly becoming our second home) and quickly picked up a tin of undercoat and some satin in the same colour as the walls. Have you noticed how, these days, most undercoats are water-based? Gone are the days of paint so noxious it stinks the house out for days, giving off toxic fumes, and that was before you consider the chemicals you needed to get the brushes clean. Or so we thought!
After 3 solid hours of painting, tired but happy, we took the rollers and brushes covered in paint, dumped them in the bathroom sink and started to wash them in running water. Before we knew it, both hands and sink were covered in paint that was, most definitely, not water-based. What a rookie mistake from the son of a decorator and a woman who has renovated several houses to different degrees. Of course we had no turps or anything similar and, as it was the day before D started a new job, where he wanted to make a good impression, we were desperate. As usual, he found a practical solution. It was a waste of good vodka (I could hear all my sisters in my head, saying ‘Noooo! You can’t pour good vodka literally down the sink!’) but it worked. Oh well, I never liked the stuff much anyway …
The important thing is that we now have a library and nearly all the books are finally unpacked. There may even be a little space left over (and if not, he has this off to a fine art, not to mention the staff at B&Q who want updates on the library whenever we go in. Surely he can just create another in a spare hour here or there?) Maybe it’s time to start adding to that collection again – now where did I put that book token?