For the procrastinator tomorrow is a great day, but sometimes it comes too soon.
I have been talking about getting the exterior of the house painted for about 12 months. This time last year, during the first lock-down, I had intended to press my daughters into service but a friend of mine, who knows about these things, dissuaded me saying the first painting of a new house should be done by someone who knows something about it and he recommended someone.
He also warned me that sending inexperienced youngsters up ladders with paint tins, brushes and rollers isn’t the best idea in the world.
My friend’s advice played to my predilection for procrastination and I postponed the job. I must admit I had occasional bouts of second thoughts throughout the summer as I watched these able bodied youths hanging around with nothing to do and a house screaming to be painted.
I was their age, or thereabouts, in the summer of 1977. On August 16 of that year I was on a ladder on a galvanise roof slathering it with red oxide paint. The date is etched in my memory because it was the day Elvis died. One of my sisters came out of the house and rebroadcast what she had just heard on the radio. I can remember the commentators remarking on how tragic it was that, at 42 years of age, he should have died so young. From the perspective of a 19 year old perched on a shed in west Limerick Elvis was old.
Let me get back to paint and procrastination. Earlier this spring the exterior painting of the house climbed back up the domestic agenda and, after much prodding from the current consort, I spoke to the man recommended by my friend who agreed to do the job in May. Herself chose the colour scheme and I was tasked with making the place ready.
As March turned to April the window of opportunity for getting my designated tasks done narrowed. I began to contemplate the acquisition of a power washer and noticed my neighbour using one. I was gently psyching myself up for what lay ahead.
However, one evening last week my protracted period of contemplation and remote preparation was thrown into complete disarray. I got a text from the painter asking if I had acquired paint, I phoned him immediately thinking there had been some mistake. He said it suited him to come the following morning, otherwise I could be waiting for months.
There was no time for rumination. Even an inveterate old procrastinator like me knows there are certain opportunities in life you don’t put off such as the early arrival of a plumber or a painter. In the course of the phone conversation I admitted I had no power-washing done but he assured me a decent hosing down of the walls would suffice. Anywhere I found discolouration I could scrub it with diluted bleach, particularly the windowsills. Noticing the panic in my voice he said I could wait a few weeks if I wanted to, but the weather forecast was good for the coming days.
I had no choice but grasp the moment, “Tomorrow is fine,” I said, with all the enthusiasm of someone confirming a dental appointment.
“Grand,” he replied,” I’ll be there at 8 o clock, but you need to hose the place down this evening in order for it to be dry. ”
I swung into action. The current consort suggested that the hosing shouldn’t take too long but we agreed the state of the footpaths was a different story, they were covered in five years of grime and would look atrocious beneath freshly painted walls. I went to my trusty neighbour and borrowed his power washer.
Using the ordinary garden hose I washed down the walls and enlisted herself to give a hand scrubbing the sills, some of which were red with discolouration. It was nearly 9pm by the time I got to power-washing the footpaths and carried on until the darkness, the neighbours’ need for sleep and good sense prevailed.
I was back out at cock-crow the following morning blasting away and cursing the lumps of moss and lichen that seemed to be superglued to every surface. My man arrived at 8am to find me grinding my way around the house in a fog of spray.
He took pity of me and went to the hardware store to collect the paint. As soon as he returned and began painting I finished the last few bits, crawled upstairs and fell into the shower. Every aching muscle and creaking bone reminded me that I am now one-and-a-half times the age Elvis was when he died.
As I admire the excellent job, completed early and at speed, I’m left to contemplate two lessons; the only cure for procrastination is ‘now’, and power-washing, like rock’n’roll, is not for old men.
First published in the Farming Independent, Tuesday, April 20th 2021