Nuala McCann: A staycation with a check list of things that need doing round the house

'I haven't gone away, you know,' jabbers the house. An old T-shirt, a set of new bristled brushes, the jaunty chirrup of a workman's whistle in the air – I think someone in this house is having a DIY moment. It's not me

There's painting, and then there's painting...

WE ARE enjoying a 'staycation' but the house refuses to recognise it. Outside, the sun is threatening to melt the tarmac to a satisfying black ooze, but the house is in denial.

Holiday, what holiday, it yells, fix me, fix me, fix me... and in our heads is a check list of things that need doing.

“I haven’t gone away, you know,” jabbers the house.

An old T-shirt, a set of new bristled brushes, the jaunty chirrup of a workman’s whistle in the air – I think someone in this house is having a DIY moment. It’s not me.

And all these suggest a certain something this July.

I can feel a painting party coming on. The tins of soft lemon and linen haze are calling to us from the shed. The banisters need a coat, the roof needs a new one and there are boxes upon boxes of stuff in the attic that need sorting.

“You are never going to use all those English notes,” says my husband.

“Perhaps it is time to get rid of them.”

But letting go of my personally annotated Anthony and Cleopatra is never easy – we are dying, Egypt, dying – especially if you have put so much of yourself into the boxes and boxes of notes and essays and rewrites.

Let go I must.

You start with clothes. You follow the Marie Kondo method. Having recommended the million dollar best seller Japanese tidying woman to all my friends, it’s time I took a leaf out of my own book and got down to some ruthless sorting.

Truth is, I’d love to live in a Japanese-style apartment with soft screens and very little else. But let’s open the kimono. The naked truth is that Marie Kondo is just not me.

Sitting here surrounded by my very personal junk and a half-eaten banana, I look for all the world like I’m picnicking in the dump at Duncrue.

Watch out for low-flying seagulls.

The idea is that you pile all your earthly possessions in one spot, touch them one at a time and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”

Yourself answers – yes/no, there is absolutely no space for “maybe” – and you dispose of said item or fold it lovingly.

On to the pile of rejects goes the Demis Roussos dress – it’s been there forever and ever and ever and ever – and the shorts that were too – if you look in the mirror and your knees whisper “savoy green,” just believe them.

Folding all those clothes that spark joy requires a PhD in origami, but the book is a bracing and wonderful read. As my dear yoga holiday friend said to me on one occasion, “I like the idea of it”.

I like the idea of it too. It is just the practice that proves the sticking point.

It is July, we are holidaying in Belfast and even though B&Q has closed, my other half has got that DIY look in his eye and it is time to be busy bees.

You see, painting as my father did it and painting as my husband does it are two different things. Painting as I myself would do it is another slapdash of a thing entirely.

I’d “get a man” or indeed, in this 21st century I’d “get a person” – but that does not have the same ring about it.

My father would just get up one day and paint the bedroom pink if that were what his wife wanted. Or at least that is how I remember it.

He got tired of DIY. He once destroyed a perfectly good hall by decapitating a series of ballroom dancing ladies and gentlemen just behind the door. It is impossible to match wallpaper. And who looks behind the front door any way, he argued.

Only, apparently my mother did.

My husband believes in preparation. There is a boy scout shadowing him and be prepared is his motto. Painting is not a slap dash thing, it requires time and effort. It requires a week maybe.

It is good to have the time.

And what else are lazy summers for?

Long ago, we painted the window frames as the Radio One road show – remember Bits n Pieces – blared out from the kitchen. Summers were aimless times punctuated by household painting and games of kerbs and kick the tin on the road outside.

Hand me a paint brush, mother, I’m feeling nostalgic.

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