I kind of lost track of chronology due to sheer exhaustion, so this instalment won’t be neatly divided into days of the week.
My dear friend G arrived on Saturday and ensured that I will remain grateful forever by offering to paint ceilings. My spine makes various things impossible – painting ceilings is one of those things. So I spent the first few hours tearing off the remaining wallpaper in the living room. Finishing the task coincided with G and Husby beginning to sand various parts of the room, which created so much noise that I ran upstairs and made sure not to get any rest anytime soon. Some wallpaper there was coming off, so I grabbed a corner, thinking about nothing in particular, and pulled at it.
Old Vumman, as it soon transpired, had three hobbies. One was placing motivational texts along the lines of “If you dribble when you piddle, be a sweetie and wipe the seetie” (yes, SEETIE) everywhere. Those are gone by now. Another was putting nails in every wall, at random spots and random angles. Those are mostly gone. The third hobby, however, was wallpapering. The living room had one layer. The gym room and my future office had six. Using the steamer helped only partly, because the last layer was something between plastic and paper, just thick enough to refuse to come off, and just paper-y enough to tear off some of the wall, which is made of something that may or may not be cardboard. If I had known, I wouldn’t have pulled at that corner, just tried to glue it and told myself that I adore Old Vumman’s wallpaper choices… but… well. See the picture above to get an idea how far I got after two days of doing this. Layer four was actually quite pretty, looking as if some graffiti artists came over, sprayed paint in the air, then sneezed (many times), but all of the many wallpapers formed a semi-whole that would neither come off all at once nor one layer after the other.
We spent a lot of Sunday either shopping for groceries or for various things online. We went to bed quite early, exhausted beyond all imagination, woke up on Monday, tried to convince ourselves that we totally felt like continuing with the work, and SUDDENLY!!!! the nightmare happened.
Our next door neighbour started vacuuming. On top of that, she played music loud enough to drown out the sound of the vacuum. On top of that she was also singing loud enough to drown out the music. Our walls shook a bit. So did we. Once we unfroze a minute later, we went to pay her a visit. She didn’t hear the doorbell, because duh, so we banged on the door until she appeared, and she was a sight to behold.
Her hair was layered in various shades of platinum and silver, which looked awesome and I immediately became super envious. Her make-up was on point. So were her high heels. Which she was wearing for vacuuming. There might have been jewellery as well, but honestly, I missed it, because I was busy thinking about Jersey Shore.
“Errrr!!!!!” one of us roared once we remembered again how to speak. “This is not how we wanted to introduce ourselves to the neighbours, but…!!!!!!”
“Yes!!!!” responded the woman. “I would have expected you to introduce yourselves!!!!!!!”
We shook hands and shrieked our names. I either haven’t managed to remember hers, too shocked by all the circumstances at once, or simply haven’t heard it over the noise. I have a feeling it was something non-Dutch – let’s settle for Nancy.
“We’re so sorry!!!!!” we yelled. “Could you perhaps turn down the music???!!!!!!”
Nancy took out her phone, fiddled with it for a moment and suddenly it was quiet again. “You can hear that through your double wall?” she asked doubtfully.
I nodded, feeling oddly guilty, as if we were invading her privacy. I also started having suspicions as to why the double wall was installed.
“You see,” started Husby, “we used to live on top of a bar and moved here for silence…”
“I only had three minutes left,” said Nancy rather coolly. “I hope you won’t complain every time we have one of our jacuzzi parties?”
My knees softened considerably.
We have seen the jacuzzi in their garden, but I kind of hoped they were the same type as me, i.e. bought it, used it enthusiastically for two months, then forgot about its existence. The way she phrased her question made my imagination present me with the vision of three orgies a day (or night), each of them featuring Nancy’s vocal performances as extra entertainment. “No,” I whispered, “we… we understand…”
Back home we cried a bit in each other’s arms, then returned to the wallpapers and paint, because no matter how many orgies Nancy and her husband (and child) (and chihuahua) (I am not kidding) are going to arrange, we can’t possibly afford to buy another house. We have to finish this one and live in it until we win the lottery or Reese Witherspoon picks Storytellers (which is unlikely, because I happen to know how she picks books for her book club and mine doesn’t fit). Husby painted the doorframes, stairs, and window frames with paint that I believe to be “oil paint” and he insists it’s “water paint, only without water and with turpentine”. No matter what it was, it stank so badly that we had to go back to our old apartment for the night.
Which gave me perspective.
First, obviously, we had to actually get to Amsterdam, which in itself wasn’t exactly quiet. I put on my noise-cancelling headphones. Then we got to the bar… I mean to our front door, where we found a group of people enjoying their beers, cigarettes, and conversations. When we got upstairs I was suddenly reminded that we have very old windows, which literally let wind inside on cold days. It took a while for the heating to start working and as I went to do groceries (passing by the bar, obv), then back home (passing by the bar, obv) I decided that Nancy’s jacuzzi and karaoke orgies are definitely preferable…
In the morning I had a doctor appointment on the other side of Amsterdam, which was another reason why we were sleeping there, then we got back “home” and started taking apart our gym. It was put together by one man. We had no clue how he had done it, because there were two of us and sometimes we wished we had a third. A few hours later (i.e. six) we finished, I took a billion photos, and looked at the manual again. The manual was clearly based on the IKEA ones, only IKEA would have had to decide that 40 pages were way too many, eight were perfectly fine, and the new owners would totally guess what was supposed to go where.
Unfortunately, as we swore and lifted random heavy objects, my brain had way too much time to think and at the end of the day I was presented with the image of Nancy being the wife of a drug dealer hiding from the police in a boring, quiet town, organising jacuzzi parties for his friends from the mafia, then visiting us with a kalashnikov to inform us that he demands respect for his wife and her musical talents. We half-expected to find a jacuzzi party and Nancy’s concert going on once we come back home. We were welcomed by silence and stink of oil-but-maybe-water-except-water-was-replaced-by-turpentine paint. We were also too tired to even blink without assistance, went to bed earlier than usual, and caught up on sleep a bit.
I think am missing a day here, but I swear that I have no idea which day it is and what we were doing. Probably something wallpaper-y. Oh, and in the comments for the first part I was asked how I managed to write all this despite the work. Those posts are respite from the work. I get to use my brain, to NOT scratch or steam the many wallpapers, and to laugh darkly at our misadventures.
More will, unfortunately, follow…
Top photo: many layers of wallpapers.