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My own purge had only one criteria: Does it hurt? Do these earrings poke me in the neck? Does the waistband of this dress relocate some organs, does the item in question rub, pinch, itch, leave a green stain? Do these shoes squish my toes? I have no time left for being uncomfortable. I’ve spent decades standing because I can’t sit or pulling on a camel toe - because it’s taken that long for me to accept the size I am isn’t the same as the one I want to be. It’s the clothing equivalent of putting up with bad behaviour because you don’t have good enough boundaries. No more being bullied by my frocks, made to feel unattractive by my jeans. As Elizabeth Gilbert discovered in Eat, Pray, Love: you can just go up a size.
With my wardrobe thus renovated, I turned my attention to the house. After staring out its windows for seven weeks over lockdown I couldn’t ignore how dirty they were a moment longer, plus the house, as my shelter and retreat from contagion, had become an extension of my psyche. Both could do with a bit of a spring clean but I only had the energy for one.
I hadn’t asked for a special air-powered hose system that softened the water particulates, making it the purest water ever. "I don’t think ..." I started. Never mind, rest assured, this was state of the art, said the window guys. It looked like two scuba tanks attached to a tractor engine and sounded like a wood chipper. "She’s an old house, boys," I said, "be gentle." But this was the hydroxychloroquine of window cleaning, I couldn’t possibly understand its miracle properties.
When the paint and quite a lot of the putty was blasted right off the windows, I didn’t say anything, momentarily just too stunned. Little flecks of white covered the flowerbeds like an enamel snow, winter was coming and the wood was now open to the elements. But I was supporting the local economy so it couldn’t be all bad. Shop local, spend local.
The painters came. I was still working from home so it was quite cold with all the windows open. The sander filled the house up with dust, and you could taste the post-war lead in the air. Yes, nailing the drop cloth to the windowsill was a thing they reassured me. What they lacked in finesse they certainly made up for in the application of paint, within and without. Sloppy? Only a godless liberal would go casting blame in the middle of an economic crisis.
The carpet cleaner came. I smiled at her through the patterns the orbital sander had made on the glass, reminiscent of Spirograph art, just more permanent. I was making Oamaru great again.
The next day, opening the bedroom window required some force, like unsealing an ancient tomb. It might have been painted together, but I didn’t say that. Howard Carter never opened anything with more trepidation than I did right then. A loud "crack!" announced the breaking of the window frame. I went out into the garden and stared up at the splintered wood. Rebuilding an economy single-handed isn’t easy. Ask anyone.
The joiner came. I was beginning to feel like the woman who swallowed a spider to catch a fly. I don’t know why.
The joiner was lovely. He reminded me of my West Coast Uncle Merv, always dressed in shorts and long wool socks. Sunny of smile, big of glasses. He was absolutely the sweetest man, with a bushy black beard of the kind young urban creatives try to grow. He unscrewed the window and took it away to his place.
I looked out through the empty socket at the memorial oaks, nothing between me and the world. Down the road, some hopeful soul kept raking the dropped leaves into piles for the wind to scatter.
The joiner brought the window back a few hours later, all fixed. He wouldn’t take payment. "It was only a little job," he said.
It didn’t hurt at all.