FIONA LOONEY

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ret­ro­spect, the painter was a mis­take. Not the man him­self, ob­vi­ously — he seems like a per­fectly re­spectable in­di­vid­ual, even if he does use the toi­let a lit­tle more than I might ide­ally like (I have be­come un­ex­pect­edly con­sumed, Howard Hughes-style, by strangers us­ing our toi­let) — but the tim­ing was all wrong.

He was sup­posed to rock up a fort­night af­ter the builders left, see, which would have given all of us some respite from dis­rup­tion and dust and might have once again al­lowed us all to swear and fart in our own home with the can­dour to which we have be­come ac­cus­tomed. And be­cause this is Ire­land, I had fac­tored in a two-week over-run on the kitchen ren­o­va­tion even be­fore I roped off the fort­night of f-ing and fart­ing. But builders, I now un­der­stand, are not sub­ject to the same laws of time as the rest of us, and so last week, we found our­selves in the happy sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing a painter up­stairs, with all three of the chil­dren’s be­d­rooms sheathed in plas­tic and of­fi­cially out of bounds, while the builders worked their way through the snag list in the new and oh-so-nearly fin­ished kitchen, also ren­der­ing it out of bounds.

Throw in a sick Boy, his full six-foot frame draped the full length of the sofa in the only re­main­ing hab­it­able room, his hand — his only work­ing part, ap­par­ently — ever hov­er­ing over the Plays­ta­tion con­trol while he swore lan­guidly at his play­ers on FIFA 13 (only The Boy has failed to mod­er­ate his lan­guage in the pres­ence of our dusty in­vaders), and a hi­lar­i­ously timed de­liv­ery from IKEA (of which, more anon) and you may be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate why I have gone mad. The other day, I went into town for lit­er­ally noth­ing, just to avoid my fam­ily and my home. That is how bad it has be­come.

But back to the snag list. Oh yes, the ar­chi­tect and his hench­man loved The Hus­band back in those hon­ey­moon days. ‘Mr De­tail,’ they called him ad­mir­ingly, as they en­thused at his in­ter­est in the minu­tiae of cre­at­ing a new kitchen. I, mean­while, pretty much lost in­ter­est in the whole thing af­ter we’d cho­sen the colour — to the point that ev­ery stage of the project has more or less come as a com­plete sur­prise to me. The Hus­band, though, has had his finger on the pulse, and then some. One evening, he brought me into the then build­ing site and in­di­cated a cen­time­tre-wide strip of chrome that was top­ping the tiled kitchen skirt­ing and asked what I thought of it in much the same loaded way as I some­times, for my own idle amuse­ment, ask him what he thinks of what­ever I’m wear­ing.

‘It’s fine,’ I ven­tured, though in my heart of hearts I sus­pected it wasn’t fine at all. ‘It’s shiny chrome,’ he raged. ‘We asked for brushed

Fiona Looney’s

chrome.’ It is a cen­time­tre wide. That is my world and you are wel­come to it.

Any­way, the net re­sult of all this is that, at the busi­ness end of the project, we now have a snag list so de­tailed, Leonardo da Vinci would have been proud of it. The builders, in­evitably, are some­what less thrilled by it, and my own — ‘Is it the right way up? Well, then it’s grand’ — ap­proach to kitchen build­ing (which they’d pre­vi­ously dis­missed as pure rude­ness) is now by far their pre­ferred model. If you think that shift in the peck­ing or­der gives me any plea­sure, though, you are very much mis­taken: I stopped tak­ing plea­sure in this process around the time the first skip thud­ded onto our drive­way and into our lives.

As to Ikea, I re­alise now that I have been a shade un­fair in my pre­vi­ous com­ments about the Swedish be­he­moth. When Ikea first threat­ened our shores, I wrote some cru­sad­ing ar­ti­cles about how aw­ful the Bri­tish Ikea ex­pe­ri­ence is, which I was then happy to cor­rect when I found shop­ping in the Dublin branch sur­pris­ingly stress-free. I re­alise now that the amount of Sudafed in our home back then may have made me tech­ni­cally high. We bought a sofa there the other day, which they gen­uinely ex­pected us to load onto two trol­leys, bring home in our car and as­sem­ble our­selves. We were par­tially suc­cess­ful at only one of those chal­lenges, so we now have a sofa (and six kitchen chairs) in eight enor­mous boxes in a tiny room with a mat­tress on the floor and an ee­jit on the couch.

An ee­jit who, in­ci­den­tally, wants to know when we’re get­ting our Christ­mas tree. My God, I am in hell.

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